Legislative session weekly wrap-up: Budget introduction, Medicaid work reqs, ridesharing on the move

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Alabama lawmakers faced cold weather and icy roads this week as they made their way to the State House where they managed to move a handful of bills in both chambers.

The Legislature has ​now used four of its available 30 meeting days for the 2018 Regular Session, and only 26 meeting days remain.

Here are the highlights out of Montgomery this week:

In the Governor’s office:

  1. Some Medicaid recipients in Alabama may be required to work. As part of her General Fund Budget proposal, Ivey instructed Alabama’s Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar to develop a policy for implementing a work requirement for Medicaid receivers. All work requirements would only be applicable to “able-bodied” adults, with exemptions being made for the elderly, people with disabilities, and children. Ivey’s current plan would also require copay increases for Medicaid recipients. Her goal is to “increase efficiency and decrease costs related to Medicaid, all in an effort to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
  2. Alabama’s jobless rate holds steady at record 3.5 percent lowIvey announced on Friday that 2,093,063 people were counted as employed in December, the most ever recorded. Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted December unemployment rate is 3.5%, maintaining last month’s record rate. The new figures also indicate the Yellowhammer State is ahead of the national employment average as the U.S. jobless rate is holding at 4.1 percent.

Senate news:

  1. Tripp Pittman introduces Kay Ivey’s General Fund budgetSB178, otherwise known as the proposed budget, appropriates funds for functions of government, debt service, and capital outlay for fiscal year ending September 30, 2019. According to the Governor’s office, it does so “sensibly” and “funds state government with prudence and care.”
  2. Bill to remove marriage licenses passes. The Alabama Senate approved a bill on Wednesday to remove marriage licenses and begin a new process under which probate judges would accept affidavits from couples as an official record of marriage. Under the legislation, the requirement of a ceremony to honor the marriage would be erased. The cost would be the same as the current cost of marriage licenses in the state.
  3. Bill introduced to increase penalties for human trafficking. Introduced on Tuesday, the bill would enhance the criminal penalties for obstructing the enforcement of the human trafficking laws in Alabama.
  4. Ridesharing bill on the move. The bill, which passed the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee on Thursday, would create a ridesharing network across the state for companies and place it under the control of the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC). A single permit issued by the PSC would then allow the companies to operate statewide under uniform regulations rather than requiring each municipality to file for their own permits and regulations.

House news:

  1. Legislation proposed to scrap partisan primaries. One Alabama lawmaker wants to scrap partisan primaries in favor of open elections that would send the two top vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, on to the general election, thus eliminating the need for run-off elections.

Of special note:

  1. State Representative George Bandy dies at 72. Longtime ​Alabama lawmaker, State Representative George Bandy Sr. died early Tuesday morning in a Macon, Ga., hospital, according to Alabama House spokesman Clay Redden.
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