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Legislative Session: Week Eleven at the State House

The penultimate full week of session is in the books! Let us know what you think of what’s going on in Montgomery.

In this week’s Top 5,  we’ve got updates on a bill to rebalance the balance of power, the budgets, and more!

1. Bill to rebalance the balance of power passes House Health committee after testimony by API’s Phil Williams.

On Wednesday, the Alabama House Health Committee voted to give a favorable report to SB97, Senator Whatley’s bill that would give legislators a say in long-term states of emergency and whether they should continue (like the state of emergency we continue to be in right now related to the pandemic). This came after API’s Chief Policy Officer and General Counsel offered his insight into why the bill is essential to maintain an equal balance of power in the future. SB97 is a Key Vote on our legislative scorecard, the API Watchlist.

2. Education budget goes to the governor, general fund one step away from final passage.

On Tuesday, the Alabama House approved of the largest education budget in history at $7.7 billion, a $452 million increase from last year. The Senate Thursday approved the education budget as well, which will now be sent to the governor. In 2020, almost $2 billion in new federal funds came to the state’s education system as a result of the government’s reaction to the pandemic. It does not appear that the legislature meaningfully adjusted the budget to account for this influx of cash. The General Fund was also approved this week in the Senate, the largest in the state’s history at $2.4 billion.  It goes now back to the House for concurrence or conference committee.

3. Over half of district attorneys tell legislature to vote ‘no’ on medical marijuana.

Of Alabama’s 42 district attorneys, 23, or over half, have signed on to a letter to Alabama lawmakers asking them to reject the medical marijuana legislation likely to come before the House next week. “States that long ago legalized marijuana in some form,” the letter reads, “are now consumed by it. Colorado, often heralded as the go-to example of what marijuana legalization can do, now has to reconcile its legalization with the industry’s true effect on the people…not just the economy.”

4. Governor signs transgender sports bill.

Last Friday (after we sent you your recap), Governor Ivey signed the bill that would ban biological males from competing with biological females, and vice versa, in non co-ed sports. Sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle),  the bill passed the House by a vote of 74-19 and the Senate by a vote of 25-5.

5. Bill to delay the Alabama Literacy Act’s effective date has slowed.

The Alabama Literacy Act was passed by the legislature in 2019 to ensure that students are reading on grade level by the end of the 3rd grade. Students under the law, which will not take effect until the end of next school year, would have to meet 3rd grade reading levels to be promoted to the 4th grade. A bill by Senator Smitherman (D-Birmingham), would delay the effective date two years to give students time to get back to normal after the pandemic. Opponents, like Rep. Brett Easterbrook (R-Fruitdale), argue that “it’s not a punishment to delay a student to make sure they can read and be successful.” With only a few days left in session, it’s going to be a close call on this bill.

Another thing you might want to know:

  • The Alabama legislature has just one full week left of session. The medical marijuana bill, gambling and the lottery, a ban on transgender surgeries and hormone therapies, and bills to rebalance the balance of power may all come up next week. Stay tuned for a full recap on everything that goes on. On that note…
Have a good weekend!