Alabama Senate

A Senate committee has approved a bill that would repeal Common Core standards in Alabama public schools.

The State Senate Committee on Education and Youth Affairs voted 5-3 yesterday morning in favor of repealing current standards applying to math and English curriculums.

Those standards are built into the state's Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.

Supporters of the bill say repealing Common Core gives more control to state and local educators.

Opponents say it would put Alabama behind other states and disrupt learning.

The singer who became famous for the song "When a Man Loves a Woman" died yesterday. Percy Sledge had a massive impact on what became known as the "Muscle Shoals sound".

Sledge walked into a recording studio in Alabama's Muscle Shoals region in 1966. In a few weeks, his signature song "When a Man Loves a Woman" would become the first of his five gold records.

Dick Cooper is the Curator of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. He says Sledge's legacy was defined when he was just 25 years old.

Two Alabama economic development bills aimed at bringing new jobs to the state are another step closer to becoming law.

Alabama lawmakers passed legislation yesterday to revamp how the state offers economic incentives to companies.

The Alabama Jobs Act would create a pay-as-you-go model for tax abatements and other benefits offered to companies creating jobs or capital investment in the state. Alabama's present model offers those incentives upfront.

That bill is now headed to Governor Bentley's desk to be signed into law.

The Alabama Senate will start debating some sweeping changes to the state's prison system today.

Republican Senator Cam Ward is bringing the bill to the Senate floor, which would change sentencing and probation standards to try and reduce prison overcrowding.

The proposed legislation is based on a year of study by the state prison reform task force. One of the main changes is the creation of a new Class D felony level, which will keep low-level, non-violent offenders out of prison entirely.

Yesterday was a busy day in the Alabama Senate. Two bills passed the Senate floor and are on their way to be heard in the House of Representatives.

The first is a bill that looks to change how Alabama recruits businesses and industry. The Alabama Jobs Act would create a pay-as-you-go model for incentives like tax breaks that the state uses to recruit companies.

Under the old model, the state would provide millions of dollars of funding up-front. This bill will allow Alabama to peg those incentives to the companies' performance.

Lawmakers could give final approval very soon to legislation establishing charter schools in the state of Alabama.

The Alabama House of Representatives will debate a bill that would allow charter schools in the state this afternoon. That bill is expected to spark a filibuster from Democrats and other opposed lawmakers.

Charter schools are public schools that have freedom from the curriculum and regulation requirements placed on other public schools. Alabama is one of eight states without charter school legislation currently in place.

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.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

The Alabama House and Senate are divided over whether a school flexibility bill should include flexibility with teacher tenure laws.

The House passed a bill Feb. 14 to allow city and county school systems to have flexibility in complying with state education laws, including tenure. The Senate rewrote the bill Thursday to exclude tenure. The House refused to go along with the Senate's changes and sent the bill to a six-member conference committee to try working out the differences.

The Alabama Senate has approved legislation to allow posthumous pardons for the Scottsboro Boys.

The Senate voted 29-0 Thursday for the legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur. The bill now goes to the House for what Orr predicts will be a similar vote.

The Alabama Senate has voted to consolidate the information technology operations of all state agencies under a board that could outsource services.

Government consolidation and efficiency in on the agenda for the Alabama Senate.

Senate leaders said the Senate's work agenda Thursday will include a bill to consolidate and reorganize the more than 20 law enforcement programs in state government. The Senate also plans to take up bills cutting the number of legislative service agencies and reorganizing the state's information technology services, including creating a Cabinet-level secretary for information technology.

Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey is to meet with Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston and with Senate Minority Leader Vivian Figures of Mobile in preparation for the 2013 session of the Legislature.

The meeting with Ivey will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the lieutenant governor's office at the Capitol. The session begins Tuesday.

Ivey said each of the Senate leaders will answer questions from the news media and deliver brief remarks,

Another Democrat in the Alabama Legislature has switched to the Republican Party. Sen. Jerry Fielding of Talladega County announced Thursday that he's joining the Republican Party. His switch gives the Senate 23 Republicans, 11 Democrats and one independent. The Republican Party has been picking up party switchers since it took control of the Legislature in the November 2010 election. Four Democratic representatives switched shortly after the election: Steve Hurst of Munford, Alan Boothe of Troy, Lesley Vance of Phenix City, and Mike Millican of Hamilton.