Category: Government

Bill Would Create Scholarships for Rural Teachers

MONTGOMERY — Legislation in the Alabama Senate would give scholarships to students seeking to be STEM or special education teachers in Alabama if they agree to teach in rural areas. Read more.

More from the Legislature this week:

Teacher Retirement Bill Advances

ADOC Reporting, Sexual Assault Victim Bills Advance, Grand Jury Bill Delayed

Bill Would Change State’s Grand Jury Secrecy Laws, Free Witnesses to Talk About Testimony

Governor Signs Alcohol Delivery Bill

Read complete legislative coverage.

Senate Approves Delay of Literacy Act Student Holdback Requirement

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday voted to delay by two years the requirement that third graders who don’t read at set levels be held back in school, as described in the Alabama Literacy Act, despite opposition from some chamber leaders.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, sponsored Senate Bill 94. It passed by a vote of 23-9.

The 2019 law currently requires that, starting at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, third grade students demonstrate sufficient reading skills before being promoted to fourth grade. Smitherman and others argued that COVID-19-caused learning loss would lead to more students being held back next year if lawmakers didn’t act. Read more.

More from the Legislature this week:

Bill Would Change State’s Grand Jury Secrecy Laws, Free Witnesses to Talk About Testimony

Governor Signs Alcohol Delivery Bill

Read complete legislative coverage.

Prison Lease Information Stokes Concerns About Cost to State, Funding Priorities

Recent information about prison company CoreCivic’s agreement with the state to build two large facilities is renewing concerns among some about the cost and state funding priorities.

On April 2, Bloomberg News reported on bank Barclay’s plans to be an underwriter for CoreCivic.

The story included a report from CoreCivic to potential investors that said ADOC’s revenues are provided by the Legislature. “This will include budgeting for all of ADOC’s obligations under the new lease agreements,” it said.

“ADOC has discretion over how to spend the appropriation provided by the Legislature and has covenanted in the lease to prioritize lease payments above all other obligations to the extent permitted by law.” Read more.

Redevelopment of Southtown as Mixed-Use Property to Begin in June

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to rezone the Southtown Court housing project, making way for a mixed-use redevelopment of the property.

Now designated a “mixed-use downtown” district, the property, near St. Vincent’s Birmingham, will be transformed into a development that includes multi-family residential, hotel, office, retail/dining, medical office, parking garage and open space uses. Developers intend to turn the property into a “pedestrian-friendly corridor,” including pocket parks, green spaces and bike lanes.

Plans to redevelop the property, near where a 455-unit housing project now stands have existed in some form since at least 2008. Read more.

Bill Would Change State’s Grand Jury Secrecy Laws, Free Witnesses to Talk About Testimony

A lawmaker from north Alabama wants grand jury witnesses to be allowed to discuss their testimony and experiences with prosecutors, something now prohibited under state law.

Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, says current law takes away witnesses’ First Amendment rights. His bill would repeal an oath of secrecy for grand jury witnesses.

House Bill 202 will be in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Ball said his original bill is modeled after federal grand jury laws, but he will bring a substitute to committee that makes the “bare minimum” changes he thinks are needed in state law.

“They could talk about whatever they knew before, the questions they were asked and how they were asked,” Ball told Alabama Daily News. Read more.

More from the Legislature this week:

Governor Signs Alcohol Delivery Bill

Read complete legislative coverage.

‘Vaccine Passport’ Ban Bill Passes Senate

The Alabama Senate on Thursday approved a bill to prohibit the issuance of state or local government “vaccine passports.” Senate Bill 267 sponsor Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said governments shouldn’t allow access to services based on individuals’ immunization status. Orr talked about the current COVID-19 situation, but the bill isn’t specific to the coronavirus. Read more.