Category: Alabama Legislature
MONTGOMERY — Last week, as debate in the House of Representative raged into the night on the issue of gambling, lawmakers quietly gave final approval to a bill seeking more legislative oversight of government agencies’ spending, including that of the executive branch. But it didn’t pass in time to avoid a possible veto by the governor.
As originally written and passed by the House earlier in the session, Rep. Mike Jones’ House Bill 392 would have required any state agency or department planning to spend more than $10 million or 5% of their annual appropriation from the General Fund, whichever is less, to first be approved by a new oversight committee.
However, the bill’s reach was scaled back considerably in the Senate. Instead of a new legislative panel, the Senate version gave oversight to the existing Legislative Contract Review Committee. It also removed the Legislature’s ability to delay contracts until the next legislative session.
MONTGOMERY — As the state’s plan to lease new mega-prisons hit another apparent roadblock Monday, more lawmakers appear ready for the state to instead borrow money to construct its own new facilities.
Some legislative leaders on Monday said lawmakers are ready to approve a state-owned prison plan. At least one said support would be there as early as next Monday, the Legislature’s final day of the regular session.
Multiple sources told Alabama Daily News that lawmakers have discussed taking current legislation that is awaiting final passage and substituting it with language initiating a state prison bond process similar to one former Gov. Robert Bentley pursued in 2016 and 2017. Read more.
MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Legislature met for the 29th day of the 30-day regular session Thursday. Here are the highlights from the State House.
Lawmakers approved and sent to the governor a bill that would raise the age for buying tobacco products, including vaping products, to 21 years old.
A bill that would allow the state to adopt permanent daylight saving time, if the federal government approves it, passed its final vote on Thursday. Rep. Ritchie Whorton, R-Owens Cross Road, said this will help with economic growth by allowing businesses to operate longer and improve the overall health of Alabamians.
A billl that would let newer teachers in the state roll over each year thier sick leave and get paid for unused days upon retirement was approved by the Senate. It goes to the House for agreement on an amendment added by the Senate. Proponents want to erase some of the “disparity” between Tier I and Tier II benefit recipients.
The Senate approved a bill to undo a nearly three-decade ban on the practice of yoga in public schools. It goes back tot the House for approval of amendments.
MONTGOMERY — A lack of data and a lot of personalities appear to be specific challenges for the group of lawmakers tasked with redrawing the district maps that will be used in state and federal elections in Alabama for the next 10 years.
The Alabama Legislature’s Joint Reapportionment Committee on Tuesday met for the first time in this round of post-Census redistricting to discuss a framework for how the process will play out. The panel is charged with developing new maps for Alabama’s seven congressional districts, eight state school board seats, 35 state Senate seats and 105 seats in the state House of Representatives.
Actual maps are a long way off, however, as the U.S. Census Bureau won’t have the district-level data ready until August, committee leaders said.
MONTGOMERY — Alabama could reach herd immunity from COVID-19 by mid-summer, the state’s top doctor told lawmakers on Wednesday. But it could take longer if the vaccination rate continues to decrease.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said around 70% of the state, or 3.5 million Alabamians, will need to either be fully vaccinated or have antibodies from previous infections in order for the state to reach a level of immunity that will stop significant spread of the disease.
“If we reach herd immunity, what we’ll see is a dramatic decrease in cases, but it’s unlikely that it will ever completely disappear,” Harris said.
The daily number of vaccinations has been steadily decreasing since the beginning of April, which Harris said could be attributed to several factors, chief among them being vaccine hesitancy. He said that has been evident in the African-American community as will as in white communities, especially in rural areas.
MONTGOMERY — A bill that would change the pay structure for judges around the state and give them a raise has been approved by the Legislature.
Senate Bill 292 was amended in the House last week to also change the compensation schedule of district attorneys and the state attorney general. The Senate agreed in a 30-0 vote on Tuesday. The bill now goes to the governor.
Current law says circuit judges’ salaries are set by statute and then district and appellate judges and Supreme Court justices’ salaries are based on circuit judges’ pay. Senate Bill 292 sets separate initial salaries for the various judges, as well as district attorneys and the attorney general, and provides for 7.5% raises each term.
MONTGOMERY — A wide-ranging gambling package advanced in the Alabama Legislature Tuesday and is expected to be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday.
The plan, which passed the Senate in April, would institute a lottery, authorize sports betting and legalize casinos around the state. It has since been awaiting action in the House of Representatives, where previous gambling legislation has struggled in recent years.
There are three pieces of legislation: a constitutional amendment that would go before voters in November 2022 and two enabling bills fleshing out the details of gambling policy and enforcement procedures. Each passed through its respective House committee Tuesday.
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MONTGOMERY — Alabama lawmakers are close to allowing city police officers to issue citations for some misdemeanor offenses rather than taking offenders into custody.
Senate Bill 59 by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, would require cities to pass ordinances specifying what offenses could get court summonses rather than immediate arrests.
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, carried the bill in the House.
“The intent is to take what would be minor offenses and give the officer a chance to issue a citation rather than making an arrest,” England said. “…They will still require a court appearance, but we’re not going to take you into custody that day.”
MONTGOMERY – With three voting days remaining in the Alabama Legislature’s 2021 regular session, State House leaders are preparing for a final push on some of the most controversial bills of the session.
The House of Representatives has yet to vote on bills allowing medical marijuana, a comprehensive gambling package and a ban on medical treatments, including puberty blockers and surgery, for transgender youth.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, told reporters that the prospect of floor votes on the gambling and medical marijuana bills was “promising” in the House, but wasn’t as certain for the transgender medical bill.
“We’re working with Senate leadership, so I can’t speak as firm on that one as we can the gaming or the medical marijuana, but it is being considered,” McCutcheon said. The Legislature has already passed and Gov. Kay Ivey has signed a bill allowing high school athletes to compete only in sports as their gender assigned at birth.
More from the Legislature:
MONTGOMERY — More progress was made on both state budgets on Tuesday, with lawmakers closing in on a final vote on both during the last days of the Alabama Legislature’s 2021 regular session.
The House of Representatives passed a record $7.6 billion Education Trust Fund budget with some slight increases from the Senate-passed version. The bill now goes back to the Senate, where senators can either vote to concur with the House changes and send it to the governor or vote to form a joint conference committee to work out the differences.
House education budget chairman Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, cited the resiliency of Alabamians during the COVID-19 pandemic for making it possible for the budget to avoid cuts.