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Legislative Session: Week Six at the State House

Your recap is here! Let us know what you think of what’s going on in Montgomery.

In this week’s Top Six, we get updates on the education budget, a transgender bill, and more!

1.  As federal money comes to Alabama schools, Senate approves largest education budget ever.

Alabama’s education system is about to have more money than it may know what to do with. Coronavirus relief bills will, once the next checks come in, have given over $4 billion to Alabama’s schools. On Thursday, only days after this total made the news, the State Senate passed the largest education budget ever at a whopping $7.6 billion, a hundreds of millions dollar increase from last year. Even with all of this money, however, no real attempt to reduce regressive taxes, like the grocery tax, have been made. Mobile County Schools, which will receive federal funds, has decided to give all its full-time staff (more than just its teachers) a $1,200 bonus just as their $1,400 stimulus checks come in the mail. “How can I get in on this?” asked every small business owner.

2. House approves bill banning transgender participation in some sports.

On Thursday, the Alabama House approved a bill that would ban students from competing in high school sports with those of the opposite sex (unless the sport is intentionally co-ed). HB391, sponsored by Representative Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle), was approved by a vote of 74-19 and now goes to the Senate.

3. Bill protecting children born during an attempted abortion heads to the Senate.

Thursday afternoon, the Alabama House gave approval to a bill by Representative Ginny Shaver (R-Leesburg) that would require physicians to provide the same standard of care to babies born during attempted abortions that they would to those children born otherwise. The bill attracted a lot of democratic opposition, but passed 76-12 and is headed to the Senate.

4. Riot penalties could be going up.

The Alabama House Thursday afternoon passed a bill aimed at increasing penalties for those involved in riots. Initially, this bill included wide provisions and a definition of “riot” that could be used before anything dangerous actually happened. Democratic opposition argued that the bill infringed upon free speech rights. While the initial version certainly gave credence to these concerns, late amendments yesterday may have mitigated this issue. As of this writing, however, the bill as passed (or engrossed) is not yet available to the public. We’ll keep you updated. 

5. Dogs aren’t allowed at restaurants. But they might be soon. 

Currently, Alabama law prohibits dogs from being allowed anywhere at restaurants. A bill by Rep. McMillan (R-Gulf Shores) would let restaurants allow dogs in outdoor dining areas, as long as they are leashed and are 12 feet away from anywhere food or beverages are prepared. The bill passed in the House by a vote of 88-5 in February and this week received a favorable committee report in the Senate. Next is the full Senate for final passage. 

6. Teacher pay for STEM subjects could go way up in exchange for tenure.

A bill by Senators Chesteen and Orr passed the Alabama State Senate yesterday which would offer teachers of STEM classes up to $15,000 more per year, depending on where the teacher is located. The teacher, if he or she enters into the program, would exchange the state’s teacher tenure program for the option of a much higher salary. The bill passed by a vote of 28-1 and now goes to the House.

Other things that you might want to know about:

  • Measures allowing Alabama to create a state lottery passed committee in the Senate this week. Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh has also said that the casino issue could come up again this session. If so, they’ll have to move. The session is over halfway over.
  • Alabama is one of 28 states that allow the death penalty. One bill by a group of democratic state senators, HB544, would end it.
  • SB10, the transgender surgery bill, was approved in the House Health Committee Tuesday. The full House is next.
Til next time!