Thursday, March 8, 2012
ALABAMA LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - WEEK FIVE
This week the Alabama Legislature met for its 10th and 11th day of the 30-day 2012 Regular Session. While the House made some progress on legislation, the Senate essentially remained mired in a filibuster that severely limited its activity.
On Wednesday, Governor Bentley and the leaders of the legislature outlined plans to reform Alabama's pension system for state employees, teachers, and other public employees. The plan would save the state an estimated $5.03 billion over 30 years. Under the proposed bills, the retirement age would be set at 62 for most employees and 56 for law enforcement officers. These changes would only affect hires starting in early January 2013. In addressing the proposed measures, Governor Bentley remarked, "The economic realities of recent years have made it clear that steps need to be taken now to ensure the long-term solvency of Alabama's retirement systems."
Other legislative developments of interest this week include:
- In an effort to increase economic development within the state, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 257, sponsored by Representative Jamie Isom. This bill would offer incentives to business investing in impoverished and low-income communities within a downtown core area or central business district.
- The Senate Health Committee favorably reported Senate Bill 283, sponsored by Senator Cam Ward, which requires health benefit plans to include coverage for the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder for children age nine or younger.
- By a vote of 31-1, the Senate passed Senate Bill 257 by Senator Greg Reed. This legislation would allow each teacher in Alabama an annual appropriation of $300 in classroom supplies. This is a dramatic increase from the current figure of $134.78 allotted in this year's education budget.
- The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation (House Bill 238) aimed at deterring protest at funerals. House Bill 238 requires protestors 1,000 feet or two blocks from funerals. The bill now moves to the Senate for debate.
- Senate Bill 331 is now scheduled to be heard by the Senate Business and Labor committee at 8:30 AM on Thursday, March 15. As mentioned last week, Senator Paul Sanford introduced Senate Bill 331, which prohibits an employer from enforcing policies against bringing firearms to work. Senate Bill 331 and its companion bill House Bill 471 would infringe upon property rights and place new restrictions on property owners and employers.
Due to Primary Elections on Tuesday, March 13, the 2012 Regular Session will resume on Wednesday, March 14 when the Senate will reconvene at 3:00 PM. The House of Representatives will reconvene on the same day at 1:00 PM. It is expected that discussion of the General Fund budget will begin in the House of Representatives in the upcoming weeks.
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