Category: Alabama Legislature

Literacy, Reading Proficiency, Free Speech and Budget Bills Win Legislative Approval

MONTGOMERY — Bills to improve student literacy and hold back third-graders who can’t read proficiently, define free speech on college campuses, and allocate the state’s $2.1 billion General Fund budget received final passage Thursday as lawmakers wind down their 2019 legislative session.

Friday is likely the last day of the session, and some major legislation is still pending, including the state’s education budget. Lawmakers from both chambers will meet Friday morning to work out differences in the $7.1 billion education budget, and a final vote is expected by the end of the day.
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Legislature Moves to Regulate Pharmacy Benefit Managers

MONTGOMERY — Legislation aimed at reining in pharmacy benefit managers to save consumers money passed the House by a 101-0 vote Thursday and now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk for her signature.

Senate Bill 73, dubbed the Alabama Pharmacy Benefit Managers Licensure and Regulation Act, was sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and passed the Senate on May 15 by a 27-0 vote.

The bill requires pharmacy benefit managers to register with the Alabama Department of Insurance, and outlaws gag clauses that keep pharmacists from telling consumers about cheaper options for prescription drugs and claw backs the require them to charge more for medication.
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Broadband Expansion Bill Gets Final Passage

MONTGOMERY — A bill that would allow electric utility companies to offer high-speed internet to rural communities by way of their existing power networks cleared the Alabama Legislature Wednesday and now goes to the governor for her signature.

Supporters say House Bill 400 would alleviate the cost of running new fiber lines to rural areas by allowing utilities such as Alabama Power Co., the Tennessee Valley Authority and regional electric cooperatives to piggyback their existing networks with high-speed cable lines.
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Formerly Imprisoned Lawmaker’s Campaign Finance Report Raises Questions

State officials have questions about a campaign finance report filed this month by former Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, who spent three months in federal prison last year for using campaign money on personal expenses.

On April 2, Hammon turned in late his 2017 campaign finance report, a document required of public officials that details spending from their campaign funds. The report lists one expenditure: $52,533 to Hammon in January 2017. Under the explanation of expense section of the form, “to be determined” was typed.

“That’s a problem,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told Alabama Daily News when asked about the report. He said his office would reach out to Hammon.

Hugh Evans, general counsel for the Secretary of State, said he is attempting to speak with Hammon’s attorney.

“I don’t know what the story is, but you can’t use campaign funds for your personal use,” Evans said. Read more.

Cities, counties disagree on how to share possible gas tax increase

Alabama county and municipal leaders will push the Alabama Legislature this year to approve a statewide gasoline tax increase to fund road improvements, but they disagree about how any new money should be split among local governments.

The distribution of funds is one of several possible sticking points for the gas tax legislation that is expected to be a major issue of the 2019 legislative session.

While many lawmakers recognize the need for the first gas-tax increase since 1992, some also want more “skin in the game” from the majority of counties that haven’t enacted their own gas taxes to fund their local road needs.

Meanwhile, there is the issue of the transfer of existing money from the gas tax to other state agencies. More than $63 million of existing money from the tax is pulled from the Alabama Department of Transportation each year and transferred to other agencies.
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