In local district news, the Limestone County Legislative Delegation opened a local delegation office in Athens on Monday. The opening was widely attended by the public and elected officials. This office follows the model established by the Morgan and Madison County Legislative Delegation Offices and will help us better serve the residents of Limestone County. The office is located at 110 College Street, Suite E-4 and will initially be open from 9 – 5 Monday – Friday. We may adjust hours as needed. I encourage you to stop in and visit with Anna Russell, the Executive Director. I will share the office phone number, website and email address as they become available in the coming days.
I closed out the blog prior to the spring break with an update on the school calendar bill. I’ve had a few calls and emails for an update – a prognosis of sorts – regarding this bill. The short answer – I consider the bill dead because the committee adopted an unfriendly amendment introduced by the committee chair (and supporter of the original calendar bill) making the opt-out provision in the bill effective after the 2013 – 2014 school year. This amazed me as the portion of the bill requiring every school district to follow the mandated state-wide calendar expires in October of 2013 - what is the point of the amendment?
Now for the long answer – a strategy used by opponents of my bill was a classic “delay and defend” tactic. They recognized early on that time was on their side. Everyone knows the current school year is winding down and next year’s calendars must be set so as to accommodate school maintenance cycles, training, etc over the summer break. The opposition knew that if they could delay moving my bill through the legislative process (it took three weeks to bring it up in committee, and the vote was delayed two weeks after a public hearing) that any new calendar provided by the “opt-out” provision would become moot. I recognized their strategy and had a built-in goal of moving this bill out of the Senate no later than the spring break. We simply ran out of time to pass the bill and allow school systems to adopt another calendar. I do not want the opt-out to become counter-productive when the law sunsets after the 2013-2014 school year. Now the mandatory state-wide calendar will expire this year and, for the 2014 – 2015 school year, local school systems will once again have full control of setting their calendars.
The Senate reconvened from Spring Break today. This is the 16th legislative day; we are now at the half-way point of the 2013 session (our state constitution limits us to 30 legislative days within a 105 day calendar). I’ve provided a recap of the first half of the session; located at the bottom of today’s post.
We spent several hours voting on “Sunset Bills” today. This is the periodic legislative review of the laws enabling the various Boards and Commissions to operate so that they can regulate their respective industries across our state. These Boards/Commissions would sunset – thereby losing their authority to regulate their respective industry – if the legislature does not reauthorize their existence.
A special order calendar was introduced a little after 4 PM this afternoon. The first bill up was HB57, the Women’s Health and Safety Act. This is an important Pro-Life bill as no provision provides for comprehensive standards of medical care for abortion or reproductive health centers under existing law. This bill corrects this and further requires physician involvement in abortion or reproductive health centers. The bill also classifies an abortion or reproductive health center as an ambulatory health care occupancy and requires certain standards be met. HB57 passed the House with 73 yes and 23 no votes. After over three hours of debate HB57 passed the Senate in a 22 - 10 vote.
The Senate continued working through the remainder of the calendar, passing several noncontroversial bills and adjourned at 9:00 PM.
Finishing off today’s post with some great news - HB9, the Homebrew bill, was debated in the House for several hours today and passed in a 58 to 33 vote. I will continue pushing...err, working with my Senate colleagues to move the Senate version and/or positioning HB9 for Senate passage.
2013 Legislative Session: First Half Update
During the first half of the session the Legislature focused on passing bills that will help boost the economy, reduce the size and cost of state government and improve education for Alabama children.
Fourteen bills passed both the House and Senate, of those eight has been signed into law by Governor Bentley, one was vetoed, and the remaining five await the Governor’s signature. An additional 24 bills have passed the Senate and are awaiting action by the House. This includes the state’s General Fund budget, which passed the Senate in record time.
Bills that have passed both the House and Senate
HB94 – Alabama Trust Fund Repayment - Guarantees automatic annual payment toward paying off money borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund
HB84 – Accountability Act of 2013 (School Choice Tax Credit) - Provides parents and children stuck in failing schools with an income tax credit to be used at a non-failing school
SB96 – "Major 21st Century Manufacturing Zone Act" - Allows cities to borrow money to buy land, improve roads, add water and sewer lines and construct manufacturing facilities which will help spur economic development projects
SB108 – Law Enforcement Consolidation - Consolidates state-level law enforcement agencies to create a more targeted, streamlined law enforcement effort and is estimated to save $30 million annually.
SB117 – Streamlining State IT Functions - Establishes a Secretary of Information Technology who will identify ways to save money and improve coordination within the state’s IT networks. Estimated savings: $30-$60 million annually.
SB238 – Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act - Levels the playing field between Alabama and surrounding states in the recruitment of aviation industry suppliers. Neighboring states already have similar laws in place and this legislation will ensure Alabama remains competitive with other, nearby states in recruiting jobs by attracting those suppliers.
Senate-Passed Bills Eligible for House Vote
SB4 – Prohibiting the Application of Foreign Law – This is a Constitutional Amendment that would prohibit the application of foreign law that would violate the rights of American citizens under the U.S. and Alabama Constitutions
SB29 – Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act - Provides protection for people 60 and older in cases of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation
SB60 – Education Accountability and Intervention Act - Clarifies the State Board of Education’s authority to intervene and exercise direct control over the decision making and operational functions in the state’s persistently failing schools
SB68 – Informed Voter Act and Fair Ballot Commission - Establishes a commission to provide clear, objective information about proposed amendments and remove voter confusion and uncertainty over ballot language on future proposed Constitutional Amendments
SB116 – Streamlining of State IT Services - Creates the Alabama Technology Authority to provide for a more streamlined, cost effective delivery of IT services to state agencies. Combined with a new law to create a state IT Secretary, estimated cost savings are between $30 and $60 million a year.
SB122 – Legislative Services Streamlining - Reorganizes a number of legislative agencies and committees charged with overseeing operations within the Legislature to establish a more centralized oversight structure and combine the work currently performed by eight committees into four.
SB143 – General Fund Budget - Passed in record time, this budget provides level funding for most state agencies. The proposal also includes the first installment toward repaying money borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund and reduces funding for the Legislative agency and President Pro Tem’s office by roughly $1.7 million from the previous year.