Alabama Senate

A state Senate committee is expected to vote on a reform bill today aimed at reducing overcrowding issues in Alabama prisons.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 10 AM today. The bill, among other changes, would create a new felony category, Class D, for low-level theft and drug convictions.

People convicted of class D felonies would be sent to community corrections programs instead of prison.

The bill would also mandate a period of supervision after release from prison.

Lawmakers want to keep the identities of the companies supplying drugs for lethal injections in Alabama a secret.

That's what a bill that just passed the state House yesterday in a 76 to 26 vote will guarantee. That bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.

Alabama hasn't executed a death row inmate since 2013, partly because the state has had trouble obtaining lethal injection drugs. Pharmaceutical companies have historically shied away from associating their name with an execution drug.

The Alabama Senate approved a measure to establish charter schools in the state in a 22 to 12 vote last night. That bill will now head to the House of Representatives.

The proposal allows the establishment of up to 10 brand new charter schools in the state each year, and allows school districts to convert an unlimited number of existing schools to charter status.

Republicans say charter schools provide education choices to families and encourage innovation. Opponents say they will drain resources from existing public schools.

The city of Selma is preparing to remember the fiftieth anniversary of the attack known as "Bloody Sunday".

Today also marks fifty years since the funeral of civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson. His death at the hands of an Alabama State Police Trooper is considered one of the reasons Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Selma to help organize the voting rights marches.

Vera Jenkins Booker was the nurse that tended to Jackson when he was brought in to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma.


 Democratic state Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery is the new minority leader in the Alabama Senate.  The Senate Democratic Caucus announced that it picked Ross to replace Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, who did not seek another term. The caucus said Figures will become the group's treasurer.

Ross is taking over the leadership of a smaller minority. Going into the Nov. 4 election, Democrats held 12 of the 35 seats in the Senate. They now have eight.

Alabama State Legislature

The new Alabama Senate elected in November will get to serve in a redesigned Senate chamber in Montgomery.

Senate Secretary Pat Harris says his staff is gutting the Senate chamber, including the removal of gray laminate desks and podiums that have been there since 1985. He's asked the state's two-year college system to build hickory desks and podiums that will be stained dark. The walls are also being redone and the audio system reconfigured to provide more evenly distributed sound.

Harris says the project should be finished by Nov. 15 and cost less than $200,000.

Alabama State House
Trance Mist / Flickr

Alabama lawmakers are getting close to approving a bill that would keep secret the identities of manufacturers and suppliers of lethal injection drugs used in state executions.

The Senate Health Committee approved the legislation Wednesday in a 7-0 vote. It now moves to the Alabama Senate floor.

Rep. Lynn Greer, a Rogersville Republican, says states are struggling to get execution drugs because pharmacies and companies fear lawsuits and backlash from death penalty opponents.

A state senator says letting local school systems opt out of Common Core would let policy makers compare outcomes between the new and old curriculum standards.

The Senate Education Committee is holding a public hearing Tuesday on the Common Core opt out bill. Schools could revert to the previous standards for math and English.

The latest bill brought out familiar arguments in the long-running Common Core debate.

Laurie Avocado / Wikimedia Commons

Alabama lawmakers took a step toward effectively legalizing a marijuana extract that doesn't get people high, but can be used to treat certain medical conditions.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at allowing people with certain illnesses to possess the oil called cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil.

Sen. Paul Sanford says the oil does not make people feel high, because it is low in marijuana's psychoactive compound.

The Alabama House was unable to meet Tuesday because many members couldn't make the icy trip to Montgomery. But the Senate got enough members to Montgomery to meet.

The Alabama Senate is trying to give people a new way to raise money to start small businesses.

The Senate voted 31-0 Thursday for a "crowd funding" bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur.

The legislation is backed by the Alabama Securities Commission. It would allow someone trying to start a small business in Alabama to use social media and advertising to find small investors who live in the state. It is limited to raising $1 million, and it is restricted to Alabama businesses and investors because of federal regulations.

The Alabama Legislature may make it easier for voters to cast absentee ballots when there is a hurricane or other weather emergency.

Republican state Sen. Shadrack McGill of Woodville has decided one term in the Senate is enough.

McGill pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2010 election when he beat Democratic Senate leader Lowell Barron of Fyffe.

McGill told the Times-Journal in Fort Payne that serving in Montgomery puts a strain on a family, and that contributed to his decision not to run in 2014.

A state senator who was in charge of a committee that drew Alabama's senate districts has denied that the process was intended to create more Republican districts.

Republican Sen. Gerald Dial of Lineville testified in federal court Thursday that his only goals going into the redistricting process were to prevent incumbents from facing each other, to avoid reducing the percentage of minorities in majority black districts, and to protect communities of interest.

picture by Brett Tannehill

  An Alabama Senate committee has delayed consideration of a bill to support efforts by Gov. Robert Bentley's administration to build a hotel and conference center on the beach at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores.

The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee meeting was postponed Wednesday because there were not enough members present to have a quorum and conduct business. Committee Chairman Republican Sen. Paul Scofield of Guntersville says he will call another meeting either later this week or next week to consider the bill.