March 20, 2015
Legislative Days 6-8
This week the Alabama Legislature met for another three-day-week and made progress on several key pieces of legislation. They are continuing to move at a fast pace in what is being seen as one of the busiest sessions in recent memory.
Next week the legislature will not meet due to spring break and will return on Tuesday, March 31 to begin the fourth week of session. By law, the legislature is only permitted to meet for 30 legislative days, and with the budgets still being left to deal with, this session will continue to move quickly.
House Passes All Bills On “Alabama First” Agenda; Charter School Bill Becomes Law
The Alabama House of Representatives was able to pass all of the remaining House GOP Caucus Agenda bills this week. Most notably, the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act (SB45) was debated for nearly three hours Wednesday night before receiving final passage. The bill was then transmitted to the Senate, where the body concurred with the changes that had been made in the House. On Thursday afternoon, Governor Robert Bentley signed SB45 into law, officially authorizing charter schools in Alabama.
HB110, which provides that a manufacturer is not liable for damages resulting from product not designed, manufactured, or sold by the manufacturer, was passed by the House. A companion bill, SB80, was also passed by the Senate this week.
Twice this week a bill by Representative Dimitri Polizos (R-Montgomery) prohibiting an occupational tax in Alabama failed to move out of the House. On Tuesday HB149 failed to get the required number of votes to pass a procedural vote known as the Budget Isolation Resolution (BIR). And on Thursday when the bill was before the body once again, the sponsor requested the bill be carried over.
Senate Addresses Prison Reform, Open Meetings Act
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved legislation that would address Alabama’s overcrowded prisons and institute new investments in the parole and probation system. The legislation’s sponsor, Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), stated that he expected to see the bill before the entire Senate after returning from spring break. Another piece of legislation sponsored by Senator Ward, SB21, addressing the Open Meetings Act was passed by the Senate this week. Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) also had a piece of legislation dealing with the Open Meetings Act pass the Senate, SB126, which would allow members of governmental bodies to participate in meetings electronically.
SB71 by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) proposing changes to the controversial Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 was carried over on Thursday, giving the sponsor time to work out more details with those opposed to the legislation. He stated that the legislation would be brought back up after spring break.
SB1, sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) would make changes to the Alabama Ahead Act approved in 2013, received approval from the Senate and was assigned to the House Committee on Ways & Means Education.
One of the three economic development bills on Governor Robert Bentley’s agenda, HB59, received final passage by the Senate and was delivered to the Governor for his signature on Thursday. The other two bills in the package, HB57 and HB58, have not received approval, although HB57 was considered by the entire Senate body before being carried over so that more work could be done before passage.