What happened in the Alabama legislature this week? Plenty.
On Tuesday, the House passed a general fund budget to the Senate for approval. House Bill 135 assumes no new sources of revenue for the state and just $1.64 billion available to spend from the general fund, an 11 percent decrease from 2014. Gov. Robert Bentley has already vowed to veto the barebones budget, calling it “unworkable” and “irresponsible.”
Thursday was another a big day at the statehouse, as the House passed the $6 billion education budget on Thursday. Rep. Bill Poole, chair of the education committee said the goal of Senate Bill 179 was to shore up funding to classrooms. The budget includes a $13 million increase for textbooks and more than $10 million for the Alabama’s nationally-acclaimed Pre-K program.
The Senate passed a bill that would make it legal to keep a loaded gun in an automobile without a concealed carry permit. Senate Bill 14 also says that simply carrying a firearm should not be considered “disorderly conduct.”
Alabama’s two partisan presidential primaries will now be held on March 1, 2016 as part of an “SEC Primary” that includes Tennessee and Georgia. Senate Bill 240, sponsored by Sen. Quinton Ross, passed the Senate on Thursday. Ross had previously called the measure an “an economic stimulus bill” because of the expected increased attention Alabama will receive during the 2016 cycle.
Finally, Gov. Bentley signed a comprehensive set of prison reforms into law. He called the legislation an “overhaul” more than a year in the making. Sen. Cam Ward brushed away concerns that the reform bill, estimated to cost around $26 million, would be crippled by the budget cuts in the House general fund budget.
Here are a few more of the week’s highlights:
- Sen. Jabo Waggoner’s Alabama Dog Tethering and Outdoor Shelter Act passed out of the Senate Judiciary. Animal activists say that cruelty protections rarely get attention from legislators and, with the 2015 legislative session drawing to a close, Senate Bill 468 might be their last chance to pass legislation against animal cruelty this year.
- Sen. Del Marsh brought a bill to offer employment protections for the LGBT community before the Senate governmental affairs committee. Senate Bill 482 would ban state officials from discriminating against employees based on sexuality and gender expression, in addition to of race, ethnicity, or religion. The bill was carried over after lawmakers expressed concerns that stakeholders had no chance to offer input on the proposal. A public hearing has not yet been scheduled.
- The House financial services committee declined to vote on a 36 percent cap and tighter regulations of subprime loans that use cars and other assets as collateral. House Bill 400 would have required title lending companies to be licensed by the state and adhere to state-level restrictions on the charges, interest, and fees associated with title loans.
- The House Education Policy Committee voted to remove the Alabama State Board of Education from the process of choosing a charter school commission. Rep. Terri Collins said that she filed House Bill 664 because of concerns that the BOE would not have a new commission in place by the June 1 deadline.