Lawmakers move bills on marriage, children closer to law

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In case you missed it, panels in the Alabama House and Senate considered several key bills Wednesday. Here are a few that have been on our radar:

•A bill to give judges, ministers and other officiants the right to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies is inching closer to becoming law, after a favorable report by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. House Bill 56 passed the House in mid-March after four hours of emotional debate, AL.com reported. Bill sponsor Rep. Jim Hill said that he brought the legislation after hearing from judges and ministers concerned about being forced to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples.

•The Senate Judiciary Committee also gave a favorable report to House Bill 237, a bill that would give grandparents the right to petition for visitation with their grandchildren. That bill passed the House in late April.

House Bill 129, the appropriations bill for the Children’s First Trust Fund, was approved by the House ways and means committee by a unanimous voice vote. As money from the landmark tobacco settlement comes to Alabama, legislators appropriate a portion to the Children’s First Trust Fund to cover juvenile services, mental health and substance abuse programs, and child abuse and neglect.

•Lawmakers gave a favorable report about House Bill 563 on Wednesday, though bill sponsor Rep. Patricia Todd told AL.com that the bill may not get much further. She and Rep. Howard Sanderford sponsored the legislation to ensure that only licensed veterinarians can make medical or surgical decisions on the treatment of animals. The bill also says spay and neuter clinics would be regulated as veterinary facilities.

•The Senate committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development voted in favor of Senate Bill 452, legislation brought forth by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw to allow brewpubs to sell beer for off-premise (as well as on-premise) consumption.

•Lawmakers voted down Senate Bill 465, a bill that would impose term limits on the State Board of Education. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that committee members were concerned about the potential loss of institutional knowledge.

•A proposal to pool the state’s two major budget funds, the   and the General Fund, into a new Alabama Recurring Expense Fund was rejected by a Senate panel. Sen. Paul Sanford said Senate Bill 12 would allow the general fund to share in some of the growth revenue now earmarked for what is essentially a savings account in the Education Trust Fund.

We’re still waiting for committee decisions on the education budget and the General Fund budget. Votes on those bills have been rescheduled for at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Sen. Del Marsh’s gaming legislation is scheduled for committee vote at 9:30 a.m.

The full committee schedule is available here.

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