The 26th legislative day ended with reports from House and Senate lawmakers that an August Special Session is likely in order to finish discussions on overcoming the states short-term and long-term budget shortfalls.
Agenda items before lawmakers in August could include Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s lottery and gaming proposal, various measures to increase state revenue, and a controversial proposal from Sen. Gerald Dial to eliminate earmarks and unify the education and general fund budgets.
At a public hearing on Wednesday, agency chiefs outlined a list of horrible outcomes — from prison closures to shortages in mental health services — should the austere general fund budget come to fruition. Despite those concerns, lawmakers gave the budget proposal a favorable report by a vote of 13-0, moving the stripped-down budget closer to reality.
Here is a quick week in review going through all of the major headlines from this week’s legislative agenda:
Alabama lawmakers offered a final unanimous vote on a bill that would allow physicians to prescribe terminally ill patients promising, but unapproved medical treatments. House Bill 463, known as the Right to Try Act, allows doctors caring for people with terminal illnesses to prescribe medications that the Food and Drug Administration has deemed promising, but not yet ready for mass consumption. Thursday’s vote makes Alabama one of at least 12 states that have passed right to try legislation this year.
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The Alabama House passed a bill to establish integrated care networks to allow more Medicaid recipients to stay in their homes instead of nursing homes.
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The House also voted 68-26 to expand the Alabama Accountability Act and tighten restrictions on scholarships and the groups that distribute them.’
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Gov. Robert Bentley appointed the state’s first commission to oversee Alabama’s 25 community and technical colleges. Lawmakers say the eight-member commission will help schools to focus on developing more specialized training programs and preparing entry-level employees to meet growing workforce demands.
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The House Judiciary committee offered a favorable report on House Bill 657, to ban employment discrimination on the basis of “immutable” characteristics that do not effect job performance. Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Ball said that the measure would protect differences in gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. The following day, lawmakers blocked House Bill 615, Rep. Chris England’s proposal to establish civil rights protections against any discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or familiar status.