Alabama Senate

The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced a bill aimed at getting more oversight for hundreds of faith-based day cares that currently go uninspected by the state.

Committee members voted unanimously yesterday in favor of the bill, described as a compromise between child welfare advocates and church centers. The measure has already passed the House and now moves to the Senate floor for debate.

The Alabama Senate has approved a state general fund budget that gives additional money to the state prison system.

That’s part of an effort to comply with a court order to overhaul the health and mental health care provided to inmates. Last summer, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the prison mental health system was “horrendously inadequate” and that changes had to be made.

State Senator Slade Blackwell has dropped out of the race for Alabama governor, shortly after having announced his surprise candidacy.

Alabama Republican Party spokesperson Katie Lansford says Blackwell withdrew from the race yesterday. He had initially planned to run for another term in his Mountain Brook senate district, but signed up to run for governor just before the qualifying deadline on Friday instead.

Hank Sanders
via Twitter

Alabama's longest-serving state senator says he has decided to step aside in favor of his daughter.

Senator Hank Sanders announced Saturday that he will not be seeking a 10th term in office. He says his daughter, Malika Sanders-Fortier, will run in his place for the Senate District 23 seat, which covers the Selma area.

A former federal prosecutor is raising concerns that Alabama’s proposed crackdown on the synthetic opioid fentanyl could end up putting low-level users behind bars for years.

Former U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown told the Alabama House Health Committee yesterday that under the proposed law, a person with a trace amount of fentanyl mixed with other drugs could potentially be prosecuted as a major drug trafficker.

A state Senate committee has delayed a vote as to whether a man who was freed after spending nearly three decades on death row is entitled to financial compensation.

State Senator Paul Bussman has proposed legislation that would grant Anthony Ray Hinton $1.5 million in compensation over three years. Hinton was freed in 2015 after spending 28 years on Alabama’s death row for two murders that occurred during separate robberies of fast food restaurants in Birmingham in 1985.

fentanyl dose
Kensington Police Service

The Alabama Senate has voted in favor of tougher penalties for distributing fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

Senators voted unanimously in favor of the bill yesterday. It now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives for debate.

Sen. Cam Ward, the bill's sponsor, said an influx of fentanyl, which is significantly more powerful than heroin, is causing a spike in overdose deaths. Ward says state penalties for fentanyl possession are disproportionately low, and the new bill would make the penalties similar to those for heroin.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is clashing with some state lawmakers over a proposal to significantly alter the position of lieutenant governor.

Republican Sen. Gerald Dial is proposing legislation that would strip the lieutenant governor of any legislative duties, so that they would no longer preside over the Alabama Senate. The sole function of the post would be to succeed the governor in the event of his or her death, removal or resignation.

Rather than the lieutenant governor, the Senate would elect a sitting senator as presiding officer.

The Alabama Senate has approved a bill that would take the state out of the marriage business. 

The measure Senators approved yesterday would do away with marriage licenses issued by county officials as well as the state requirement for married couples to have a wedding ceremony. Couples would instead sign and submit a form.

The bill comes as a few probate judges in Alabama still refuse to issue marriage licenses to anyone so that they don’t have to issue them to same-sex couples.

Alabama lawmakers return to Montgomery on Tuesday to begin the 2018 legislative session. Here are seven issues to watch throughout the session.

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PRISON SPENDING

Alabama is facing a court order to improve conditions in its prisons after a federal judge last year ruled that mental health care was "horrendously inadequate." State lawmakers this session will deal with the price tag of trying to comply with the ruling against the state.

Federal judges have tossed out lawsuits challenging the new redistricting plan for the state of Alabama, which effectively clears the way for the new districts to be used in next year’s election cycle.

According to the Alabama Political Reporter, a three-judge panel in federal district court in Alabama’s Middle District decided the lawsuits brought by the Alabama Democratic Conference and Alabama’s Legislative Black Caucus were untimely and lacked standing in the specific districts.

 Alabama lawmakers have given final approval to new legislative districts.

The Alabama Senate voted 21-8 to approve the redistricting legislation. It now goes to Governor Kay Ivey for her signature.

An Alabama bill requiring some insurers to cover autism treatment for children is set to become law.

The state House of Representatives voted unanimously yesterday morning to go along with Senate changes and send the bill to the governor. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey's press office has indicated she will sign the bill later this morning unless a legal review finds problems.

The mandate applies to employers with 51 or more employees.

The Alabama Senate has voted in favor of a bill that would require insurers to cover autism therapy but only until the child turns 18.

Senators voted 33-1 Tuesday to mandate the coverage of applied behavioral analysis, an intensive therapy for those with autism.

The House approved the bill unanimously earlier this session. The bill now heads back to the House, where Representatives will decide whether to go along with Senate changes to the bill.

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.

The Alabama Senate has approved new legislative districts over the objections of black Democrats who said the plan was gerrymandered to maintain GOP control of the state's largest county. 

Senators on Thursday approved the new districts in a 25-7 party line vote after Democrats used procedural tactics to delay a vote for several hours.

Alabama’s education budget has passed the state House.

The House of Representatives unanimously approved the $6.4 billion budget proposal yesterday.

Tuscaloosa Rep. Bill Poole says the budget will keep state schools mostly funded at the same levels as last year but provides some increases for K-12 schools. It also sets aside money to hire more than 150 more teachers in fourth through sixth grades.

The proposal now heads back to the Senate, where it was previously stalled by a legislator who argued that more money should be spent on grade schools.

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.

Senators are asking a budget committee to vote this week on an autism bill that would require insurers to pay for an intensive therapy.

Senator Dick Brewbaker of Pike Road said Tuesday that 26 of 35 senators signed a petition asked for a committee vote this week instead of waiting. Brewbaker says the bill deserves a vote because the legislative clock is rapidly winding down

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.

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.

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.

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