5/11/2012 Group Watch: Call for Higher Education Standards

State School Superintendent Tommy Bice is recommending a complete overhaul of the state’s testing program. Bice says it is time to raise performance standards. His proposed changes include requiring higher minimum scores necessary for a student to pass and adding more components that consider more than multiple-choice questions. He says the state should not allow students to reach eighth grade before their weaknesses are identified and remedied. According to Bice, while students may be meeting expectations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the law does not always translate into success. Read more here.

5/11/2012 Group Watch: Promoting Alabama Seafood

Gulf Coast promoters are launching a new marketing campaign to increase sales of Alabama seafood. The Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission is kicking off a three-year, $5 million marketing drive to increase demand for Alabama’s catch. The ads particularly target state consumers and restaurants across the region. The campaign is being unveiled on today and is funded with grant money from BP.

May 4, 2012 Group Watch: This Week in the Legislature

Tuesday, the 24th meeting day of the 2012 regular session: The House passed bills to change the mandatory school attendance age from 7 to 6 years old, to allow schools to use electronic devices like Kindle in the place of textbooks and to establish tax incentives for tourist attractions. They also approved bills to require health insurance companies to offer coverage for certain treatments for autism and to create the Alabama Cyber Technology Authority to encourage the cooperation of higher education, business and government in developing and supporting cyber technology projects in Alabama. The Senate joined the House in giving final approval to a bill saying schools can’t start more than two weeks before Labor Day and must end before Memorial Day and passing an education budget. They also passed bills to provide tax breaks for developing tourism destinations and updates of two articles of the state Constitution dealing with corporations and banking. The proposed constitutional amendments will be on the ballot in November for a vote of the people.

Wednesday, a committee day and the 25th meeting day of the session: The House Health Committee approved bills to make it harder to get an abortion in Alabama. The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved a bill to extend the period for renewing a driver’s license to six months before the license is due to expire. The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved a bill changing the way Auburn trustees are selected. The Senate Health Committee held a public hearing but did not vote on a bill saying life begins at fertilization of an egg and implantation in the womb. The House approved bills to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in the lodge of Joe Wheeler State Park and to establish a council to consider the problem of elder abuse. The Senate joined the House in giving final approval to a bill to allow public employees’ overtime pay to count toward their state pensions and approved a bill to legalize charter schools and give traditional public schools more flexibility in following state regulations.

Thursday, the 26th meeting day of the session: The House spent much of the day stalled by the dilatory tactics of Democratic members trying to slow down consideration of various measures. By the midnight adjournment, they passed bills to provide Alabama restaurants incentives for buying products from the state, to allow the state’s Parking Deck Authority to build a new parking deck for the Gordon Persons Office Building for state employees in Montgomery, and to allow spouses of military service members to expedite any professional licenses or certificates when the spouse is transferred to Alabama. They also approved a bill raising court fees and to require insurance companies to more clearly describe to homeowners what their policies do and don’t do. The Senate approved bills creating the crime of looting during a state of emergency, to make it a crime for a daycare worker to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, and to create the crime of computer tampering. They also approved bills to make it a misdemeanor offense to use the Internet or email to impersonate another person with the intent of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding someone and to give new taxing authority to the Jefferson County Commission to address the county’s bankruptcy.

5/4/2012 Group Watch: Senate Approved Education Budget

On Tuesday, the Senate approved an education budget that reduces spending on public schools and colleges, cuts teaching positions and increases class sizes. The Senate voted 31-4 for the $5.5 billion budget for the upcoming school year. It’s about $150 million (or 2.7 percent) less than the current year’s budget. The Senate budget chair says the budget increases funding for school supplies and textbooks and maintains funding for successful programs like the Alabama Reading Initiative, distance learning and pre-K. The budget now goes to the House, which is expected to make some changes to the Senate-passed document.

5/4/2012 Group Watch: Circle the Wagons

More than 100 people held hands and formed a circle around the Alabama State House to protest the state’s immigration law. The protesters called for repeal of the law, which was passed last year. It is considered by proponents and opponents to be the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in the nation. The protesters sang songs in English and Spanish and listened to speakers in both languages before forming the circle around the building.

April 27, 2012 Group Watch: This Week in the Legislature

Tuesday (the 22nd meeting day of the 2012 regular session): The House passed bills to establish a single electronic system that businesses may use to file or pay state and local sales taxes, use taxes and rental and lease taxes, and requiring the posting of a human trafficking hotline telephone number in massage parlors, inexpensive hotels, strip clubs and similar establishments. They failed to achieve the required votes to consider a bill to require all school superintendents to be appointed and not elected. The Senate Job Creation and Economic Development Committee approved a bill to make limited changes in the state’s immigration law. The Senate approved bills to ban texting while driving, with some exceptions, and to prohibit insurance plans through a health insurance exchange in Alabama from providing coverage for elective abortions. They also approved bills to provide tax breaks to Alabama homeowners who set up catastrophe savings accounts to cover a high deductible on home owners insurance and to require homeowners’ insurance companies to provide premium and loss information by zip codes and counties to the state Insurance Department, which will post it on the web.

Wednesday (a committee day): The House Ways and Means-General Fund Committee approved bills to raise court fees by $23 million per year and to exempt dormant businesses from a tax for the privilege of doing business in Alabama. They also conducted a public hearing on a bill to add a $1 cigarette tax but did not vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a House-passed immigration bill with some changes and a House-passed bill dealing with scrap metal sales.

Thursday: The House passed a number of local bills and general bills to legalize home brewing of beer, wine and cider and to require new construction at colleges and universities containing dorm rooms and classrooms to have state-approved safe rooms. The Senate, like the House, approved a number of bills of local application only. Additionally, they approved bills to make it easier for independent and third party candidates to get on the ballot, to clarify the state ethics law by allowing state workers and education employees to receive a gift worth $50 or less, and to approve a House-passed measure saying that terminating an ectopic pregnancy doesn’t count as an abortion under state law, and doctors are not required to report the terminations to the state health department like they do abortions.

Group Watch 4/27/2012: AL’s Childhood Poverty Rate Growing

A recently revealed study shows that a growing number of Alabamians under the age of 18 are living in poverty. The study conducted by the Southern Regional Education Board shows Alabama with the fourth highest childhood poverty rate as of 2010. Alabama falls behind New Mexico, Mississippi and Washington D. C. In 2005, Alabama had the eighth highest childhood poverty rate. The report shows that children from poor families generally graduate high school, attend college and earn degrees at much lower rates than their more affluent peers. Children from poor families also typically start school less prepared than children from more affluent families.

Group Watch 4/27/2012: $1 Cigarette Tax Unlikely

The chairman of the House Ways and Means-General Fund committee said that a $.20 to $.30 cigarette tax would have a better chance of making it out of his committee, but even that amount would be a longshot to make it out of the Alabama House of Representatives. The committee heard testimony on three bills seeking to raise the tax on cigarettes with the proceeds going to help Medicaid, the cash-strapped General Fund or both. Legislative staff estimates that the state would receive an extra $227 million each year if the tax on cigarettes were increased by $1. While most of the testimony was in support of the increased tax, a coastal business person testified that further tax increases will force Alabama smokers to purchase products across the state line.

April 20, 2012 Group Watch: This Week in the Legislature

Tuesday (the 20th meeting day of the 2012 regular session): The House Public safety and Homeland Security Committee approved a bill to make changes to the state immigration law. The Senate Constitution and Elections Committee approved bills to allow state employees and public school employees to receive gifts worth $25 or less, and to raise the annual salary level that requires public employees to file an annual financial disclosure form from $50,000 to $75,000. The House passed bills making it a crime to have sexual relations with an animal, allowing certain precious metals to be stored in Alabama warehouses, to allow restaurants to put cork back on a bottle of wine and send it home with the customer, and to establish a sales tax holiday for the purchase of items like generators and weather radios needed to prepare for bad weather. It also approved bills that ban lawsuits against restaurants and other companies claiming the company caused a person to gain weight, prohibit inmates from having access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and remove ectopic pregnancies from the list of procedures that doctors and hospitals have to report as types of pregnancies. The Senate approved a heavily amended bill to tie legislators’ compensation to the state’s median household income but delayed consideration of several bills addressing homeowners’ insurance.

Wednesday (a committee day): The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee discussed, but took no action on, a proposed constitutional amendment to allow display of the Ten Commandments in state buildings. The House Commerce and Small Business Committee held a public hearing on a bill to give the state a uniform, statewide regulation of fireworks. The House Ways and Means-Education Committee approved a Senate-passed bill to give teachers $300 for classroom supplies. The House Ways and Means-General Fund Committee approved a Senate-passed bill providing a supplemental appropriation for prisons as well as funds for a woman who was wrongfully incarcerated. The House Education Policy Committee approved a bill to change the mandatory age for children to attend school from 7 to 6 years old. The Senate Health Committee approved bills to require the “morning after pill” be administered in the presence of a physician and to allow limited sales of baked goods, canned jellies and jams, and dried herbs from home businesses. The Senate Education Committee amended that chamber’s charter school bill to require more stringent reporting requirements. The Senate Finance and Taxation-Education approved an education budget.

Thursday: The House passed bills to make changes to the state’s immigration law, to establish a uniform grading system for evaluating the performance of schools and systems in Alabama, and to allow litigants in a civil case to take depositions and conduct discovery in another state. They also approved a conference committee report on legislative pay. The Senate approved a number of bills of local application only. Additionally, it approved general bills to allow pharmacies to sell cold and allergy medicine with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine and to allow businesses destroyed by tornadoes last April to keep their tax breaks if they have to move to a new location to reopen.

Group Watch 4/20/2012: Principal Perspective

The Bloom Group is now on Twitter, and we’d like to invite you to follow us as we tweet up-to-the-minute information from inside the Alabama Legislature, as well as direct you to more in-depth articles of interest on the top current political issues being debated in Montgomery and around the state. You can see our Twitter feed on our website homepage, click the “Follow Us” link in the top left-hand corner of our Group Watch e-newsletter or click here. We’re looking forward to using this new tool to keep you abreast of the news that’s important to you and your business or organization.

The Bloom Group, Inc.

401 Adams Avenue, Suite 710
Montgomery, Alabama 36104
Telephone: (334) 244-8948
Fax: (334) 213-0688

Live Audio Feed

Listen to your senators and representatives at work. Click here to find links to live audio of the House and audio plus video of the Senate.

Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee

Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee

The News You Need

Find the latest information on all things Alabama politics on Alabama Today.