Category: Alabama Legislature

House GOP Caucus Meets on Prison Plan

Alabama House Republicans met for more than two hours Wednesday to discuss their potential support and concerns about draft legislation to build new prisons and renovate old ones using a combination of state, federal and borrowed funds.

According to legislative leaders, the first phase of the plan includes building two new men’s prisons at a total cost of $1.2 billion, with a third of that potentially coming from federal stimulus funds and a significant amount borrowed in a bond issue. Read more.

Constitution Recompilation Committee Discusses Racial Language Edits

MONTGOMERY — No final decisions were made about what racist language should be taken out of the Alabama constitution on Thursday, but discussion is ongoing about why certain sections should be removed that may not appear obviously racist.

Sections of the constitution that mention segregation of schools or a state poll tax have more explicit language that led to the discrimination of Black Alabamians, but other sections regarding incarcerated labor or public-school systems may be harder to navigate, leaders said. The committee designated to make the edits decided to hold off on taking any votes until the public comment period ends Sept. 7. Read more.

As other states drew fire for passing restrictive election laws, Alabama skirted outside the limelight. But changes were made here, too.

Fourteen states passed 22 election laws this year, some of which caused a stir as voting advocates complained that they restricted the rights of voters, while others argued the new laws were needed to add security to the vote.

Alabama has eight new election-related laws this year out of 27 voting-related bills introduced in the Legislature. While some stirred opposition in the state, it was nothing like the national outrage over changes in some other states.

That’s at least partly because Alabama already had adopted one of the most controversial bills passed in other states – a requirement that voters show ID at the polls was passed here in 2014 – and because Georgia attracted so much attention for its ban on delivering water to voters standing in line at the polls.

Alabama did pass a few other laws. One to ban curbside voting, which was not being offered in any of the counties, anyway. Others require a partial post-election audit in three counties, move up the deadline for applying to vote by absentee ballot, and specifically make it a crime to vote in Alabama and another state, for instance. Read more.

‘Retain Alabama’ Effort Looks to Keep Bachelor’s Degree Recipients in State

Knowing that nearly half of Alabama’s public university bachelor’s degree earners are working in other states five years after they graduate, state leaders are funding more efforts to keep that talent pool at home.

In the 2022 state education budget, lawmakers allocated $800,000 for a new “Retain Alabama” initiative to introduce college students to opportunities for them in the Yellowhammer state.

“Our state has been a low-growth state and we have to do all we can to retain that knowledge capital that we’re losing every year when they leave,” said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, chairman of the Senate education budget committee. Read more.

State of the State House: Officials Consider What to do With Building in Disrepair

When replacement parts are needed for the Alabama State House’s electrical system, some have to be “scavenged” because the system is so old that new parts are no longer available.

Meanwhile, the HVAC system has outlived its intended lifespan and is contributing to mold issues in the nearly 60-year-old, eight-floor building, according to a recent facility condition assessment by a Georgia-based engineering firm.

The report has renewed discussions about the health and safety conditions of the building and the need for a new building, or at least significant renovations. The report and springtime presentation to the Legislative Council outlined some concerning conditions in the building and about $51 million in renewal costs needed in the next 10 years.

The bottom line is that lawmakers need to act on the condition of the State House and the costs will be significant, Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile, told Alabama Daily News on Tuesday. Gaston is chair of the Legislative Council, which owns the State House.
Read more.