Alabama Legislature

The Alabama House of Representatives has finally approved new legislative districts for the state – after house Democrats delayed a vote by having the bill read aloud for sixteen hours.

Representatives approved the districts yesterday on a 70-30, strictly party-line vote.

Back in January, federal judges ordered the GOP-controlled Legislature to redraw lines before next year’s election after ruling some districts were gerrymandered by race.

A bill requiring insurance companies in the state to pay for autism therapy has passed the Senate budget committee. But the committee chairman is threatening not to advance the bill, as he continues negotiations.

Alabama House Democrats used a procedural maneuver last night to delay a vote on new legislative districts that they argue fail to correct race-based gerrymandering in the state.

Republicans hold a wide majority in both chambers of state Legislature and have the numbers to approve the new map. But Democrats delayed a vote until Thursday by asking for the 539-page redistricting bill to be read aloud, a process that is estimated to take 13 hours.

State senators approved a general fund budget last night after a long and at times contentious debate.

The budget passed the Senate 23 to 4. The House of Representatives had previously approved the $1.8 billion spending plan, but the bill will now head back to the house to decide whether representatives will go along with mostly minor Senate changes.

Lawmakers in both chambers of Alabama’s legislature are debating changes to payday loans in the state.

Dueling bills in both the House and the Senate each aim to reform short-term lending in Alabama, but they go about it in different ways.

Supporters of an Alabama death row inmate are waiting to see what the state legislature does on the subject of judicial overrides before the end of this year’s lawmaking session, as the fate of a Covington County man could hang in the balance.

Governor Kay Ivey recently signed a bill into law that stops judges from sentencing future defendants to death after the jury recommends life in prison. State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma wants more. He wrote a bill that extends the ban retroactively to people already on death row due to a judicial override.

Legislation that would require health insurers to cover an intensive autism therapy has stalled in the state Senate after passing the House of Representatives unanimously.

The House on April 20 voted 100-0 to mandate coverage of applied behavioral analysis therapy, also called ABA therapy. However, the bill was not assigned to a Senate committee until a week later and the committee chairman said it will be another week before the bill has a public hearing.

Black lawmakers in the Alabama Legislature are criticizing new district lines that are being drawn after a federal court ruled that Republicans relied too heavily on race last time.

Rep John Knight, a Montgomery Democrat, says the new proposal is unacceptable. Back in January, federal judges ordered Alabama lawmakers to redistrict after ruling that 12 districts in the state were gerrymandered.

Alabama Confederate Monument
Wikimedia

State lawmakers are approaching a decision on whether to prevent changes to long-standing monuments in the state, including Confederate memorials.

The state House of Representatives is scheduled to vote later today on a bill that would forbid any alterations or removal of markers that have stood for more than 20 years.

Gov. Kay Ivey could sign the legislation into law if the House passes it. A spokeswoman says Ivey’s office will review the bill if it is approved.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

State lawmakers gave their final approval yesterday to a bill protecting faith-based adoption agencies that refuse to place children with gay parents, or in certain other households, due to their religious beliefs.

The bill would prohibit the state from refusing to license or do business with faith-based adoption groups that refuse placements on religious grounds. Supporters argue the measure is needed to make sure the groups can reasonably operate. Critics, such as the state’s only openly gay lawmaker, Rep. Patricia Todd, say it’s blatant discrimination.

Representatives approved the bill Tuesday with an 84-11 vote. It now moves to the Alabama Senate.

The state House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that would mandate insurance coverage for autism therapy.

Representatives voted 100-0 in favor of the bill yesterday. It now moves to the Alabama Senate. The bill mandates coverage of an autism treatment called applied behavioral analysis therapy. The Autism Society of Alabama says Alabama is one of only five states that does not require the coverage. Parents whose children have autism and have received the therapy have called it “life-changing”, but it’s also very expensive.

Alabama lawmakers are one step closer to allowing a Birmingham-area church to establish its own police force.

The House Public Safety Committee approved a measure that would allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church to set up its own police department. Church officials say they need their own police force to keep their school and their more than 4,000 person congregation safe.

The Alabama Senate voted to protect faith-based adoption organizations refusing to place children with gay parents or in certain other households because of their religious beliefs.

The Alabama Senate approved that bill on a 22-9 vote yesterday.

The legislation would prohibit the state from refusing to license or sign contracts with faith-based adoption groups that refuse certain adoption placements because of their religious beliefs.

Alabama lawmakers have voted to require high schoolers pass a civics exam before graduating.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the bill 68-31 Tuesday. 

 Decatur Republican Representative Terri Collins says her legislation is intended to ensure young people know how their government works.

The exams will be introduced during the next school year and are identical to the naturalization test given by the federal government. Students could take the 100 question quiz until they pass it.

The Alabama Senate is expected to vote on legislation that would allow people to carry a concealed handgun in Alabama without a getting a permit. In the state House, debate has been postponed on a bill that would close a loophole currently exempting faith-based day cares from state regulation.

Senators are scheduled to debate the concealed weapon proposal submitted by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa this evening.

Alabama lawmakers delayed a vote on a proposed gas tax increase to pay for road and bridge construction after the bill ran into heavy opposition.  

 House Speaker Mac McCutcheon says the bill is likely dead for the session.

The Alabama Senate has voted to allow a church to form its own police force.    Lawmakers on Tuesday voted 24-4 to allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a law enforcement department.  

The church says it needs its own police officers to keep its school as well as its more than 4,000 person congregation safe.

      State lawmakers return from spring break Tuesday to a full plate of issues. State budgets, prison construction and action on the proposed impeachment of Governor Robert Bentley are among the matters set to be decided before the session ends in late May.   

   The State House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to end Alabama's practice that allows a judge to impose a death sentence when a jury has recommended life imprisonment. Alabama is the last state to still allow a judge to override a jury's sentencing recommendation in capital murder cases. 

A bill in the Alabama Legislature would require women seeking abortions to get a sonogram two days ahead of the procedure and hear a detailed description of the embryo or fetus. 

The Senate Health Committee has scheduled a Wednesday public hearing on the bill by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa. A federal appeals court in 2014 blocked a similar North Carolina ultrasound law.

Today is Pro-Life Day in Alabama.

At least, that’s according to Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and other leaders in the state legislature.

After hours of debate over the lack of a raise for state employees, the Alabama House of Representatives finally approved a General Fund Budget.

Representatives voted 72-28 in favor of the $1.8 billion budget late last night. The funding bill now moves to the state Senate.

Montgomery lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to add some sort of raise or bonus for state employees, who haven't had a cost-of-living increase since 2008.

Rep. Napoleon Bracy of Prichard says lawmakers wouldn't expect to work 10 years without a raise.

One of Alabama's largest and wealthiest churches is trying to create its own police department in what experts say would be an unprecedented move.

State legislators are considering a bill that would allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a police force. Similar bills failed the past two years. This year's version is set for debate in the House before this year’s legislative session ends in May.

Lawmakers are attempting to define what criminal convictions should disqualify a person from voting.    The House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday for the bill.  

 The Alabama Constitution says people convicted of felonies involving "moral turpitude" are no longer able to vote, although politicians have disagreed through the years on what crimes should be on that list.

A state general fund budget has passed committee, and it looks like state employees won’t be getting a raise after all.

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved a lean general fund budget yesterday. It gives level funding to most state agencies and removes a proposed pay raise for state employees. Lawmakers say the state can’t afford it.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley had proposed a 4 percent pay raise for state workers.

After a several-month hiatus, the House Judiciary Committee is once again meeting to discuss the possible impeachment of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

The committee is scheduled to meet later this morning to discuss a procedural question related to the probe. It is the first meeting since the investigation was put on hold by outgoing Attorney General Luther Strange in November.

The committee is tasked with making a recommendation to the full House of Representatives on whether there are grounds to impeach Governor Bentley.

State contracts for the high-profile lawyers on both sides of an impeachment investigation are being extended amid the possibility of the probe resuming.   

 The Legislative Contract Review Committee approved the contracts this week.

 House representatives have passed a bill requiring cell phone companies in the state to hand over location data to law enforcement agencies when asked. 

The measure says communication providers would need to share a person's location in a situation involving a risk of death or serious bodily harm. It passed without opposition Thursday.

Republican Rep. Tommy Hanes of Scottsboro sponsored the bill and says it will save lives.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

Republicans in the state House of Representatives have elected Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter of Rainsville, Alabama as their new majority leader.

The Republican Caucus announced that decision yesterday.

Ledbetter, formerly the mayor of Rainsville, was elected to the Alabama House in 2014. Ledbetter released a statement saying he was grateful for the confidence placed in him by the caucus. He is the first freshman representative to hold the position in Alabama’s history.

Draper inmates
Albert Cesare / Montgomery Advertiser

The state Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a plan to build four new, massive prisons in Alabama this afternoon.

The bill would authorize Alabama’s Department of Corrections to build three massive new men’s prisons and a new women’s prison, and would close over a dozen of the state’s existing prison facilities.

It would be financed by an $800 million bond issue that would leave the state paying $50 million a year for thirty years. Supporters including Governor Robert Bentley say the new prisons would save about that much money in operating costs.

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