Monday, March 19, 2018

Taylor’s Top Four: Alabama Legislative Session review for week 10

  The session looks to be winding down, but we aren’t going anywhere! Here’s your recap of week 10 in the Alabama Legislature.

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1. General Fund budget has almost cleared its last hurdle 

  On Tuesday, the house passed the 2019 General Fund budget, which passed the Senate in February. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that it was the fastest the budget has passed in years: “‘The Clerk of the House, who’s been here 30 years, said that’s the fastest he’s seen it,’ said House Ways and Means General Fund chair Steve Clouse, R-Ozark. ‘It’s my 24th year, and I know that was the fastest.'” There are a few things in this budget that have been widely talked about this year: a pay raise for state employees, a bonus for state retirees, a funding increase for the Department of Corrections, and another increase for Medicaid.

  Next steps for the budget: back to the Senate, either for a concurrence vote or a conference committee, and then to Governor Ivey for a signature. The end is in sight!

2. Education Trust Fund budget is moving a little slower

  The 2019 Education Trust Fund budget—which includes a pay raise for education employees—has had a bit of a harder time making its way through the legislature. When the proposed budget went through committee on Tuesday, Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), the chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, responded to questions from committee members during the meeting, which lasted for over two hours. This budget only differs slightly from the one passed by the house in February. The budget passed out of the Senate committee on Tuesday and passed the full Senate on Thursday by a 29-0 vote. Now it—just like the General Fund budget—goes back to its chamber of origin for a conference committee or a concurrence vote, and then to the governor.

3. New requirements and regulations might soon be coming to Alabama child care facilities

  It has been a long journey for Rep. Pebblin Warren’s (D-Tuskegee) child care safety bill. After being one of the most debated bills during last year’s session and ultimately dying in the Senate, a new version of the proposal came back this year. This year’s proposal is a compromise between licensing advocates and religious liberty advocates. Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) helped to slow down the bill last week, but said he would not continue to do so. After spending a week in “legislative limbo,” as termed by the Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman, the bill passed the Senate by a 23-4 vote. It now heads to the governor.

4. School safety remained a hot issue this week

  Although school safety bills were thought by many as unlikely to pass this session, multiple proposals moved in Montgomery last week. The house voted 83-6 to establish the Alabama Task Force on School Safety and Security, which would require a task force to study current Alabama education and safety laws and policies and provide recommendations to the legislature annually. Additionally, a measure passed in the Senate that would allow schools to use money, previously dedicated to a state technology fund, to improve school security—including for the hiring of school resource officers. Lastly, Representative Ainsworth’s bill that would allow trained teachers to carry guns was met with a public hearing on Wednesday and passed a house committee on Thursday, 5-4. None of these measures have been approved by both chambers yet.

  You also might want to know about…

—   An amended version of the Juvenile Justice Bill (HB225) passed 69-20. API published an op-ed on juvenile justice reform that you can read here.

—   Rosa Parks Day is closer to becoming a holiday. The bill was passed by a Senate committee last week.

—   Payday lending bill running out of time. The bill has passed the full Senate but is awaiting for a committee meeting in the House.

—   A bill banning racial profiling and requiring law enforcement to report race, age, gender, and other information about drivers and officers involved in traffic stops to the Alabama Attorney General’s office was approved by a house committee last week. The bill has already cleared the Senate.

—   Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering might soon become a reality in Huntsville. Sen. Arthur Orr’s (R-Decatur) bill that creates the school passed the senate earlier in the session and cleared a House committee last week.

—   Rep. Lynn Greer’s "stand your ground in church bill" passed a Senate committee. The bill now goes to the full Senate.

  About the author: Taylor Dawson is Director of Communications for the Alabama Policy Institute.

  This article was published by the Alabama Policy Institute.

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