Tag: alabama politics

Reforming Alabama: Recapping the 2011 Legislative Session

Focus Of 2011 Session Was Serious Reforms

Last Thursday marked the end of the first Republican-controlled legislative session in 136 years.  It was an extremely productive session with Republicans passing several badly needed reforms.  The first of these was Representative Greg Canfield’s Rolling Reserve Budget Act which also had the distinction of being the first bill Governor Bentley signed into law.  It will have a significant impact on the future budgets and prevent proration for years to come.  Also noteworthy were Senator Trip Pittman’s reform of the teacher tenure system, the elimination of the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), and Representative Jay Love’s legislation to increase retirement contributions by state employees.

Alabama made national news with the passage of Senator Scott Beason and Representative Micky Hammon’s immigration reform legislation.  According to Kris Kobach, one of the nation’s top immigration lawyers and current Kansas Secretary of State, Alabama now has the strongest law deterring illegal immigration in the country.

The legislature passed pro-life legislation including a ban on abortion after 20 weeks when the unborn child can feel pain (HB18).  Unfortunately, several pro-life bills got caught up in the filibuster process and failed to pass.  These include Personhood legislation that would define persons as all humans from the point of fertilization and the Health Care Rights of Conscience Act which gives health care providers, institutions and payers the right to decline to perform services that violate their consciences.  Also on the health care front, the legislature passed Representative Blaine Galliher’s HB60 which prohibits mandatory participation in any health care system, essentially opting us out of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

The legislature also passed legislation that will improve campaign finance records and improve transparency.  Two great examples are Senator Arthur Orr’s SB136 which requires electronic filing of campaign contributions starting a year before the election monthly, and then requires weekly filings beginning a month before the election, and Representative Paul DeMarco’s Fiscal Transparency Act which requires the State Finance Department to produce monthly financial reports for the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund, and to publish them in a prominent place on the department’s website.  They also took measures to improve election security by passing Representative Kerry Rich’s amendment to the Alabama Constitution to require voters to provide a valid photo ID in order to vote.

Businesses both big and small will benefit from Representative April Weaver’s legislation to allow businesses to deduct 100% of the amount they pay in health insurance premiums on their state income tax and Representative Blaine Galliher’s bill to authorize an income tax credit for employers creating jobs.  The legislature also took steps to protect the right to a secret ballot in employee representation by passing Representative Kurt Wallace’s HB64.

Another good budget measure passed was Representative Jack Williams’ HB13 which will allow for the use of life cycle budgeting in competitive bids and public works projects.

There were a few pieces of controversial legislation that sparked heated debate this session.  One such bill would have reauthorized the Forever Wild Land Trust program.  Eventually a compromise was reached, and the legislature passed Senator Dick Brewbaker’s constitutional amendment to reauthorize the Forever Wild program allowing the people of Alabama to vote on the issue in 2012.

Representative Jack Williams’ bill to grant the Jefferson County Commission limited home rule to levy additional taxes prompted fierce debate on both sides.  After passing the House Jefferson County Delegation by a vote of 9 – 8, the bill died in the Alabama Senate after a contest filed by Senator Scott Beason.

Another controversial bill would have enforced a sales and/or “use” tax on goods ordered on the internet from out of state.  Eagle Forum fought hard against this legislation and we are very pleased to say it did not pass.  To learn more about this bill, go to alabamaeagle.org.  Eagle Forum also worked against Representative John Merrill’s HB6 which would have lowered the mandatory school age from 7 to 6 years of age.  This bill was stopped in the Alabama Senate.

There were a few pieces of good legislation that didn’t pass.  We would have liked to have seen passed Representative Paul DeMarco’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (HB427) and Senator Cam Ward’s Foreign Law Prohibition Bill (SB61), along with Senator Dick Brewbaker’s resolution encouraging the State Board of Education to retain complete control over Alabama’s academic standards (SJR153), but time ran out.  While Senator Paul Bussman’s shared parenting legislation (SB196) did not pass, a constructive dialogue began and we hope he will come back next year with a stronger bill.

Overall, we think the members of the Alabama Legislature, Speaker Hubbard and Pro Tem Marsh deserve a solid A for this successful session, and we hope they will continue to be committed to passing the kind of serious reforms they addressed this year.

Eagle Forum Congratulates Legislators on Passage of Students First Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

05/26/11

Contact:  Brooklyn Roberts

Eagle Forum Congratulates Legislators On Passage Of Students First Act

(Birmingham)  This week, despite AEA union bosses’ efforts to stop meaningful reform, SB310 also known as the Students First Act passed the Alabama House.

“The real winners tonight were Alabama’s students and parents who will benefit from schools’ ability to fire teachers that are underperforming,” said Eunie Smith, President of Eagle Forum of Alabama.

Under the Students First Act, teachers will continue to receive tenure after completing three years of full time employment.  However, SB310 provides for the dismissal of tenured teachers who clearly fail to provide adequate education and care for their students.  Teachers will still have recourse to appeal the termination.

Despite the amount of misinformation surrounding SB310, supporters stood strong and passed this badly needed reform.  “Eagle Forum has long been an advocate of sound education reform in Alabama, and we are extremely proud of our conservative legislators who stayed true to their principles to improve Alabama’s education system, even in the face of strong opposition, said Smith.  “They were extremely courageous and should be commended for their efforts.  It was a victory for all Alabama’s children.”

For more information contact Executive Director, Brooklyn Roberts at 205-441-9879

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A Summary of the Legislative Session So Far: What Has Passed and What To Look For

The Alabama Legislature has had an extremely productive legislative session so far.  Without gambling stopping things up, they have been able to pass much-needed reforms.  Below we’ve put together an overview of what they have passed so far and what is ahead.  The legislature has taken a two week break to do redistricting, and will be back in regular session on Tuesday, May 24.

What They’ve Already Passed

HB57– Rep. Greg Canfield’s Education Trust Fund Rolling Reserve Act: changes the budgeting process for the Education Trust Fund to cap spending at a 15-year rolling average.  This legislation will be key to helping to avoid proration in the future. (For more information on this bill and why it’s necessary, click here) Eagle Forum recommends: Y

SB72– Sen. Del Marsh’s legislation to eliminate the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, commonly called DROP.  The ALGOP has a great fact sheet on DROP and why it needed to be eliminated here, and the Alabama Policy Institute has a comprehensive study of the program here. Eagle Forum recommends: Y

HB61– Rep. April Weaver’s legislation to allow businesses to deduct 100% of the amount they pay in health insurance premiums on their state income tax.  Eagle Forum recommends: Y

SB133– General Fund Budget for the next fiscal year.  Because the House and Senate did not pass identical versions of the budget, it has now gone to conference committee.

*Note:  This list is not comprehensive of everything they have passed during this session.

What To Look For In The Last Week of the 2011 Session

Likely to Pass:

SB310– Sen. Trip Pittman’s Teacher Tenure Law and Fair Dismissal Act (For more info on the issue of tenure reform and why it is needed, click here)  Eagle Forum recommends: Y

HB123– Education Trust Fund Budget for the next fiscal year

HB64– Rep. Kurt Wallace’s  amendment to the Alabama Constitution protecting the right to a secret ballot in employee representation  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

HB427– Rep. Paul DeMarco’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (Click here for more info) Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

HB58– Rep. Mike Ball’s legislation to require  public officials/candidates and spouses of public officials/candidates to disclose if they are employed by the state or federal government or have a contract with the state or federal government.  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

HB60– Rep. Blaine Galliher’s legislation to opt out of Obamacare  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

HB19– Rep. Kerry Rich’s legislation to amend the Alabama Constitution to require voters to provide a valid photo ID in order to vote  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

HB56/SB256– Sen. Scott Beason and Rep. Micky Hammon’s legislation to address the problem of illegal immigration.  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

HB25– Rep. Paul DeMarco’s Fiscal Transparency Legislation requiring the State Finance Department to produce monthly financial reports for the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund, and to publish them in a prominent place on the department’s website.  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

In addition to the above, there are several pieces of pro-life legislation that are expected to move in the remaining days of the session including:

HB8– Rep. Wes Long’s legislation to  amends the definition of “child” to include the unborn.  It also creates a rebuttable presumption of exposing a child in utero to a controlled substance if both the mother and the child test positive for the same controlled substance not prescribed by a physician.  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

SB46– Sen. Cam Ward’s Health Care Rights of Conscience Act to give health care providers, institutions and payers the right to decline to perform services that violate their conscience.  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

SB201– Sen. Greg Reed’s legislation to prohibit Alabama health insurance coverage of elective abortions except through a premium paid by an optional rider.  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

SB202– Sen. Greg Reed’s bill to opt Alabama out of federal abortion insurance coverage per the terms of the Obamacare legislation.  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

HB18– Rep. Kerry Rich’s legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks, the threshold when the unborn child can feel pain.  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

Watch Out For

HB365– Rep. Jamie Ison’s legislation to require retailers to notify consumers of their duty to pay a sales/use tax on items purchased over the internet, and keep records of consumer purchases.  Eagle Forum recommends:  N

What Is Unlikely To Pass This Year:

SB196– Sen. Paul Bussman’s Shared Parenting Legislation which would have changed the custodial presumption in child custody cases from 80%/20% to 50%/50%.  Eagle Forum recommends:  Y

HB6– Rep. John Merrill’s legislation to lower the mandatory school age from 7 to 6 years of age.  Eagle Forum recommends:  N

**Don’t Forget, you can find your legislator and see how he/she has voted here.**

Get Your 2011 Legislative Directory

Make at least a $25 contribution to Eagle Forum, and you’ll receive a free copy of our 2011 Legislative Directory.  It is a complete directory of the Alabama State Legislature sized to fit in your pocket or purse.

**If you would like to purchase directories outright, call 205-879-7096 for more information.

Legislative Week In Review

Another busy week for the Alabama Legislature.  This week, the House passed the following:

HB61 (Rep. April Weaver) Small Business Healthcare Tax Incentives Bill:  This legislation allows qualifying employees to deduct from Alabama gross income 100% of the amounts they pay as health insurance premiums as part of an employer provided health insurance plan provided by a qualifying employer.

HB19 (Rep. Kerry Rich) Voter ID:  Amends the Alabama Constitution to require voters to provide a valid photo ID in order to vote.

HB62 (Rep. Mike Jones) Ethics Commission Funding: Annual appropriation to fund the Alabama Ethics Commission.

HB58 (Rep. Mike Ball) Ethics Disclosure:  This legislation requires public officials/candidates and spouses of public officials/candidates to disclose if they are employed by the state or federal government or have a contract with the state or federal government.

Obamacare Opt Out:  The House attempted to pass a constitutional amendment (HB60) to preserve the freedom of Alabama citizens to make decisions about and provide for their own healthcare regardless of federal mandates.  Several Republican legislators were not present for the vote, and it failed.*  You can find out how your legislator voted here.  The House is expected to revote on this legislation next week.

*Rep. Owen Drake is in the hospital and could not be present for the vote.

Over in the Senate:

DROP legislation was amended and passed.  SB 72 (Sen. Del Marsh) DROP: Governor Bentley amended the DROP Bill to comply with the 90 day notice requirement and avoid legal challenges.  Both the House and Senate concurred with the amendment and it is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Legislative Week In Review

This was a busy 3-day week for the Alabama Legislature.  On Tuesday, the House passed one of the most significant pieces of legislation on the Republican agenda–Rep. Greg Canfield’s Rolling Reserve Budget Act–and the Senate voted to end the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP).  Several important pieces of legislation also came out of committee on Tuesday including:

SB 17–Senator Cam Ward’s bill to cut ballot access requirements by half making it easier for independent and third party candidates to get on the ballot.

HB 56–Representative Micky Hammon’s immigration bill which requires businesses who receive economic development incentives to use e-verify, makes the entry, presence and involvement in economic activity of unauthorized illegal aliens a crime in this state, and requires law enforcement to verify the citizenship during routine enforcement of local, county or state laws.

SB112–Legislation by Senator Arthur Orr to remove racist language from the Alabama Constitution.

On Wednesday,  the House passed an amendment to the Alabama Constitution protecting the right to a secret ballot in employee representation (HB64).

Thursday ended the legislative week with the Senate passing the Rolling Reserve Budget Act and the House passing the DROP legislation.  There was, however, some confusion with the DROP legislation in the House regarding the date DROP would end.  The enacting legislation appears to require the state to give participants 90 days to get out of the program, and the legislation the House was considering ended the program on April 1, 2011.  Some legislators were concerned the bill could be thrown out in court because of the failure to give the 90 day notice.  Rep. Harry Shiver introduced an amendment to move the end date to June 1, 2011.  While that amendment passed, it was later stripped.

Governor Bentley signed the Rolling Reserve Budget Act into law at 11:30 this morning.

Next week is Spring Break for the legislators.

Tuesday’s Legislative Activity

It was a busy day in Montgomery, Rep. Greg Canfield’s Rolling Reserve Budget Act HB 57 passed the House (you can find more information about the legislation here) and the Alabama Senate voted (23-12) to end the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) SB72 saving taxpayers millions of dollars.  For more information on DROP and why it needs to be repealed, click here.  You can find out how your legislators voted on both bills by clicking here.

Beyond that, Several pieces of legislation passed out of committee today:

SB 17–Senator Cam Ward’s bill to cut ballot access requirements by half making it easier for independent and third party candidates to get on the ballot.

HB 56–Representative Micky Hammon’s immigration bill which requires businesses who receive economic development incentives to use e-verify, makes the entry, presence and involvement in economic activity of unauthorized illegal aliens a crime in this state, and requires law enforcement to verify the citizenship during routine enforcement of local, county or state laws.

SB112–Legislation by Senator Arthur Orr to remove racist language from the Alabama Constitution.