Category: Alabama Legislature

‘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.
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As Prison Lease Plan Fizzles, Ivey, Lawmakers Considering Options

As the clock ran out on Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to lease new prisons, several lawmakers say they want to consider using some of the more than $2 billion in new federal Coronavirus relief money on improved prison infrastructure.

Earlier this year, Ivey signed lease agreements with Tennessee-based CoreCivic to build two large men’s prisons. Tuesday was the deadline for those agreements to be final and Ivey confirmed to reporters Wednesday that the lease route is no longer an option as support from potential underwriters has fallen away.

“To that end, my team and I will meet with legislative leaders again in the coming days to review all that we have learned through this process thus far, including the complexity and depth of the multi-faceted challenge at-hand,” Ivey said in a statement. “Anyone who is serious about these issues understands that replacing our failing prison infrastructure with safer, more secure facilities that accommodate the rehabilitation of incarcerated people is essential. It is not a question of if this will happen, but how. Read more.

More prison debate:

Report: More Data, Tracking Needed on Prison Education Efforts

Lawmakers Considering Federal Covid Relief Money for Prison Fix

As the clock runs down on Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to lease new prisons, several lawmakers say they want to consider using some of the more than $2 billion in new federal coronavirus relief money on improved prison infrastructure.

Earlier this year, Ivey signed lease agreements with Tennessee-based CoreCivic to build two large men’s prisons. Tuesday was the deadline for those agreements to be final, but CoreCivic’s funding has been in jeopardy as support from potential underwriters as fallen away.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have signaled to Ivey they want another crack at a state-funded prison plan.

Alabama budget makers and leaders are continuing to lay the groundwork for the distribution and spending of Rescue Plan funds. The state this summer will start seeing some of the more than $4 billion allocated to it and local governments in the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act. Separately, there is nearly $2 billion going to K-12 schools in the Rescue Plan.
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Orr Not Running for Congress, Seeks to Stay in State House

State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, will seek a fifth term in the Alabama Legislature next year. The Morgan County native had considered a run for Congress in Alabama’s 5th District, the north Alabama seat Mo Brooks is leaving to run for the U.S. Senate.

Orr said he had potential donors and supporters discuss a congressional bid with him.

“I think with the current field of candidates, the race is wide open, but the Lord is just not calling me to do that at this time in my life,” Orr, 57, said. “It was an easy decision.” Read more.

Ivey Vetoes Literacy Act Delay Bill

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Kay Ivey has vetoed a bill that would have delayed until 2024 a requirement that third-grade students who are not reading proficiently repeat the grade.

Senate Bill 94, sponsored by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, would have delayed the holdback provision in the Alabama Literacy Act from spring 2022 to spring 2024.

Democrats and many Republicans supported the bill arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students’ education, forcing some out of the classroom, and to test them after next school year under the act would be unfair. Read more.

‘Vaccine Passports’ Ban Passes Final Vote

MONTGOMERY — A bill that would prohibit the issuance of state or local government “vaccine passports” passed its final vote Thursday.

Senate Bill 267 from Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, says state and local governments “may not require an individual to receive an immunization or present documentation of an immunization as a condition for receiving any government benefit or service or for entry into a government building.” The bill also says an entity or individual doing business in Alabama can’t refuse to provide goods or services or refuse admission or entry to anyone based on their immunization status or lack of documentation. Read more.