Alabama legislative week in review: March 21 – March 25, 2016

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State Capitol of Alabama

Legislators briefly passed through Montgomery this week with an eye toward their spring break, which began Thursday and won’t have them back in the statehouse until April 5. Despite only two legislative action days this week, both bodies took up high-profile legislation.

Tuesday, the 17th day of the legislative session, got under way with the Alabama House of Representatives clearing the long-contested bill to provide a path to visitation rights for grandparents. HB334 from Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) passed with an affirmative vote from 97 lawmakers, though debate came over the fact that the bill may circumvent the will of fit parents to make decisions regarding the welfare of their children.

Over in the Senate, lawmakers passed SB260 from Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville). The bill would bar the state from taking money from the state’s park system to prop up the General Fund. The practice is a legitimate concern, as lawmakers have taken $15 million from state park coffers over the past five years to deposit into the General Fund.

The Senate also cleared HB34 from Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw). The bill, which was carried by Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper), provides tax breaks for state ports in an effort to remain competitive among states with similar incentives. Supporters say the move will attract large businesses and bring jobs to the state.

The Senate continued on its roll Wednesday with the passage of SB205 from Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville), which would prohibit the location of abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of a school and bar the Alabama Department of Public Health from reissuing licenses to any clinic in violation of the new law.

The Senate also approved a General Fund budget, which lacks sufficient funding for Medicaid, despite a veto threat from Gov. Robert Bentley. The Senate’s session came to a halt when it stalled a vote on Bentley’s landmark prison transformation bill.

In committee hearings this week, the Mobile delegation declined a bill along party lines that would allow county residents to vote on whether or not to raise the local minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. A house committee approved a bill that will put to a vote the notion that a person is a person from the time of fertilization, effectively outlawing abortion in the state.

A Senate committee took up a bill that would decriminalize possession of the epilepsy-relieving drug cannabidiol (CBD), but did not vote on the measure. It will likely come up for discussion again when legislators return from spring break April 5.

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