Category: Alabama Legislature

Education Town Hall Set for Jan. 15

A town hall meeting on the status of education in Birmingham has been set for Jan. 15, 6-8 p.m. State Reps. Mary Moore and John Rogers, both D-Birmingham, set the town hall, called “Where Do We Go From Here.” Moore said a number of local and state Board of Education members as well as local and state elected officials have been invited to speak.

Court Hearing Focuses on Alabama’s Minimum Wage Law

Judges for the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Tuesday on Alabama’s minimum wage law.

The law was passed by the state Legislature in 2016, quashing an attempt by Birmingham’s city government to raise its minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $10.10. The act gives that authority exclusively to the state.

Plaintiffs in the case argue that the law was racially motivated. But judges hearing the case Tuesday focused mainly on a procedural issue, questioning whether the lawsuit was properly filed against the state attorney general, the Associated Press reported. Read more.

Why No One Opposed a $31M Transfer From Alabama’s Education Budget

MONTGOMERY — In the last days of the legislative session, in late May, lawmakers quickly and quietly transferred a tax revenue worth nearly $31 million a year from the state’s education budget to the General Fund budget to fill a “hole” created by other financial commitments.

Those normally opposed to diverting money from schools to other state expenses didn’t complain.

Education advocacy groups were relieved the education budget didn’t get stuck with the growing expense of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, so losing a small, flat revenue source was an acceptable tradeoff.

Some Republicans have said they didn’t know many details of the transfer, but leadership said the idea wasn’t new.

Democrats in the House say they didn’t have time to oppose it. They found out about it when it was on the House floor on the second to last day of the session via an amendment to an economic incentives bill they supported. If they tried to kill the transfer, they’d kill the incentives.

“What do you do?” said House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville. “You go on record voting against a bill for rural incentives?” Daniels said.

“Or do you approve an amendment that there’s a year to contend with?” Read more.

Next Phase in Minimum Wage Battle Begins Tuesday

Oral arguments are slated to begin this week in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as part of the latest stage of a prolonged legal battle over Alabama’s minimum wage law.

The focus of the case is the Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right-to-Work Act, which was passed by the state Legislature in 2016, quashing an attempt by Birmingham’s city government to raise its minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $10.10. The act gives that authority exclusively to the state — meaning that raising the minimum wage above the federal level can only be done by an act of the Legislature.

Plaintiffs in the case, which include several Democratic state legislators, the Alabama NAACP and Greater Birmingham Ministries, allege that the law was racially motivated; state Attorney General Steve Marshall has argued, instead, that the state law has no racial animus and was based on purely economic factors. Read more.

New Law Will Help Medicaid Recoup Money From Estates

MONTGOMERY — Federal rules allow state Medicaid programs to recover money they spent on some enrollees after their deaths, including costs for recipients’ nursing home care and other medical care.

But Alabama Medicaid doesn’t always find out when recipients or their spouses die and their assets, such as homes, are sold, state officials said.

Now, a new law will require specific notice to Medicaid at the commencement of a probate proceeding. Read more.

New Law Helps Firefighters Diagnosed with Cancer

In Gene Necklaus’ 36-person Scottsboro Fire Department, he’s seen three firefighters in recent years diagnosed with occupation-related cancers. One of them died last year. The other two were able to return to work after treatment. One had $20,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, including deductibles and co-pays, Nicklaus said.

“It shouldn’t cost him because he got cancer on the job,” Necklaus, president of the Alabama Association of Fire Chiefs said.

Fire officials around the state praised a new Alabama law that will require local governments to provide supplemental insurance coverage for career firefighters diagnosed with cancer. Read more.

Cities Opposed 5G Bill Because They Wanted Better Terms

A north Alabama lawmaker says telecommunications companies’ ability to offer 5G service has been stalled by cities that want too much money for access to their existing infrastructure, including utility poles.

But city leaders say they opposed 5G legislation that died in the recent session because it would diminish their control of their rights-of-way and fees and ability to set their own application approval schedules.

Legislature Sends Amendments to Voters

Alabama legislators passed hundreds of new laws this year, but they also sent several decisions to Alabama voters in the form of proposed constitutional amendments.

Among the proposals to be on statewide ballots are ones that would replace the elected board of education with an appointed one, allow the Legislature to recompile the state’s constitution and reiterate that only U.S. citizens may vote. Read more.

Regulations Coming for Opioid Treatment Drug Providers

A bill approved on the final day of the legislative session will require more regulation of a drug used in the outpatient treatment of opioid addiction.

“What we’re trying to do is set up some guidelines of how opioid addiction ought to be treated in today’s world,” said Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, sponsor of Senate Bill 425. “(The goal is to steer) people toward buprenorphine and away from cash methadone treatment.”

Buprenorphine, under the brand name Suboxone, is a low-grade opiate. It blocks cravings for opioids, without the same high level as methadone. But to treat addiction, its use needs to come with treatment, supporters of Stutts’ bill say. Read more.