Alabama legislative agenda preview: March 7 – March 11, 2016

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Alabama lawmakers will return to Montgomery Tuesday as the legislative session resumes, with the House convening at 1 p.m. and the Senate an hour later.

Both chambers are still planning to tackle the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets before spring break, as well as a host of issues slated to be taken up this week.

The Senate will debate SB89 from Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), which would require all Alabama public school students to pass a civics test to graduate – private schools could opt-in if they chose to. Also on the Senate’s agenda is SB148 from Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville), which would require all passengers in a vehicle to wear a safety belt. The legislation came up in last week’s session but was stalled due to opposition regarding further legislation on people’s car-riding habits.

The Senate will also take up SB114 from Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Sanford), which would regulate “fantasy contests” in the state, and SB14 from Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), which would allow people to carry a firearm in their vehicle without a permit. Allen’s legislation was hotly contested in a recent committee hearing, when state law enforcement officers argued that the bill would make their jobs more difficult and dangerous.

The House will also take up a bill aimed at regulating so-called “fantasy contests,” as well HB2 from Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Scottboro), which would require wireless communications providers to supply law enforcement agencies with location information upon request. Perhaps the bills with highest interest to be taken up in the House this week are HB46 from Rep. Alan Boothe (R-Troy), which would allow Alabama distilleries to begin selling bottles for off-premise consumption, and HB13 from Rep. Alan Harper (R-Northport), which would allow the public to vote on whether or not to institute a state lottery.

Committee hearings will get underway Tuesday morning before the start of session, though the majority will take place on Wednesday. The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services will hear discussion on two bills that will likely attract the outrage of Democrats – HB45 from Rep. April Weaver (R-Alabaster), which would outlaw the already-illegal practice of selling fetal tissue, and SB9 from Allen, which would prohibit abortions if providers don’t first determine a fetal heartbeat.

The Senate Committee on General Fund Finance and Taxation will hear from Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) regarding SB136, a bill which would put forth a constitutional amendment to add an additional 5-mill tax to state properties, with the proceeds going to help Medicaid.

The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee will hold public hearings regarding two alcohol-related bills – SB219 from Sen. William Beasley (R-Clayton), which would allow retail licensees and state liquor stores to conduct liquor and wine tastings, and HB325 from Rep. James Buskey (D-Mobile), which would allow businesses with a building split between wet and dry counties to serve alcohol.

The House Committee on General Fund Ways and Means will take up the General Fund via SB125, which has already passed the Senate,

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