Monday, August 10, 2009

Special Session

Check out our exclusive Special Session blog HERE.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Follow our Decision 2010 Blog

For up-to-the minute news, comprehensive political coverage, and interactive resources for the 2010 election in Alabama follow our Decision 2010 blog.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hot topic bills that never made it to Governor Riley's desk

The Alabama 2009 Legislative Session ended on Friday, March 15th around 4:00 pm central time. Just before the Senate adjourned, Senator Bobby Singleton made one last plea to call up SB135, his local Greene county bingo bill, for a vote. In the House of Representatives, Speaker Seth Hammett of Andalusia announced that, after serving eleven years as speaker, he will not seek re-election to the Alabama House in 2010. Happy Trails played on the speakers as members said their goodbyes and headed back to their respective districts.

Now that the House and Senate have adjourned sine die and Lt. Governor Folsom proclaimed this session as the most successful he has seen in his years presiding over the Senate, one might wonder what important legislation will not make it to Governor Riley’s desk this year. See below for some popular bills from the 2009 legislative session that will not have a chance for a signature or veto.

Until next year…

1. Grocery Tax: Legislation that would remove or adjust taxes on groceries died on the floor of the House of Representatives and in committee in the Senate.

2. Smoking Ban: Legislation that would prohibit smoking in public places and places of employment died on the Senate floor.

3. Gambling (Sweet Home Alabama Bill): Legislation that would establish and regulate bingo in certain counties died on the House and Senate floors.

4. Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program (PACT): Legislation that would aid the PACT program died in both houses, however the House and Senate passed a resolution that would have the Retirement Systems of Alabama conduct an actuarial stud of the financial issues of the PACT program and give recommendation to the Governor and Legislature.

5. PAC to PAC transfers: Legislation that would prohibit transfers from one political action committee to another passed the House but died in committee in the Senate.

6. Ethics: Legislation that would strengthen Alabama’s ethics laws for elected officials in the state of Alabama and give the ethics commission subpoena power died on the House floor.

7. DUI Laws Strengthened: Legislation that would strengthen the laws and consequences of receiving a DUI passed the House but died on the Senate floor.

8. Texting while driving ban: Legislation that would prohibit text messaging while operating a motor vehicle on a public street, road or highway passed the House but died in committee in the Senate.

9. Voter ID: Legislation that would require a photo ID to vote in an election died in committee in both houses.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Watch Inside Alabama's Legislature

In case you missed Inside Alabama's Legislature with Bob Howell last week, check it out below.

Watch Inside Alabama's Legislature

Watch the Strategy Room

Rick Journey hosts the weekly Strategy Room on Monday, May 18, 2009.

Watch the Stategy Room!

Look for a legislative wrap up coming soon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

House Adjourns for this 2009 Legislative Session

Speaker Seth Hammett Will Not Seek Re-election to House Seat in 2010

Speaker Seth Hammett from Covington County announced from the House floor prior to adjournment that he will not seek re-election to his House seat in 2010.

In a press release, he stated that "The time has come for me to step aside and make way for the next group of legislative leaders. This decision was made after many discussions over the past several months with my family. My decision is final."

Speaker Hammett first took office in 1978 and is one of only two speakers to serve three terms as presiding officer of the House.

He further stated that "I wanted to make this decision known because the political season will start in earnest the beginning of June and all involved deserve to know my intentions now."

During his announcement from the House floor, Speaker Hammett said that he has no intention of stepping down from his post as speaker until his term expires at the end of 2010.

Senate adjourns, SINE DIE!

The Alabama Senate adjourned, sine die, this afternoon at 3:15 pm. Members worked through an eight page special order calendar and concurred with the House on a number of pieces of legislation. The senate also voted to non-concur with Governor Riley on a number of different bills that he vetoed.

Stay tuned for information on hot topic legislation that did not make its way to Governor Riley’s desk this year.

Continue to follow us on TWITTER!

2009 Shroud Award Ceremony

The Alabama House of Representatives held the 31st Annual Shroud Award Ceremony for the deadest bill during the 2009 Legislative Session.

Runner's Up for this award included:

HB268 by Ron Johnson relating to salvage pools

HB338 by Jack Williams requiring reporting of animal abuse

HB536 by Joseph Mitchell requiring recording of debate in the House

HB412 by Tammy Irons regulating Individual Tax Preparers

HB629 by Craig Ford specifying school start date (Rep. Ford has been runner-up for "The Shroud", 3 out of last 4 years)

Various Governor's Ethics Bills

HJR91 by Demitrius Newton providing for election for Constitutional Convention

HB676 by Marcel Black regulating certain bingo facilities

"Sweet Home Alabama" plan

HB569 by Jamie Ison increasing insurance premiums for certain state employees

HB245 by Cam Ward banning cock fighting

At the end of the ceremony, it was declared that the Deadest Bill of the 2009 legislative session and winner of this year's Shroud Award is the Grocery Tax Bill, HB116 by John Knight.

House Commends Rep. John Knight

The House commended Rep. John Knight this afternoon for his service to the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

While serving overseas, Rep. Knight was awarded the Silver Star.

Senate sees a slow down

Ferociously working this morning the senate is slowing down this afternoon. Tensions rise over HB567 by Representative Johnson relating to prescription drug license taxes. Senator Bedford insists that this legislation be passed but Senator Quinton Ross continues to speak on the bill and stall passage.

House in Recess Until 12:45

House Flies Through Special Order Calendar

The Alabama House finished today’s special order calendar by 12:10 p.m.

The only business remaining for this legislative session in the House is to receive messages from the Senate and await reports from the Conference Committees.

The House expects to adjourn by 2:00 this afternoon.

Final legislative day!

Today is the final legislative day; the Alabama Senate convened at 9:00 am this morning. The senate continues to concur with the House on a number of bills and re-pass legislation with the Governor's veto not withstanding.

In addition to concurrences, Senator Ben Brooks introduced and passed a resolution commending Representative John Knight on his military service. All senators signed on as co-sponsors to the resolution.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Senate non-concurs with Governor's veto

The Alabama Senate voted this evening to non-concur and override Governor Riley's veto on HB746, the General Fund Budget. Vote: 19 yeas and 11 nays.

Senate takes up the General Fund Budget

After the House non-concurred with Governor Riley’s veto of HB746, the General Fund Budget, the senate will now vote to concur or non-concur with him.

Currently Senator Rodger Bedford is urging the senate to override Governor Riley’s veto. Bedford says that Governor Riley seeks help the people of Alabama in an unfair and improper manor. Bedford accused the Governor of caring more about healthcare of our prisoners than for its people.

Stay tuned for more updates, Senator Marsh is at the mic waiting for a turn to speak.


House Concurs with Free the Hops

The Alabama House just concured with the Senate changes to SB 373, the "Free the Hops" bill.

The Senate amendment would not allow the higher alcoholic content beers to be sold in convenient stores.

House Passes Budget, Non-concur With Governor Riley

In a 64 to 35 vote, the Alabama House did not concur with the Governor Riley's changes to the General Fund Budget.


Lt. Governor Jim Folsom called up HB373, Free the Hops, out of order at the call of the chair this afternoon. With Senator Hank Erwin, the main opponent to the bill, out of the Senate chamber the bill passed with flying colors. The Senate used the previous short roll which means Senator Erwin will actually go down as voting for the bill he fought so hard to kill.

HB373 will now go to Governor Riley's desk.

Ferrets Beware!

In a 101 – 0 vote, the Alabama House added ferrets to the list of animals required to be vaccinated (SB 469).

House Busy This Afternoon

The AL House passed the following mortgage and credit related bills:

• SB 232 relating to mortgage brokers licensing
• SB 234 dealing with consumer credit transactions
• SB 249 relating to mortgage loan originators


Listen to the House and Senate Live!


SENATE Chamber Audio

Senate overrides Governor Riley's veto on HB175

After passing numerous local bills this afternoon, the senate called up HB175, sponsored by Representative Jimmy Martin, pertaining to alcohol sales. This bill would authorize municipal option elections in municipalities having a population of 500 or more. Governor Riley used his veto on HB175 but the Senate voted to override the Governor veto with a vote of 18 yeas and 11 nays.

The senate adopted a large special order calendar totaling nearly fifty bills. Currently the senate is debating HB391 relating to tobacco.

Bishop video

To see the video of Senator Bishop punching Senator Lowell Barron in 2007 click on the link below.

View video

House Filibustering Over Tax Preparer Bill

The Alabama House has been debating SB 201 sponsored by Senator Quinton Ross for the past 45 minutes.

The bill would regulate individual income tax preparers and require those who provide such services to register with a State Board of Individual Income Tax Preparers.

Proponents argue that this bill will protect consumers seeking assistance from income tax preparers by ensuring that persons providing those services have a basic knowledge of the tax code as well as requiring continuing education courses.

Representative Tammy Irons stated that lower-income families often miss out on the earned income tax credit because of tax preparers’ lack of knowledge. She further elaborated that Alabamians leave some $133 million a year of unclaimed monies from the earned income tax credit.

Debate continues.

Bishop not running for re-election in 2010

Today Senator Charles Bishop, a republican from Jasper, announced that he will not run for re-election to the Alabama Senate in 2010. Senator Bishop has served three terms in the Alabama Senate.

Bishop issues this statement: “I have been blessed in my life,” said Bishop. “I have lived the American dream, and that dream for everyone is now in danger on both the national and state level, somewhere government lost its way.” “I am taking time to talk with friends and family about what this means, and what I can do to help the people of our state with the life experience that I have had.”

Senator Bishop is widely known as the senator who punched Senator Lowell Barron in the senate chambers on the final day of the 2007 legislative session.

28th Day in the Alabama Senate

The Alabama Senate convened this morning at 11:00 am and began to take up confirmations. After passing over twenty-five confirmations the Senate is now taking House message.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Alabama Senate.

Remember, you can also follow up on TWITTER!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

House and Senate continue to work

The House and Senate continue to work into the evening. The House of Representatives adopted a new special order calendar at 5:30 pm.

House concurs on the General Fund Budget

This afternoon the Alabama House concurred with the Senate on the General Fund Budget. The budget will now go to Governor Riley's desk for his signature.

Reps Mask and McCutcheon hold impromptu press conference

Representatives Barry Mask and Mac McCutcheon just held an impromptu press conference on the importance of the disputed 9 million dollars for the department of corrections in the general fund budget. According to both, it could cost 187 jobs and possible facility closures. The funding to the department of correction's- in house version of budget- was a bare bones budget, it provided for necessities only.

Stay tuned for more updates.

House sends General Fund Budget to conference committee

The Alabama House of Representatives voted this afternoon to send the General Fund Budget back to the conference committee.

The House and Senate continue to meet in unique/historic conditions.

Follow us on Twitter-AlabamaPolitics

Alabama State House closed until Monday

The Alabama State House is closed until Monday, May 11th at the very earliest due to intense flooding this morning and early afternoon. Members and staff are allowed in only to retrieve personal belongings.

Alabama House and Senate continue to convene

The Alabama House and Senate continue to convene in chaotic circumstances.

The Alabama House is currently discussing the General Fund Budget. The Alabama Senate is hearing a message from the Governor pertaining to an amendment to on SB413.

High floods bring Philibuster

Senator Phil Poole has begun to filibuster this afternoon. Poole appears to be picking up where he left off from his former filibusters this session. Lt. Governor Folsom noted that cloture might be something members want to review if Senator Poole continues to filibuster.

Currently Senator Jimmy Holly is addressing the body noting the historical meaning of meeting in the Old Senate Chambers in the Alabama Capitol today.

Alabama House and Senate convene in the Alabama Capitol

The Alabama House and Senate came back from their recess this afternoon at the Alabama State Capitol. The House is meeting in their old House chambers and the Senate is meeting in their old chambers as well.

Conditions are not great for much work to take place but they continue to convene.

Some senators before taking their desk posed for pictures. We will have photos soon from the Capitol.

Stay tuned for more legislative updates from the Capitol.

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Follow todays live blog on Twitter from the Alabama Capitol!


Alabama State House being evacuated

The Alabama State House is being evacuated and the House and Senate will reconvene at the Alabama Capitol at 1:30 pm CST.

Storms cause stir at the Alabama State House

Picture #1: Dark clouds over the Alabama Capitol
Picture #2: Flooding at the entrance of the Alabama State House
Picture #3: Representatives working in the dark in the House of Representatives
Picture #4: Representative Chris England having to take the stairs

This morning the Alabama House of Representatives and Senate convened at 10:00 pm CST. By 10:30 both houses stood in recess due to intense flooding on the basement and first level of the state house, as well as flooding in the member and employee parking decks.

Senator Harri Anne Smith reported that her new car had flooding to the steering wheel at 10:30 and there were reports of floating cars in both the employee parking deck and on McDowell Lee Road just outside of the state house.

The power was shut off just after 11:00 am and those inside of the building were told not to use the elevator for safety reasons. Derek Hamilton, Chief Sargent at Arms for the Alabama State House, reported that there was four feet of water in the boiler room, saying it is the worst flooding he has seen his sixteen years at the state house.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Alabama State House.

Alabama State House begins to flood

The Alabama House and Senate have recessed for thirty minutes due to flooding in the lower levels of the state house. State House security has turned off the elevators and Senators and House of Representative member's vehicles are flooded in the lower parking deck.

Senator Harri Anne Smith said that her new vehicle is flooded to the steering wheel. Smith also noted that in the employee parking lot cars are flooded to their dashboard and one car has begun to float.

Currently the power is shut off and we are running on generators.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ticket Scalpers Beware

HB 71, given a thumbs-up from the House, creates a Class A misdemeanor for individuals selling counterfeit tickets to events such as sporting events.

It also specifies that the ticket must have the face value printed on it even if the ticket is being sold at a greater price than the original price authorized.

House Approves Physical Education Bill

The House just passed HB719 by a vote of 70 – 20. Sponsored by Rep. Ken Guin, this bill makes physical education mandatory for students enrolled in grades K – 8.

Currently, students may be allowed to substitute other courses such as music and band for physical education. This bill removes that option.

Concerns were raised in the House that physical education classes tend to be oversized, and this legislation would only add to that problem; however, no action was taken to address that issue.

HB719 now moves to the Senate for approval.

Republicans stalling a vote on HB64-Pittman reading the bill at length

Senator Trip Pittman along with senate republicans are stalling a vote on HB64 sponsored by Representative Buskey. HB64 would require the posting of notices of vacancies in the position of State Superintendent of Education, county and city superintendents of education, Chancellor of Postsecondary Education, and certain chief executive officers.

Pittman is currently taking his first hour by reading the twelve page bill at length.

Slow Day in the Alabama House

Today the House agreed upon a calendar that began with three bills to then be followed by a ten minute calendar.

With a ten minute calendar, House members agree to speak no longer than 10 minutes on any given bill after which they will vote on the bill.

Things did not progress so smoothly, however. The first three bills consumed the last 3 1/2 hours in the House, and they are just now beginning the 10 minute calendar.

Listen to the Alabama House of Representatives LIVE!

Listen to the Alabama House LIVE!

Senate does NOT override Governor Riley's veto on HB175

With a vote of 13 yeas and 15 nays, the senate did not override Governor Riley's veto on HB175. HB175, sponsored by Representative Jimmy Martin, pertains to alcohol sales and would authorize municipal option elections in municipalities having a population of 500 or more.

Senators preach against overriding Governor Riley's veto on HB175

The Senate is currently debating overriding Governor Riley’s veto on HB175 pertaining to alcohol sales which would authorize municipal option elections in municipalities having a population of 500 or more. Senator Hank Erwin continues to filibuster on this legislation. Allowing Senator Quinton Ross to speak; Ross condemned the body for not allowing Senator Bobby Singleton’s bill, SB135, to come up for a full body vote in the Senate.

Ross believes that the body should allow this bill to reach a full vote and allow the Governor to veto the bill if he is going to veto it. Senator Ross does not agree with the hypocrisy in the senate that would stand in the way of local legislation yet try to override Governor Riley’s veto on legislation pertaining to alcohol.

Senator Charles Bishop spoke against overriding the legislation and Senator Bobby Singleton gave a lively, passionate speech.


Mr. Majority "so called" Leader

SB407, sponsored by Senator Rodger Bedford, pertaining to the lawful possession of a firearms in a motor vehicle was carried with Senator Author Orr's amendment pending. Senator Vivan Figures was not pleased with Senator Zeb Little, majority leader of the senate democrats, asking to call over this piece of legislation because it stood in the way of the amendments she wanted to offer.

Figures livened up the room by telling Senator Zeb Little how upset she was calling him Mr. Majority "so called" leader. Some members of the republican party clapped their hands and/or laughed at this comment.

Senate debates legislation for lawful possession of a firearm in a parked vehicle

The Alabama Senate is currently debating SB407 pertaining to the lawful possession of a firearm in a parked motor vehicle. Senator Rodger Bedford is the sponsor of this bill and believes it is important for citizens to have this right. Bedford made reference to a person driving home on a deserted road and getting a flat tire. Senator Trip Pittman also noted that some workers enjoy hunting before and after work.

PACT Program resolution sent to the rules committee

The Alabama Senate discussed SJR135 sponsored by Senator Del Marsh pertaining to the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition (PACT) program. This resolution would set up a committee that would study the problem with the PACT program and require that they report their findings on the fifth legislative day of the 2010 session.

Senator Rodger Bedford spoke on the bill nothing that this is not a problem that the Legislature or the Governor made, its something that State Treasurer Kay Ivey ran into the ground. Bedford said that he doesn’t believe we should pay hired help to address this issue.

Senator Holly spoke to the resolution and said that this resolution does not addresses the actuary as not being as bad as it actually is in reality. Holly believes that this resolution does not solve the issues with the PACT program; it simply looks at its issues. Holly noted that he is not interested in studying the issue; he is interested in solving the issue. Holly said Governor Riley’s purpose in visiting the senate today was to come over and discuss with members of the body and the Lt. Governor the issues with the pact program. Holly asked that the resolution be sent to the Rules committee.

Governor Riley wants more accomplished before the final day of the legislative session

Governor Bob Riley spoke with the media this morning at 11:30. Riley noted that he has four or five projects that he is interested in seeing passed this legislative session. The PACT program is one of those programs that the Governor believes the senate needs to act on now. Governor Riley said that he is not satisfied with the resolution that was passed pertaining to the PACT program earlier in the legislation session.

Governor Riley is also concerned about the General Fund Budget and the nine million dollars that was taken from the corrections department and put into pork barrel projects. Pork barrel projects are appropriations of government spending for localized projects that bring money to a representative's district. Riley noted that with the restraints we have on our economy there is no reason to take away this money from corrections for these types of projects. Governor Riley further stated that each year he tells the legislature he wants to end pass through pork and it has not happened yet.

Speaking on ethics legislation, Governor Riley said we are so close to having this legislation passed. Riley has been pushing for this legislation for the past five years. He believes the people of Alabama want this type of honesty and clarity in Government to pass.

Governor Riley continues to visit the Alabama Senate, tensions continues to rise

Governor Riley continues to visit the senate speaking with a number of members. Riley spent at least twenty minutes huddled with Lt. Governor Jim Folsom and Senator Trip Pittman. Currently Governor Riley is speaking with Senator Lowell Barron; by their facial reactions and hand movements their conversation must be interesting.

Senator Scott Beason asked for Senator Hank Sanders’ resolution, SJR26 to be read at length, and then Senator Larry Dixon began to stall and question Sander’s resolution pertaining to the Amistad Commission.

Tensions continue to rise, members on both sides seem to be on edge.

House Criticizes Senate Version of General Fund Budget

Chair of the Government Appropriations Committee in the House, Rep. John Knight, spoke this morning in reference to the version of the General Fund Budget that was passed late last night by the Senate.

Because of the number of changes that were made to the version the House passed, Rep. Knight proposed that the budget go to a conference committee. He elaborated that they had worked very hard to present a reasonable budget for the people of Alabama and that the Senate’s version is “totally unacceptable.”

Apparently, the Senate version of the budget includes a number of line-items allotting dollars to specific cities and entities – more familiarly referred to as “pork”.

Representative Mac Gipson ( R ) of Autauga County commented that the budget looks like a “senate re-election” budget.

Along the same tenor as Rep. Gipson, Rep. Jay Love ( R ) of Montgomery further stated that he was “afraid swine flu has made its way into the Alabama Legislature after looking at this budget.”

Both commended Representative Knight for his diligent work toward passing a responsible budget for the state.

The House voted in favor of Rep. Knight’s motion to take the General Fund Budget to conference committee with members of the Senate.

Governor Riley visits the Alabama Senate

Governor Riley is currently visiting the Alabama Senate.

Pictured, Govenor Bob Riley, Lt. Governor Jim Folsom, Senator Trip Pittman

House Debates Joint Resolution Calling for Constitutional Convention

This morning, the House briefly debated HJR 91 that would call for a constitutional convention in Alabama.

With disagreement in the House over the matter and a full calendar ahead to consider for this legislative day, the House tabled the resolution so as to move forward with the business of the House today.

Senate heats up early, Governor Riley visits Senate

The Alabama Senate convened this morning at 10:00 pm just twelve hours after adjourning late last night. After passing a resolution by Senator Linda Coleman, Senator Rodger Bedford brought up SB56 pertaining to water and sewer services. Senator Larry Dixon questioned Bedford to insure that Montgomery County was exempt. Following Dixon, Senator Jabo Waggoner of Vestavia Hills questioned Bedford about the city of Birmingham.

Things began to heat up when Senator Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham took the mic and addressed Senator Waggoner stating that he was over stepping his grounds by asking questions about the city of Birmingham. Smitherman and Waggoner share representation of Jefferson County with Steve French, Linda Coleman, Scott Beason, Hank Erwin, and Charles Bishop.

Governor Riley is visiting the Alabama Senate, there is word that he is here to discuss the general fund budget.

Listen to the ALABAMA Senate LIVE!

House Passes Two Education-Related Bills in the Evening

A bill we followed in committee last week received the go-ahead vote in the House early into the evening hours. By a 99 – 0 vote, HB 810 passed the House.

This bill makes it a criminal offense for a school official to engage in sexual activity with a student.

Per our coverage of the committee meeting last week, the version which came out of committee included language that defined an age limit for a student being under the age of 19.

This was added to the bill in order to prevent students working on college campuses from being prosecuted for having relationships with fellow students under this legislation.

The second bill which passed the House is SB 334. It raises the school drop-out age from 16 years of age to 18.

Because the House passed the Senate’s version of this bill, it now moves to the Governor’s Office for final approval.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Alabama Senate adjourns at 10:00 pm due to lack of quorum

The senate held a quorum call at 10:00 pm CST this evening. With only sixteen senators present in the chamber, Lt. Governor Folsom adjourned the Senate until 10:00am CST tomorrow morning.

Senate republicans exited the chamber just prior to a quorum call in a chance to keep the body from reaching quorum and continuing with business.

Senate passes General Fund Budget

At 9:53 pm the Alabama Senate passed the General Fund Budget with a vote of 29 yeas and 3 nays.

The Senate continues to convene in the late hours of the night.

Singleton and Bedford trying to rally the troops and work into the wee hours of the night

Senator Bobby Singleton and Senator Rodger Bedford are fired up and want to get to work this evening. Singleton asked the senate to pass the general fund budget and then allow Senator Lowell Barron, rules chairman, to propose another special order calendar with BINGO on top of the calendar so the Senate could work into the wee hours of the night.

Singleton noted that if BINGO was the first bill on the special order calendar then surely all republican senators would be on the senate floor, unlike currently during the reading at length of the general fund budget.

Senate continues to convene, republicans continue to stall

The Alabama Senate continues to meet with the General Fund Budget being read at length. The reading of the one hundred twenty eight page budget began at 4:55 and is currently just past half way through. It is estimated to take until 8:30 pm to finish HB746's full reading.

Since beginning its reading at length at 4:55, two quorum calls have passed which keeps the senate in session.

Senate works into the evening, Senate Rep's continue to stall a vote on the General Fund

The Alabama Senate is still meeting; currently HB746 by Representative Knight, the General Fund Budget, is being read at length. Senator Ben Brooks who requested the reading at length also requested a quorum call which passed at 6:15 pm.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Alabama Senate.

Two Firearms Bills Pass House

The House passed two firearms bills late in the day today.

The first, HB596, prohibits the possession, sale, or use of short-barreled rifles or shotguns.

The second bill, HB362, allows for lawful possession of a firearm in a parked motor vehicle. This legislation was aimed at allowing employees of companies to lawfully keep their personal firearm inside the vehicle while on the companies’ premesis.

Catfish on the Menu?

For all of you catfish lovers out there, the House passed HB 473 late in the day today which will require food service establishments to display where the catfish they are serving originated.

With growing public concerns over the safety of foreign foods coming into the United States, this bill will give further protection and information to the consumer.

It was pointed out on the House floor that China in particular has been dumping catfish onto our market and portraying them as farm-raised. The Chinese safety standards for catfish are drastically lower from our own standards.

HB 473 must still pass the Senate before going to the Governor’s desk.

Senate Democrats cloture Senate Republicans

The senate voted on a petition to cloture Senator Ben Brooks and the filibustering senate republicans this afternoon at 4:45 pm. With a vote of 18 yeas and 11 nays the petition to cloture was successful. The senate republicans pleaded with those who wished to cloture for more time to review the general fund budget.

Immediately following, Senator Rodger Bedford offered an amendment to the General Fund Budget from Governor Riley. With a vote of 32 yeas and 0 nays Senator Bedford's amendment passed.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Alabama Senate.

Listen Live!

Senate Republicans continue to filibuster the General Fund Budget

Senate republicans continue to filibuster the General Fund Budget. Currently Senator Larry Dixon is at the mic stalling passage of the budget.

Rep. Thomas Threatens to Filibuster Ethics Bill Should It Come Before the House

Standing in support of the bill that would remove the sales tax from groceries, Representative James Thomas (D) hailed that this, referring to HB 116, "is the most ethical thing we can do for the citizens of the state of Alabama."

He told members not to even think about bringing another bill – which he later specified as the ethics bill. Representative Thomas said that they would have to physically remove him from the podium before he saw the ethics bill pass.

Tune-In to the Alabama House of Representatives

Click here to listen to the Alabama House of Representatives Live!

Lawmakers “On Fire” Over Grocery Tax Bill

Today’s House consent calendar began with HB 116, the grocery tax bill sponsored by Representative John Knight.

For those of you who have been following our blog this session, you will recall that this is the very same bill that virtually shut down the House with a filibuster for a month. Its presence on today’s operating calendar was the fourth time it has appeared for a vote.

Representative Knight said today that this bill is an “economic incentive package for working families of this state.”

Seeking recognition from Speaker Hammett, Representative Duwayne Bridges ( R ) from Chambers County took the podium and lit a candle in remembrance of small businesses in this state who he said have been taxed to death.

HB 116 would remove the state’s portion of the sales tax on groceries but at the same time would seek to make up those forgone dollars by removing the federal income tax deduction for certain individuals meeting an adjusted gross income threshold. Those in opposition to the bill argue that it would place more of a tax burden on small businesses in Alabama including LLC’s, LLP’s, and S-Corps.

Representative Bridges went on to ask the House membership why they would want to further tax the very people who are providing jobs in Alabama? He reported that the International Council of Shopping Centers forecasts that 200,000 businesses in the U.S. will close by the end of this year alone. He said that small businesses are being taxed too much already and the brunt of taxes are being placed on their backs.

At the conclusion of Rep. Bridges’ remarks, Rep. Knight asked for the candle and re-lit it in remembrance of the children in Alabama who have no groceries and those who cannot perform properly in school because they are hungry.

HB 116 failed by one vote to gain enough support to move forward for a final vote in the House.

After the vote failed, Representative Mike Hubbard, Chair of the Republican Party in Alabama, commented that they had offered a compromise but the Democrats working on the grocery tax bill would not sit down with them. He stated that Republicans are not in opposition of removing the sales tax from groceries but are opposed to removing the federal income tax deduction.

The Republicans’ alternative to HB 116 would provide a tax rebate for low income families, a plan similar to the ones already in place in Idaho, Hawaii, and Oklahoma, but the Democrats refused to meet with them. Representative Hubbard stated that their bill had failed to even come up for consideration in committee.

Senate takes up General Fund Budget

The Alabama Senate is currently debating the General Fund Budget. Senator Jimmy Holly is filibustering the budget at the moment.

LISTEN to the General Fund Budget debate LIVE!

Erwin speaking on the "evils" of alcohol

Senator Hank Erwin continues to speak against SB263, share stories, and speak on the evils of consuming alcohol.

Erwin says he would ban all alcohol if he had it his way.

Stay connected for more happenings from the Alabama Senate.

Erwin continues to stall legislation pertaining to alcohol

The Alabama Senate is currently debating SB263 by Senator Steve French regarding the sale of wine with increased alcohol content. Senator Hank Erwin continues to filibuster on this legislation, but Senator French noted that he wants to get this legislation passed this session.

Debate on the General Fund Budget will commence momentarily, stay tuned.

Listen to the Alabama Senate LIVE!


Senator Bobby Denton will not run for re-election in 2010

This morning the Alabama Senate convened at 10:00 am, Senator Trip Pittman opened the morning by reading a letter from Paul Harvey Jr. thanking the body for the resolution they passed on behalf of his father, Paul Harvey Sr. upon his death.

Following Senator Pittman’s comments, Senator Bobby Denton rose to the mic for a point of personal privilege to plead with the Senate to put their ill feelings toward members in the House of Representatives aside and do the business of the people. Senator Denton also noted that he will not run for re-election in 2010.

Denton received a standing ovation and hugs upon completing his plea to the full body.

Senator Charles Bishop rebutted by telling Senator Denton he loved him but they are never going to all vote the same way every time. Senator Bishop thanked Denton for all of the years he allowed him to be his friend and told him he is not a fallen star; he is a star that will never fall.

Senators Rodger Bedford, Larry Dixon, Linda Coleman, and Steve French are also in line to thank Senator Denton for all of his work in the Alabama Senate.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Watch Inside Alabama's Legislature with Bob Howell

Watch Inside Alabama's Legislature with Bob Howell and special guests Senator Wendell Mitchell and Representative Jay Love.

CLICK HERE if the video does not load.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Expansion of unemployment benefits press conference

The Senate Democratic Caucus held a press conference this afternoon to discuss the failure of the Senate Republican Caucus to support passage of SB460. SB460, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Rodger Smitherman (D) of Birmingham, would allow persons who do not qualify for unemployment compensation to have their eligibility re-determined.

The democratic caucus accused the senate republicans of having no plan, no agenda, no vision to help Alabama out of the worst economic time in its history, and no votes for Alabama families, domestic violence victims, workers, or the Senate Democratic Caucus stimulus plan.

Senator Trip Pittman (R) from Baldwin County offered the opposing side’s view. He called this bill a short term plan that would cost more money for businesses and the citizens of Alabama in the long term. Pittman said this plan is unreasonable and unsustainable for the future.

The cost of expansion, using federal stimulus money, is $100 million, which would be paid through the program from calendar year 2010 to 2013. Beginning in 2014, the cost to the state would be $22 million.

SB 373 Passes the House

In a 67 to 24 vote, SB 373 that will deregulate landline telephone service has passed the House.

Since the bill has already passed the Senate, it goes to the Governor’s Office for final approval.

Representative Alvin Holmes of Montgomery blasts PSC and SB 373

In one of the liveliest speeches given from the House floor this legislative session, Representative Alvin Holmes scolded the Public Service Commission, and more particularly, the three newest members, Susan Parker, Jan Cook, and Lucy Baxley Smith. He emphatically declared that they were the “sorriest members of the Public Service Commission and need to be given a barbed-wire enema.”

Representative Holmes is in staunch opposition to SB 373 which would deregulate landline telephone service and said if legislators pass this bill, they might as well “have a hole in their head.”

He further reminded legislators that they should be standing up for the working people of this state and not the interests of big corporations.

As mentioned in the previous blog, others argue that the consumer will be the ultimate beneficiary from deregulation through increased competition and extended services. Opponents such as Rep. Holmes argue that the reverse is true, especially for those living in rural areas.

Still no BINGO for Greene county

After much debate, SB135 failed to receive its budget isolation resolution for the second time within a week.

House Debating Utility Bill

Before lunch, debate began on SB 373, a utilities bill that would deregulate residential landline telephone service, and lawmakers continue to debate the issue this afternoon.

Through deregulation, the Public Service Commission would no longer have oversight of residential landline telephone service.

Some lawmakers are concerned that this legislation will adversely affect citizens living in rural areas where services provided by telephone companies are already limited. Telephone providers argue that deregulation is good for consumers through increased competition.

This is the same utilities bill that was the source of much debate in the Senate earlier this month.

Local legislation, its personal

A heavy catfish lunch set the Alabama Senate up for some high emotions on local bills. After Senator Lowell Barron introduced the special order calendar, Senator Hank Erwin rose to the mic to speak against the calendar. Not agreeing with the first bills on the calendar, Senator Erwin voiced his concerns and intentions to filibuster. Senator Larry Means rose to the mic to question Senator Erwin and express his concern for Erwin standing in the way of local legislation. Means noted that the standing policy in the Alabama senate is to not stand in the way of a senator's local legislation. Erwin disagreed and things began to heat up.

The Alabama Senate adopted the special order calendar and Senator Bobby Singleton’s bill, SB135 pertaining to bingo in Greene county, is now up for floor discussion in the Alabama Senate. Singleton is passionate about getting this bill passed before the end of this session.

Stayed tuned for more updates from the Alabama Senate.

Ethics Legislation Passes Committee

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee considered two separate ethics reform bills, HB 582 and HB 594.

During the meeting, Governor Riley’s Policy Director, Bryan Taylor, presented a Power Point presentation that gave an overview of what this legislation actually does since the bills themselves are lengthy.

HB 582 would:

- Reorganize the ethics code to be more user-friendly
- Set new limits for public officials on gifts and travel
- Require full disclosure for lobbyist spending
- Grant subpoena power to the Ethics Commission
- Require the Attorney General’s Office to report back to the Ethics Commission once a case has been turned over within 180 days

Mr. Jim Sumner, Executive Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, stated during the meeting that this legislation is a tremendous step forward for the Ethics Commission. He also commended the Governor’s Office for their hard work in setting forth a bill that he referred to as “The Gold Standard” for ethics reform. According to Mr. Sumner, the subpoena power is “the most important tool you could give us.”

Representative Cam Ward ( R ) pointed out yesterday that we often use grand words saying we want to fight government corruption, but there are so many components to ethics reform and the issue is so complex that the process becomes more difficult.

After much discussion and several amendments being presented, Rep. Ward went on to say, and others on the committee agreed, that they did not want to vote for a patch-worked bill just to get it out of the committee so that they could go back home to their districts and say they voted for ethics in Montgomery.

Because of the lengthy discussion yesterday and in an effort to give committee members additional time to consider amendments to the bill, the committee recessed until this morning where they passed both bills.

Final legislative meeting schedule

The Alabama Senate concurred with a resolution offered by the House of Representatives this morning to set the final meeting days for the 2009 legislative session.

The schedule is as follows:
May 5-7 (3 day legislative week)
May 14-15th with the last legislative day on May 15th.

Senate welcomes Italian mayor and concurs with House on ed. buget

Convening this morning at 10:00 am; the Senate opened with a point of personal privilege for Senator Wendell Mitchell to recognize the Mayor of Montgomery, Todd Strange and his visitor Massimo Mallegni, mayor of Pietrasanta, Italy. The mayor addressed the full body conveying that he has visited the United States at least five times but he feels like he has really seen the U.S. since he has been to Alabama. Mayor Mallegni is visiting the state for a week.

After the House of Representatives passed the Education Trust Fund Budget (ETF) on Tuesday, Senator Sanders offered the amendments from the House. With a vote of 30 yeas and 0 nays the senate concurred with the House’s amendments and the ETF budget will now go to Governor Bob Riley’s desk for his signature.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Education Budget Passes House Unanimously

The Education Budget just passed the House unanimously by a vote of 103 – 0.

Since some slight changes were made from the version the Senate sent down, it will go back to the Senate for approval before going to the Governor's Office.

Concerns Raised Over Budget Cuts for Reading Initiative and AMSTI

Representative Barry Mask of Elmore County (R) expressed concerns over specific programs’ funding being cut in this budget as opposed to the budget proposed by Governor Riley.

He pointed out the Alabama Reading Initiative which has been nationally acclaimed. Alabama was #1 for gains in 4th grade reading – it was the single largest gain in the nation. Yet, this budget cuts approximately $5 million from the Governor’s budget recommendations.

In addition, AMSTI is being cut almost $12 million from what the Governor recommended. Representative Mask stated that 45% of our schools have AMSTI. Referring to Rep. Richard Lindsey, he further argued that the $29 million would barely keep the program going – “no new school will be added to the program under this budget. The Governor had asked for $40 million.”

Rep. Lindsey agreed that under this budget the program could not be expanded.

Water into wine is not enough for Erwin

Senator Erwin continued to speak against SB263, which would raise the alcohol content in table wine. Erwin informed the full body that he has never had a taste of alcohol for three reasons; one, he is a believer in Jesus and believes it would not please Christ and affect his testimony, two, because he does not want to set a bad example for young people, and three, he does not need it.

Senator Ben Brooks offered an amendment to this bill, which would restrict convenience stores from selling wine with higher alcohol content. Brooks noted the reasoning behind restricting convenience stores from sales is because their age identification process is not as strict.

After passage of the amendment, Senator French requested to carry over SB263 at the call of the chair.

House Takes Up Education Budget

The House began debate of the Education Budget this afternoon. The Senate had already passed their version of the Education Budget during session last week.

Representative Richard Lindsey presented an overview of the budget emphasizing that the focus of this budget was to save jobs.

He said, referring to the House membership, “You wanted to save as many jobs as you could, and we have done that with this budget.”

He also informed the House that they were able to save such programs such as the Alabama Reading Initiative, AMSTI, Distance Learning, and Pre-K. They may have to face budget cuts, but according to Dr. Joe Morton, they will be able to operate effectively under this budget.

Rep. Lindsey said, “We can be proud of this budget given the current economic circumstances we face.”

While federal limitations on stimulus dollars were strict, Rep. Lindsey further elaborated that they were able to work out a plan. He said that having these additional dollars makes this budget more "palatable" as lawmakers attempt to administer these dollars.

The fiscal stabilization ratio between higher education and K-12 was ordered by federal government. K-12 will receive 71.64% of the stimulus money allocated for education and Higher Ed will receive the remaining 28.36%.

The Examiners of Public Accounts was given an additional $800,000 in order to audit the additional reports required by federal government in relation to the economic stimulus money.

50% of the stimulus money will be used in the 2010 budget, and the remaining 50% will be used for the 2011 budget. The only exception to this are Title 1 funds which will be used entirely for the 2010 budget. According to Rep. Lindsey, Title 1 funds primarily go to elementary schools and there is no flexibility for that at the state level.

We will continue to post on the education budget as the House continues debate this afternoon.

Free the hops carried over, Erwin continues to stall alcohol legislation

Senator Singleton decided to carry over SB132 and call up the House version of Free the Hops, HB373 by Representative Thomas Jackson, on which Senator Ben Brooks’ amendment was attached. Singleton carried over HB373 at the call of the chair which he can bring up at any time, especially when Senator Erwin is out of the chamber.

The senate is currently taking up SB263, which would allow the sale of wine with higher alcohol content than what is currently permissable. Senator Erwin is remaining consistent and filibustering on this bill as well.

Erwin fighting to "jail" the hops

Senator Bobby Singleton’s bill SB132 “Free the Hops” which would allow the sale of specialty beers in the state of Alabama with higher alcohol content is on the senate floor this afternoon. Once the legislation came before the full body, Senator Hank Erwin was the first to rise to the microphone to voice his concern and disdain for the bill. Erwin said that if he had it his way, he would not have any alcohol in his county or any other county in the state of Alabama. Senator Erwin further noted that he believes this legislation would set the state of Alabama up for sheer disaster. Erwin also believes that each senator could not leave the state house with their heads held high thinking they have done something good if they pass this legislation.

Senator Erwin mentioned that his opposition was not personal towards Senator Singleton but only towards the legislation. Senator Singleton questioned that comment noting that Erwin has only filibustered and stood in the way of his legislation. Erwin urged Singleton to pick better legislation.

Senator Erwin, speaking against the bill, mentioned that he tells his sons and grandsons to avoid alcohol like the plague.

SB132 received its budget isolation resolution with a vote of 16 yeas and 8 nays. Currently Senator Ben Brooks is proposing an amendment to the legislation that would only allow the sale of specialty beers at grocery and package stores, or restaurants.

Stay tuned for updates.

Sixty bill special order senate calendar

The Alabama Senate convened this afternoon at 1:00 pm CST. Following announcements the full body adopted a sixty bill special order calendar. On that calendar were some controversial bills such as SB132 “Free the hops” as well as SB407 pertaining to firearm possession.

House Passes Resolution Honoring Coach Gene Stalling’s Son

Today, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring former Alabama Head Football Coach Gene Stalling’s son, John Mark Stalling, who passed away approximately three months ago.

Coach Stalling’s son was born in 1962 with Down syndrome. For more information on “Johnny”, click on the following link to a story from the Dallas News.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

“It’s 5:00 Somewhere”

It may be 5:00 somewhere but not at the Alabama Statehouse. Perhaps lawmakers have not looked at their watches for the last hour, but it is 5:14 and the House is still in session.

This is the first time in over a month that the legislature has remained in session past 5:00. Three bills have passed this afternoon; however, filibustering over the grocery tax has begun yet again.

“No Wonder People Don’t Like Us”

Upon a questionable procedural vote in the Alabama House this afternoon, Representative Barry Mask ( R ), Elmore County, gave a spirited speech livening up an otherwise boring afternoon in the House Chamber.

After two hours of discussing the calendar, a procedural vote was taken to debate Representative Alvin Holmes’ hate crimes bill. Not actually receiving enough votes for the bill to move forward, the Speaker Pro Tem, Rep. Demetrius Newton (D), moved the bill forward anyway.

Among the members angry about diverting from the rules was Rep. Mask who emphatically expressed that it is “no wonder people don’t like us” – referring to the Alabama Legislature. He reminded the membership that last week alone, legislators “took a cost of living pay raise, one member was arrested for a DUI, both houses have been filibustering for a month, and there was discussion about a $350 million new statehouse.”

Productive day in the Alabama Senate

The Alabama senate completed its fourteen page special order calendar with over one hundred bills. Controversial bills were carried over at the call of the chair but the Alabama senate functioned much better than the filibustering house this afternoon.

The senate continues to work beyond its special order calendar.

Senate flying through special order calendar

With over one hundred local bills, the Alabama Senate is flying through its ambitious special order calendar.

Joint Legislative Committee Presents Legislative Medal of Honor for Law Enforcement Officers

Today at 11:00, a joint session was held in the House chamber to honor law enforcement officers. Governor Bob Riley, Attorney General Troy King, Lt. Governor Jim Folsom, along with members of both the House and Senate were all in attendance to participate in the ceremony.

Each year, one recipient is chosen to receive the Legislative Metal of Honor for Law Enforcement. This year’s award went to Officer Larry Sharpley of the Decatur Police Department.

He was chosen for his heroism in saving a woman’s life whose car had gone off the road and into a lake. The incident occurred at night, and Officer Sharpley dove into the water to remove passengers from the car. Upon bringing up one woman, he then dove back into the water to search for additional passengers. Seeing no others inside the vehicle, he administered CPR to the woman – saving her life.

During Governor Riley’s remarks, he said that while talking to Officer Sharpley before the ceremony he said, “We don’t do this for the thank you’s or the recognition, we do it because it is our job.”

No B.I.R, no B.I.N.G.O for Greene County

With a vote of twelve yeas, nine nays and two abstentions, SB135 failed to receive its budget isolations resolution which is required before a final vote until both budgets (General Fund and Education) have passed the senate.

Erwin out, Greene county bingo up on the Senate floor

With Senator Singleton’s main gambling opponent, Senator Hank Erwin, away from the State House today, SB135 pertaining to Greene county bingo is up on the Senate floor. Senator Del Marsh is currently speaking on the budget isolation resolution and asking his other senators to back him in an effort to stall a vote.

Stay tuned for more gambling drama from the Alabama Senate. The Senate's special order calendar offered at 1:45 contains over one hundred local bills. If filibustering on SB135 does not slow down, it is unlikely that many bills on the special order calendar will pass today.

Committee Approves Bill Establishing Criminal Offense for School Officials Engaging in Sexual Activity with Students

The Judiciary Committee of the House approved a bill yesterday, HB 810, during a public hearing that would make it a crime for school officials to engage in sexual activity with students.

The bill’s sponsor is Representative Demetrius Newton (D) from Birmingham who pointed out that this is not only a national problem but a local problem as well.

In the state of Alabama the age of consent still remains at 16 years of age even though students attend high school up to 17 and 18 years of age.

Ms. Regina Fuller-Hopkins, parent whose 17 year old son was exploited by a 38 year old school teacher, presented her first-hand experience with this problem in the state of Alabama. She said that she was the last person to know that anything was going on between her son and the teacher while officials at the school in Birmingham were aware of the situation.

Once the information was turned over to the school board in Birmingham, it allowed the teacher to resign from her position without any information regarding the incident being reported on a record of any kind. According to Ms. Hopkins, the teacher “slipped through under the “sweet 16” measure.”

HB 810 would make a sexual act by any school official with a student under the age of 19 a felony and touching or any similar activity a misdemeanor.

Mr. Ronald Jackson, Executive Director of Citizens for Better Schools, was also present to testify on behalf of this bill. He pointed out, particularly, the vulnerability of special education students to being sexually exploited in the state. One specific case he spoke of took place in Brewton where a special education instructor would wait until students reached 16 years of age to assault them, thus eluding charges for misconduct.

Mr. Jackson also quoted a ruling by the Supreme Court on a case from Madison County in which there were 5 documented occurances of a school official engaging in sexual behavior with students. The court ruled that according to the current law, unless a school official is being “obvious and flagrant” with their actions, “rampant and demonstrating danger,” then that official can not be fired.

The committee gave unanimous approval to this bill which will be the first step toward cracking down on this issue.

Senate passed resolution to rename ASU acadome for Joe Reed

The Alabama Senate passed a resolution, SJR116 this afternoon sponsored by Senator Zeb Little that, if passed by the House, would name the Alabama State University acadome the Joe L. Reed acadome in honor of his work in the state of Alabama and for the college.

WSFA's Eileen Jones spoke with Senator Little and he said, if passed by the Alabama House, this resolution would take action immediately.

General Fund Budget Unanimously Passes in the House

The House convened this morning at 10:00 and by 11:00 had passed the General Fund Budget for 2010.

In a 101 to 0 vote, they unanimously passed the $2.546 billion operating budget for the state. This amount includes one billion stimulus dollars coming into the state. Note that this does not include education dollars which are allocated separately through the Education Trust Fund Budget.

The General Fund Budget will now move to the Senate for final approval before going to the Governor.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Long day in the Alabama Senate

Following passage of the Alabama Education Trust Fund Budget the Alabama Senate passed HB147 pertaining to breast and cervical cancer. Senator Benefield addressed the bill stating that this bill provides Medicaid coverage no matter where the patient is diagnosed. Current law only allows Medicaid coverage for those diagnosed at county health departments but this legislation would provide coverage for patients diagnosed at their private physician. According to Senator Benefield, fifty thousand people in the state are eligible for this coverage between the ages of fifty and sixty-four.

Senator Bedford stated that this bill closes the loop hole in Medicaid coverage. Bedford believes this is an example of how the Alabama Legislature can come together and do what’s best for the people of this state. He also stated that this is an example of how his life experiences can spill over into his professional life, since Bedford is a cancer survivor. Senators Bedford and Benefield noted their desire for Alabama to be a leader in healthcare for our nation, mentioning some of the state’s great facilities in south Alabama and Birmingham.

The senate is still going strong at a quarter until 7:00.

Senate passed the Education Budget

After a cloture vote of 28 to 3 the Alabama Senate passed the Education Trust Fund budget with unanimous consent.

Cloture looming for Marsh, still no ED Budget

Delays continue on the senate floor over the education trust fund budget. Senator Singleton proposed an amendment to assign more funding for the federally funded Head Start Program which was tabled.

Senator Del Marsh (R) continues to filibuster even after Senator Sanders has begged him to let the vote arise. There are discussions of trying to cloture Senator Marsh which would require eighteen signatures for the budget which some republicans might agree to sign.


Listen to the Alabama Senate Live

Senate Republicans stalling Education Budget

Senate republicans are stalling a vote on the education budget while Senator Sanders holds court with a bipartisan group on the senate floor.

It is rumored that Governor Riley's office is holding up the education budget but it unclear why the office would want to stall the vote.

Rep. Jay Love Shows Support for Beauty Queen Taking Stand on Traditional Marriage

In case you missed the Miss USA pageant this weekend, one of the pageant judges, Perez Hilton, posed a question to Carrie Prejean, Miss California USA, regarding gay marriage.

He asked her if she felt all states should move toward allowing same-sex marriage to mirror the efforts of states like Vermont and California.

Ms. Prejean answered, “I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other…same sex marriage or opposite marriage. I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman…that’s how I was raised.”

Not only has she been publicly criticized for her stance, but her answer has lead many to conclude, including Perez Hilton, that she did not capture the Miss USA title because of her position supporting traditional marriage.

In a show of support for Ms. Prejean’s willingness to stay true to her personal convictions, Rep. Jay Love of Montgomery (R) has presented a resolution commending Ms. Prejean.

Representative Love said that there are those “telling people what they can believe and what they can say” which he said is wrong. He further said he does not believe it is right that she should be punished for saying marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Beason picking a fight with four-year-olds

Discussion on the Alabama Education Trust Fund Budget continues.

Senator Scott Beason questioned additional funding for the pre-kindergarten program (First Class) in the State of Alabama. Senator Beason said he believes Alabama should have a strong K-12 program and put all of the funding into those programs rather than pre-kindergarten.

Senator Sanders noted that extended research shows that students who participate in pre-k programs tend to do better than students who begin with only kindergarten. Beason later noted that he didn’t even attend kindergarten and Senator Sanders did not have the opportunity to attend kindergarten because kindergarten did not exist.

Following Beason introduced an amendment to the Education Budget that would take away a large chunk of money from the pre-kindergarten program established in the budget and would reassign that money to classroom teachers. This would give schools approximately $400.00 per classroom for teacher use.

Senator Sanders made a motion to table Senator Beason’s amendment and it passed with a vote of twenty-six to three.

House Begins Debate on General Fund Budget

The House convened at 1:00 this afternoon and began initial discussions of the 2010 General Fund Budget.

Representative John Knight (D), chair of the Government Appropriations Committee, is currently presenting an overall view of the General Fund Budget in light of the stimulus dollars that the state will be receiving. For further details regarding this version of the budget, refer to last Thursday’s blog on the General Fund Budget meeting that took place in the House.

Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

Education Trust Fund on the Senate Floor

At 2:25 the Alabama Senate called up the Alabama Education Trust Fund Budget (ETF), SB570. Senator Hank Sanders is the chairman of the Finance and Taxation Education committee. Sanders noted that this budget is late this year because of waiting on including federal stimulus dollars in the budget.

Senator Sanders also noted that this budget has between $800 and $700 million dollars less than the current year’s budget and that the stimulus money will fill the hole with about $300 million dollars. Senator Sanders offered a substitute first before taking in questions on the budget.

Stay tuned for more ETF budget happenings.

Back to work in the Senate on the 22nd Legislative Day

The Alabama Senate convened this afternoon at 1:00 pm with talks of the Education Budget coming up on the floor. Currently the senate is taking up a house bill that would allow Sunday sale of alcohol in ALL Alabama counties, HB175.

Senator Hank Erwin who recently announced his candidacy for Lt. Governor has introduced four amendments to the bill. Including language to prevent any such election to take no sooner than two years apart.

Stay tuned for more from the Alabama Senate.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Expungement Bill Passes the House

A bill that would allow expungement of criminal records under certain circumstances and if specific criteria are met is one step closer to becoming law.

The bill, HB 59 sponsored by Rep. Chris England of Tuscaloosa, “would authorize a person charged or convicted of certain felony or misdemeanor criminal offenses, a violation, or a traffic violation to petition the court in which the charges where filed or in which the conviction
occurred to have his or her records expunged, including, but not limited to, arrest records, fingerprints, photographs, or index references in documentary or electronic form, relating to the
arrest or charge, or both, and conviction in .certain instances.”

Depending on the type of conviction an individual received determines the criteria that must be met in order to have a record expunged. If an individual has been convicted of a violent crime (capital murder, murder, rape in the first degree, manslaughter, attempted murder, sodomy in the first degree, and etc.), he / she does not qualify for expungement under this bill.

HB 59 now goes to the Senate for consideration; however, if the filibuster continues, most likely, no further movement on this bill will take place this legislative session.

Bills Moving in the House – Fish on the Menu

With applauding from a few in the House chamber, bills are finally moving!

If you are a seafood lover, one of the first, HB435, sponsored by Representative Spencer Collier of Mobile County, will require restaurants or other establishments serving fish for public consumption to inform consumers whether on a menu or plaque where the fish originated – either domestic or country of origin.

In a show of support for this legislation, Representative Thomas Jackson of Thomasville said that we need to make sure that what we are eating is safe and mentioned the contaminated food that has been imported within the last few years.

Before final passage of the bill, Rep. Collier also added an amendment that would allow establishments serving fish 6 months to comply.

Senate having a "midwife" crisis

Filibustering continued for three hours until Senator Coleman’s SJR75 pertaining to midwives was carried over at the call of the chair. With little members on the floor, HB595 was called up and passed the Senate.

SJR75 was called back up and filibustering continues with Senator Del Marsh at the mic.

Senator Marsh said that if this body doesn't do something soon, then the body is going to have a "midwife" crisis.

Stay tuned for updates from the Alabama Senate.

Yesterday’s House General Budget Meeting

The House Government Appropriations Committee met yesterday to discuss, among other issues, the State General Fund Budget.

If you find government budgeting complicated under normal circumstances, the 2010 and 2011 budgets are even more complicated with the addition of approximately $3 billion stimulus dollars coming into Alabama from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The rough breakdown of the $3 billion has been discussed in previous posts, but it is important to know the federal government provided strict guidelines and formulas in regard to where the dollars should go. They are also requiring state agencies that receive these dollars to provide feedback data in terms of how many jobs have been created and / or saved by the stimulus money coming into our state.

To summarize the current proposed budget for 2010 (including stimulus dollars), the State General Fund will see an increase of $579,234,602** over the 2009 budget (after reductions for the Governor’s Deficit Reduction Plan in which state agencies were asked to make budget cuts).

Debate has not yet begun on the budgets before the full House membership. With the Governor having sent 4 proposed budgets to the House thus far due to changes and updates with stimulus dollars, these numbers will likely change before final approval.

**This number was derived by taking the 2009 Budgeted State General Fund after reductions of $1,967,253,049 and subtracting that from the Government Appropriations Committee Substitute General Fund Budget for 2010 including stimulus dollars of $2,546,487,651.

House Back in Business?..Don’t Hold Your Breath!

If you were tuned in to the blog on Tuesday, you would remember that the House was indeed divided – Democrats were filibustering because of the grocery sales tax, and Republicans were killing the procedural vote required to bring Senate bills up for debate because the Senate had refused to consider Republican House bills.

Today, the Rules Committee in the House proposed a calendar that was free of Senate bills and had an equal amount of Democrat and Republican sponsored bills. It seemed a favorable environment for the House to finally make some progress after a month of stalling and filibustering.

That hope faded as Representative Alvin Holmes of Montgomery took the podium and elaborated for twenty minutes on his frustrations with a bill he is sponsoring not appearing further up on the special order calendar for the day. He stated, “I am going to filibuster and then filibuster real slow.”

Following Rep. Holmes, Representative John Rogers used his floor privilege to, once again, filibuster over the removal of sales tax from groceries.

From all appearances at present, the House may be stuck in the mud for this the 21st legislative day. The legislature, according to the Constitution, may only meet for 30 legislative days. That leaves 9 legislative (not consecutive) days for them to have a budget passed for 2010.

3 bottles of water, 2 brief cases, Senator Poole...looks like a filibuster

The Alabama Senate convened this morning at 10:00 am CST. Immediately upon convening Senator Phil Poole took to the mic to regain is place from Tuesday. Senator Poole without losing his time and place allowed HB41 and a local Walker County bill to pass.

Senator Rodger Bedford said that the passage of the HB41, the Autism bill, shows that the Senate can come together even in tough times. Immediately following the passage, Senator Phil Poole took back his place at the mic. It seems he will hold his spot for a while because he brought three bottles of water and two brief cases with him to the podium. Tuesday Poole tried to bait the media to write on his wows and promised to bring an audio tape to play during his filibuster.

Note: Senator Bedford said that he hopes to deal with the special education trust fund and general fund supplemental next week.

Look for more updates from the Alabama Senate.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Which rules apply?

Interrupting Senator Phil Poole on his second hour, Senator Bobby Singleton made a point of order to note that there is a piece of legislation that Senator Hank Sanders introduced last week, SB578, that was assigned to the wrong committee. According to rule 50 adopted three years ago in the Alabama Senate, all gaming legislation should be referred to the Tourism and Travel Committee. SB578 was mistakenly assigned to the Finance and Taxation Education committee rather than the Tourism and Travel committee which Senator Singleton chairs.

Senator Singleton asked that this bill be moved to his committee where he is a supporter of gaming. Lt. Governor Folsom noted that once the bill is introduced in committee the bill cannot be reassigned to another committee.

Senator Phil Poole is back to filibustering after a heated debate over the assignment of SB578.

“Maybe Let the Budgets Pass”

During the ongoing filibuster in the House, Representative James Thomas, member of the Black Caucus, speaking on the importance of removing the sales tax from groceries stated that he does not intend to see anything passed this session – “maybe the budgets because it is constitutionally required, but they had better be right.”

Is Representative Thomas foreshadowing a special session to address the budgets? “Wait and See” certainly seems to be the name of the game for the 2009 Legislative Session or better perhaps "Wait, and Wait, and Wait.....and See".

No diving...more Poole filibustering

Senator Phil Poole (D) Tuscaloosa has just begun his second hour at the mic. Senator Poole challenged the media to report on his concerns. He says the media will not cover his distress because it is too complicated and they only cover what is easy to report.

Poole is currently reading from a contract that was given to local officials about a road project in Brookwood, Alabama during Governor Siegelman’s term.

Earlier the Senate Pro Tem, Rodger Smitherman, had to warn Senator Poole because he was referring to the Mike Eckles group as crooks. Poole noted that there were also crooks in the legislature, judiciary and executive branch of the government.

Look for more updates from the Alabama Senate

Logjam in the House

Tensions in the House continue today as Democrats and Republicans have been unable to come to a compromise over the calendar.

Last week as Democrats were filibustering over the grocery tax bill, Republicans, likewise, began blocking voting on bills until more of their bills begin to appear on the House calendar for consideration. Today, the House calendar included 5 Republican and 5 Democrat bills, and Representative Ken Guin, chair of the House Rules Committee, said “this is as fair of a calendar as we could put together.”

Representative Mike Hubbard, chair of the Republican Party, presented an alternate calendar that did not change any bills appearing on the calendar but merely rearranged them so that Senate Democrat bills were moved to the bottom of the Special Order Calendar. Republicans have taken this posture against Senate Democrat bills because the Senate refuses to take up House Republican bills. Without naming names, Representative Hubbard stated that one member of the Senate has promised to kill all Republican House bills. Representative Hubbard emphasized that by allowing one senator to block bills essentially “disenfranchises our constituents”.

By a vote of 43 to 39, the proposed alternate calendar failed to pass, and Republicans plan to block the procedural vote that would be required for Senate Democrat bills to be voted on in the House. Representative Hubbard went on to say that Republicans are not trying to be obstinate but asked members of the Democrat Party to think of what they would do if one senator was blocking their bills and the interests of their constituency from being considered.

They may never have the opportunity to do so today though, as filibustering on the grocery tax currently continues.

PACT program deals and more Poole filibustering

The Alabama Senate convened this afternoon at 1:00 PM CST, shortly proceeding with talks of cutting a deal on the PACT program bill (SB581) the Senate stood in recess until 2:00 pm.

Upon coming back into session at 2:10, Senator Rodger Bedford thanked the body for their patience and noted that he, along with Senator Jimmy Holley, was working on the PACT Program Legislation SB581. Bedford stated that they were trying to come together and solve this problem for the students of Alabama.

Senator Holley addressed the body noting that this is the first step on a journey to help the PACT program. Senator Holly noted that the Retirement Systems of Alabama, Chancellor Bradley Byrne of the two year college system, Lt. Governor Folsom, and four year college institutions have all contributed and helped this legislation. Governor Folsom said this is a very important issue and one that the senate needs to address.

Senator Phil Poole is currently filibustering but it is presently unclear why.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Alabama Senate.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

House Vs. Senate Softball Game

It's time to put political party, business suits, and verbal debate aside and take it to the softball field! The annual House versus Senate softball match is coming up. It should be a fun evening for all.

When: Tuesday, April 28, 2008
Time: 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. (following conclusion of the legislative day)
Where: Auburn University Montgomery Baseball Field

Representative Randy Hinshaw Calls for Media Clarification

This morning Representative Randy Hinshaw of Madison County spoke directly to the members of the press from the House floor in reference to the grocery tax bill.

He expressed his concern that the media has only recognized the Black Caucus as supporters of the grocery tax bill and duly pointed out that many people are standing to support removing the sales tax off of groceries.

On that note, both the Democrats and Republicans have expressed support for removing the sales tax off of groceries; however, the method to accomplish this end result has caused conflict.

To be more precise, House Democrats, along with the Black Caucus, have stood in unison to support HB116 (the bill which has been debated so many times over the last three weeks), and Republicans oppose this bill due to the manner in which the bill seeks to make up the tax dollars that will be lost by the removal of this tax. Republicans presented an alternative plan yesterday that would provide grocery tax credits for families making less than $22,000.

Many individuals, both elected officials and citizens, across the state believe strongly that the sales tax should be removed from groceries and deserve to be commended for their concern for our state as well as their work to make Alabama a better place to live!

Singleton livid over passage of SB373

After Senator Barron introduced his special order calendar from the Rules committee, Senator Singleton made a motion to bring up SB135 pertaining to bingo in Greene County. This motion did not receive unanimous consent to bring up SB 135 out of order because Senator Hank Erwin opposed.

Senator Singleton spoke to Lt. Governor Folsom stating that he would like the same consideration to bring up his bill without unanimous consent just like the AT&T bill came up without consent. Governor Folsom noted that no member raised his or her hand or stood at the mic to speak against the AT&T bill to request unanimous consent.

View SB135

Is there any loyalty in the Alabama Senate?

The Alabama Senate convened this morning at 10:00 am CST. After recognizing two basketball teams for their accomplishments this season the 1st bill on the schedule voted out of order was the AT&T bill (SB 373). SB373 passed the senate as amended and Senator Bobby Singleton was livid. He took a point of personal privilege to convey to the body that SB373 is bad for the state of Alabama and its citizens. Senator Singleton said he is going to speak on every bill and that he was going to close down the Senate. Senator Singleton made a motion to adjourn which after a vote of 13 yeas and 16 nays did not pass the Senate.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Alabama Senate.

View SB373

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Teacher Jobs Saved by Stimulus Money

This morning, a joint education budget meeting was held where Jim Main, State Finance Director, Dr. Joseph Morton, state school Superintendent, and Justice Drayton Neighbors, appointed by Governor Bob Riley to oversee disbursement of the economic stimulus money coming into the state of Alabama, were present to give a report and answer questions on the effect the stimulus dollars will have on education.

Of the $3 billion allotted to Alabama, $1 billion will go to education. Per stipulations set in place by the federal government, 60% of the dollars will go to K-12 and 40% to higher education.

Dr. Morton reported that 100% of the dollars coming into the education budget will go toward saving teacher jobs. Because of the economic situation in the country as well as in Alabama, before the economic stimulus package was passed, state-wide we would have lost an estimated 3,790 teacher jobs. Now, most, if not all, of those jobs will be saved.

Dr. Morton further stated that as far as accountability is concerned, each school system is required to file an expenditure of federal funds before they ever get a dollar. Further, each district has to post and account for every dollar spent from the stimulus money.

The $1 billion dollars will go toward the 2010 and 2011 budgets. The state will not receive the $1 billion in on lump sum, however. Two draw-downs of equal amounts from the federal government will occur in July of this year and the following draw-down in July of next year.
At the end of the meeting, Dr. Morton reminded everyone that the stimulus money is not a cure-all for our financial woes and that we are still, in fact, under proration