Category: Alabama Legislature

Woodfin Says Abortion Law Is Costing Birmingham Tech Business

Two IT companies have canceled or put on hold discussions about moving to Birmingham because of the abortion ban signed into law last week, according to Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

Woodfin told author Diane McWhorter about the changes for an opinion piece published Saturday on CNN.

McWhorter wrote that Woodfin “confirmed to me today that the abortion ban affected two IT companies considering moves to the city – one canceled outright, while the other ‘put the brakes on negotiations.’” Read more.

Budgets, Education Reform Among Bills Pending in Final Stretch of Legislative Session

Alabama lawmakers this year have approved a statewide gas tax increase, told sheriffs they can’t keep money meant for feeding jail inmates and said they want a shot at the U.S. Supreme Court with the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban.

The Legislature has two to three weeks remaining in its 2019 session, and a lot of legislating is left to do. Still on the table are proposals for a lottery, the state’s budgets, education bills and medical marijuana, to name just the tip of the iceberg.

For a look at some of the major bills that are pending and what might get punted to a special session later this year, Read more.

Senate Votes to Scrap Elected School Board, Sends Bill to House

MONTGOMERY — A bill that would replace the elected state K-12 board of education with a new commission appointed by the governor passed unanimously out of the Senate on Thursday.

If approved in the House and then by Alabama voters, the constitutional amendment would be a monumental overhaul of public education governance in the state and end Alabama’s status as one of the few states with an elected board.

House Passes Reading Proficiency, Third Grade Holdback Bill

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday night passed a bill to require schools to hold back for another year third-grade students who are not reading on grade level.

The bill was debated for more than two hours as Democrats questioned the ability of the bill to solve reading problems in failing schools and voiced concerns about the retention component of the bill. Some also cited the expected costs as a concern. The Alabama State Department of Education estimates literacy education requirements in the bill will cost $90 million annually.

In the end, the House voted 92-3 to pass House Bill 388, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur. Collins consulted with the Department of Education and said the bill could see additional changes as it moves to the Senate. Read more.

Gov. Ivey Signs Nation’s Strictest Abortion Ban

Gov. Kay Ivey signed what has been called the nation’s strictest abortion law Wednesday evening, banning nearly all abortions in the state.

“Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a bill that was approved by overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Legislature,” Ivey said in a statement. “To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”

However, she also acknowledged that the law is almost the same as the abortion ban that has been on the state’s books for more than 100 years. “As today’s bill itself recognizes, that longstanding abortion law has been rendered ‘unenforceable as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade,’” she said in the statement, assuring Alabamians that the state will “continue to follow the rule of law.”

The Senate gave final approval to House Bill 314 Tuesday in a party line vote, with 25 Republicans voting in favor and six Democrats voting against.

The legislation would give Alabama the nation’s strictest abortion law. Georgia and Mississippi recently passed laws that restrict abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Alabama’s proposal would outlaw abortions when a woman is “known to be pregnant.” Current state law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks, unless there is a health risk to the mother. Read more and see how senators voted on the bill.

Read reactions to Alabama’s new abortion ban.

Where’s CHIP? Children’s Insurance Funding Not in Budgets

The $35 million Alabama needs for a federal health care program for low- and mid-income children isn’t in either of the state’s two budgets progressing through the Alabama Legislature. Lawmakers appear to disagree about whether the 2020 funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program belongs in the General Fund, which funds Medicaid and other public health expenses, or the education budget, as Gov. Kay Ivey suggested. Read more.

BirminghamWatch’s Nick Patterson looked at the importance of the CHIP program before it was renewed by Congress last year.

What Happens If CHIP Goes Away? Congress’ Failure to Fund Popular Health Program for Kids Could Leave Thousands in Alabama Uninsured

Water Water Everywhere … Unless It Hasn’t Rained Lately: Legislators Debate Bill to Govern Water Use During Droughts

River advocacy groups are promoting passage of a bill that would provide clear standards in times of drought for the state to step in to allocate use of water for agriculture, recreation, drinking and other uses.

The bill, HB 476, also would set up a system of “conservation credits” for agricultural and other large water users who institute water-saving measures before periods of drought.

Under the bill, when water flow in a river or stream falls below predetermined, science-based levels, state agencies could more quickly impose limits on usage to protect the health of the waterway. That would impact the quality of water for drinking, recreation and aquatic life, advocates say.

Meanwhile, farmers are concerned that the bill could let the state cut back on their water use just when they need it most.
The bill is awaiting action in a committee. Read more.