Thursday, February 26, 2009

Making Progress on Day 8

The Alabama House of Representatives and Senate both convened at 10:00 am CST. Two of the first bills up for vote in the Alabama House were senate bills. The Alabama House voted to carry over ALL senate bills until the senate begins to take up house bills.

The Senate’s special order calendar consisted of only house sunset bills, seventeen sunset bills to be exact. Senator Barron stated that he planned to only introduce just that one Special Order calendar and let the Senate adjourn early. The Senate passed all seventeen bills on their Special Order calendar and adjourned at 11:50 am CST.

Representatives Mask and Gipson issued the following press release this morning pertaining to House Bill 389 relating to driving or operating a vehicle as defined (including vessels) under the influence of alcohol or drugs, criminal negligent homicide or assault in the first degree.

February 26, 2009
Reps. Mask and Gipson Sponsor DUI Boating Homicide Bill

MONTGOMERY State Representative Barry Mask ,(R)Wetumpka and State Representative Mac Gipson , ( R ) Prattville have introduced HB389, a bill which would clarify the law and penalties for persons who are drunk while operating a watercraft and kill another person . The bill would make such homicide the same as a DUI automobile homicide – a Class C felony.

The bill comes as a response to recent DUI boating Homicides on Lake Jordan, Lake Martin and other Alabama waterways since 2006.

In December, 2008, a special grand jury impaneled by 19th Circuit District Attorney Randall Houston recommended that the law be strengthened and clarified.

The bill has 30 co-sponsors and has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

Bills passed by the Alabama House of Representatives on the 8th Legislative Day:

HB356: Public School and College Authority, authorized to allocate certain amount of interest income to Walker County School System for capital improvements for Oakman Elementary School

HB202: Property owners, liability limited for leasing property for hunting or fishing, Landowners Protection Act

HB164: Landlord and tenant, goods and services, landlord or property owner not required to pay delinquent bill of tenant if account is in name of tenant

HB47: Public schools, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, employment of, Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, employment of school nurses provided for, funding contingent on revenue available in Education Trust Fund and appropriation by Legislature

HB432: Sheriffs, pistol permits, records, not open to public disclosure, use for law enforcement only, penalties

HB210: Alabama Boxing Act, Alabama Boxing Commission, established, medical advisory panel, licensure of promoters, standards for buildings for matches, boxing under the influence prohibited, age requirements, civil and criminal penalties, subject to Sunset Law

HB495: School Superintendents of Alabama to establish and administer professional development program for all county and city superintendents of education

HB253: Special county educational taxes, approval by majority vote authorized

HB464: Motor vehicles, school disciplinary point system established to determine age at which person is eligible to apply for learner's permit, motorcycle operator's license, or driver's license

HB213: Rules of the road, bicyclists, hand and arm signals, bicyclists authorized to give hand signals from right side

HB438: Interstate Commission on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, established to assist children of active duty military families and certain veterans in education transition issues including transfer of records, enrollment, placement, extracurricular activities, graduation, uniform treatment at state and local district levels

The Alabama House adjourned at 12:05 this afternoon.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The 7th Legislative Day brings about continued progress in the Alabama House

The Alabama House of Representatives continued to function as usual, passing the following House Bills:

• HB382 (Representative Knight) relating to oil and gas, offshore, severance tax altered, determination of basis altered

• HB148 (Representative Fite) relating to computers and other property used to solicit a child or transmit obscene material to a child subject to forfeiture, procedure.

• HB221 (Representative McMillan) Sex crimes involving children, solicitation by computer, Internet, or otherwise, crime further provided for, penalties, jurisdiction includes place of transmission.

According to Representative McMillan there is currently a loop hole in Alabama law pertaining to when an undercover officer poses as a minor to catch an adult soliciting a minor. Existing law does not address officers of the law posing as a minor. Currently criminals are pleading not guilty to soliciting a minor stating that since they were not communicating with a minor that they did not violate state law. This bill would make it a crime to solicit a minor even if that minor is an undercover officer.

This law would strengthen the penalties for soliciting and taking a minor across state laws; it would also expand the definition of an electronic device used to solicit a minor. Representative McMillan mentioned that the Gulf Shores Police Department in a two month period caught 23 men that thought they were communicating with minors.

Other states have similar bills; Representative McMillan said this bill will help Alabama stop remaining a target. HB221 passed the Alabama House with a vote of 84 yeas and 0 nays.

• HB282 (Representative Gipson) "Graduated Driver's License" relating to motor vehicles, three-stage graduated licensing, driver training program, age requirements for licensed driver with student, age requirements for licensed driver accompanying driver with learner's permit, restrictions on persons 17 years of age with regular driver's license.

Representative Gipson said this bill is protecting everyone, not just the driver but the passengers in the car and other drivers on the road. Gipson also stated that statistics show that states that have adopted these laws have seen a reduced number of deaths related to teenage driver car accidents.

Proposed Stages:

I-Learning Permit (15 years-of-age)

II-Restricted Licensing -16 year-of-age)
After the 6 month restricted license period, providing that the driver has no violation, he/she can go automatically to the stage III, regular driver’s license.
During a stage II drivers license technological devices are prohibited including cellular telephones, GPS devices, and IPODs.

III-Unrestricted or Regular License (Starting at 16 and ½ years-of-age until 18 years-of-age)

HB282 passed the Alabama House of Representatives with 80 yeas and 10 nays.

• HB347 (Representative Guin) relating to accountants, certified public accountants, practice privilege provided for out-of-state CPA's, administrative fines increased, standards of Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) added to auditing standards.

• HB60 (Representative Newton) relating to Alabama Security Regulatory Board, established, licensure and regulation of security officers, subject to Sunset Law

• HB89 (Representative Johnson) relating to Real estate agents and brokers, advertising size of type requirements altered, reciprocal licensing requirements

• HB173 (Representative Fields) relating to County officers, bonding for performance of official duties. Amended by Representative Knight.

Back in full force on Day 7

The Alabama Senate convened at 2:00 pm CST this afternoon; much to the dismay of a number of people the Senate passed many uncontested local bills without much conflict. The Alabama Senate took up Sunset Bills pertaining to local legislation.

Currently Senator Phil Poole is at the podium filibustering in the Senate.

The Alabama House of Representatives convened at 3:00 pm CST today. Beginning with uncontested local bills, one bill that caused a stir was House Bill 363 pertaining to Bingo in Greene County. The speaker seeing that HB363 was contested immediately moved forward.

The first bill on the Special Order Calendar was Representative Knights bill, HB382 relating to oil and gas, offshore, severance tax altered, determination of basis altered. Representative Knight said this bill would not have a negative impact on the general fund stating that he has worked with the Governor’s office on this bill.

Representative Knight clarified that this bill is revenue neutral and is based on gross proceeds. He said with this bill there would be no dispute about deductions and there would be no loss to the general fund or the state of Alabama. HB382 takes away the gray area and makes taxes a lot easier to calculate and protects the state from disputes and potential loss. With a vote of 96 yeas and 1 nay House Bill 382 passed the Alabama House of Representatives.

Currently Representative Alvin Holmes is at the podium questioning the Speaker about President Obama’s stimulus package and Governor Riley’s plan for the stimulus package.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Senator Rodger Smitherman withdraws Senate Bill 264

President Pro Tem Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham today issued a press release stating that he would pursue to withdraw Senate Bill 264. This bill would recognize the contributions of Dr. Joe L. Reed to Alabama State University; it would rename the ASU Academic and Physical Education complex the Joe L. Reed Acadome.

This bill has caused quite a stir because the Alabama State University acadome previously held the name of the Dr. Joe L. Reed but in 2008 the ASU Board of Trustees voted to remove Dr. Reed's name due to negative publicity cast upon the University by Dr. Reed along with a number of other issues.

Senator Smitherman released the following press release:

When I took the oath of leadership as the president pro tem of the Senate, I pledged to help bring this body together in a new spirit of cooperation. I am deeply committed to the goal of making our Senate more responsive to the needs of our citizens and more productive. I did not realize when I offered Senate Bill 264 that it had the potential to be as divisive as it apparently is. Regardless of the merits of this bill, I believe it is in the best interested of the Senate, and the common good we must pursue, to withdraw Senate Bill 264 from consideration.

Rodger M. Smitherman
President Pro Tem

Day 5 Brings About Discussions of Gambling in the Alabama Senate

The Alabama Senate convened at 2:00 pm CST this afternoon. No more than five minutes upon beginning the fifth day of the 2009 Alabama Legislative Session Senator Bobby Singleton's (D) Senate Bill 135 pertaining to the Greene County Bingo Act, which provides bingo for education and charitable purposes, brought about much debate.

When SB135 was brought up for a budget isolation resolution (BIR) Senator Hank Erwin (R) of Calera immediately appeared at the podium to show his disgust for this bill arising so early in the Session. Senator Erwin expressed that this bill should not receive a BIR, rather the Senate's main purpose should be to focus on the General Fund (budget) and Education Trust Fund. Senator French took to the microphone asking for a vote on the BIR stating that discussions were underway and that both sides would like to continue with a friendly session and accomplish much before stalling the Senate over controversial bills such as gambling and alcohol.

SB135 did not receive its BIR with a vote of 14 yeas, 10 nays, and 1 abstention. Senator Singleton said he would bring this bill back up for a BIR on Thursday, 6th legislative day. Senator Del Marsh (R) said he is working with Senator Singleton, the Governor's office, and other Senator republicans to help Senator Singleton receive his BIR on SB135 Thursday.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide incentives to the Entertainment Industry

The Alabama House of Representatives convened this afternoon at 1:00 pm CST. The first bill for discussion was House Bill 69 introduced by Representative Lindsey relating to the development in Alabama of the entertainment industry. This bill targeted to attract investment for qualified productions and qualified production companies; to help encourage increased employment opportunities within the state for the entertainment industry and increased global competition with other states in fully developing economic development options in Alabama within the industry

HB69 would provide rebates for qualified production projects and exemptions for sales, use, and lodging taxes for production companies working in Alabama. Additionally it authorizes a rebate (income tax credit) equal to 25% of production expenditure (excluding payroll and benefits paid to Alabama residents) plus a 35% rebate of all payrolls, including benefits paid to Alabama residents working on the production.

With much praise to the sponsors and excitement for the bill, HB69 was voted favorably out of the House with a vote of 102 yeas and 0 nays.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Registering as a Write-In Candidate?

The Alabama House spent much time morning discussing House Bill 39 introduced by Representative Charles Newton of Greenville. This bill relates to write-in votes; it would require that a write-in candidate be registered with the Secretary of State or the judge of probate as an official candidate and comply with the provisions of the Fair Campaign Practices Act and the State Ethics Law in order for his or her vote to be counted. It was clear that there was some Republican opposition with Representatives J. Williams and P. Demarco both approaching the podium to seek for clarification. After spending nearly half an hour discussing the bill, House Bill 39 passed the full body with a vote of 91-3.

Inside the Alabama House of Representatives

The Alabama House of Representatives convened at 10:00 am CST this morning.

Begining the fourth legislative day the House passed a number of joint resolutions before making way on passing some controversial bills.

The first bill that caused some controversy was House Bill 165 which would establish the Alabama Transportation Commission and provide for the members, the manner of selection or members, terms, qualifications, duties, responsibilities, compensation, and expenses of the commission. After offering 4 amendments on the floor HR 165 passed the full house with a vote of 91-3.

Moving on to House Bill 154 (PAC to PAC) which would prohibit transfers between political action committees. This bill passed the full House last year but later died in the Senate. This bill, HB154 is the exact same bill that passed the House during the 2008 Legislative Session. With a vote of 98-0 HB154 passed the full House.

After passing a bill to ban PAC to PAC transfers HB140 introduced by Representative Hinshaw relating to paid electioneering communications and political advertising, to provide that electioneering communications and paid political advertisements paid for by an organization or entity shall disclose the names of the source of the funding of the organization or entity. Passge of this bill came at 100 yeas and 0 nays.

Currently the House is discussing HB39 pertaining to Write-In candidates introduced by Rep. C. Newton. Stay tuned for more updates.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Looking toward Day 4

The Alabama House and Senate both convene at 10:00 am CST on Thursday for day 4 of the 2009 Regular Session. Look for live blogs from the Alabama State House all morning and afternoon long.

Alabama may "Free the Hops" soon

Wednesday is committee day at the Alabama State House and today the Alabama Senate Tourism and Marketing committee passed a bill that would allow the sale of beer with an alcohol content of up to 13.9 percent. This legislation will of course have to pass the full Senate before going to the Governor's office. Just last year this legislation made it out of committee but never came up for a vote on the floor.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tensions rise in the Alabama Senate between Senator Larry Means (D) and Senator Phil Poole (D)

Tensions rose this afternoon in the Alabama Senate when Senator Phil Poole became angered over local legislation affecting the Tuscaloosa County School Board.

Senator Larry Means (D) of Attalla addressed the full body urging other senators not to sit around and do nothing for another two years. Senator Means stated that to begin filibustering on the 3rd day of the 2009 session sets a bad precedent. He spoke to the task ahead of the body with passing the General Fund and Education Trust Fund. Means said he is not going to be a part of this petty, childish act and commended Senators Smitherman and Barron for trying to schedule a non-controversial special order calendar for the first few days of the session. In closing, Senator Means told the body that they need to do what is right and answer to the people of their district.

Senator Phil Poole (D) of Moundville responded by saying that loud mouths that like to call names and jump on someone else for defending their district should not do so. Poole said that if the leadership in the senate is going to hold up his local bill and keep Tuscaloosa's elementary school from tying onto a sewer system then they can just get ready for it. Poole said the senate is going to do nothing for the next two years until his local legislation issue is either settled or is else wise satisfied.

Poole also addressed those who have accused him of filibustering for the last two years, saying that if anybody wants to get blamed for wasting the last two years they should look in the mirror and not lie. Senator Poole closed by saying that if anybody doesn’t like what he said then they can take it up with him at the State House or elsewhere.

Inside the Alabama Senate Day 3

Not much is going on in the Alabama Senate today. Senator Phil Poole is currently using his 20 minutes to filibuster Senate Bill 55 by Senator Bedford.

Some common interest bills on the Senate calendar for 2.10.09:

SB62 introduced by Senator Barrown relating to the State Ethics Commission to allow investigators with the commission to be afforded the same benefits as investigators with the Attorney General's office.

SB181 introduced by Senator Ross pertaining to motor vehicles establishing a three-stage graduated licensing, driver training program, age requirements for licensed driver with student, age requirements for licensed driver accompanying driver with learner's permit, restrictions on persons 17 years of age with regular driver's license,

SB98 introduced by Senator Marsh which would create the Alabama Boxing Commission; to provide for the membership, powers, and duties of the commission.

Stay connected for more updates from the Alabama State House.

Day 3 of the 2009 Legislative Session

The Alabama House of Representatives convened at 1:00 pm CST today. The bulk of bills on the House calendar were sunset bills pertaining to local legislation.

Some other bills of public interest on the House caledar for 2.10.09:

HB 157 introduced by Representative McClendon which would prohibit a person from operating a motor vehicle while text messaging.

HB 68 introduced by Representative Collier which would make it a crime for any person who attempts to elude a law enforcement officer after being signaled to stop.

HB69 introduced by Representative Lindsey this bill would seek to attract the entertainment industry to develop qualified productions in Alabama.

Stay connected for updates on passage of these and other bills.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Looking forward to the 2nd Legislative Week

Ending the first week of the 2009 Legislative Session, we have seen the Governor's 2009 plan for the state of Alabama, a new President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate named (Sen. Rodger Smitherman), and more than 760 new bills introduced between the House and Senate.

Legislative Schedule for Tuesday, February 10:

Alabama House of Representatives convenes at 1:00 pm CST
Alabama Senate convenes at 2:00 pm CST

Look for live blogs all afternoon from the Alabama State House.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Senator Rodger Smitherman (D) of Birmingham is the new President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate

With a vote of 18 to 12 Senator Rodger Smitherman was elected the new President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate. Immediately following Sen. Smitherman was sworn into office with his wife and daughter by his side.

Senator Smitherman addressed the full senate saying that he is not the President Pro Tempore for one caucus or the other rather he is the President Pro Tempore of the entire Alabama Senate. He noted that he hopes to be the bridge that brings the members together. Smitherman expressed that he wants to do everything in his power to make the State of Alabama all that it can be and make sure it moves forward.

After Senator Smitherman addressed the Senate, Senator Jabo Waggoner (D), who was also nominated for the position of President Pro Tempore, publicly congratulated Senator Smitherman on behalf of the entire Republican party.

Nominations for President Pro Tempore

Following Senator Hinton Mitchem's resignation as President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate, nominations began for his successor.

Senator Lowell Barron (D) of Fyffe and Senator Rodger Bedford (D) of Russellville, came to the microphone to nominate Senator Rodger Smitherman (D) of Birmingham.

Senator Steve French (R) of Birmingham and Senator Hank Erwin (R) of Calera stood to nominate Senator Jabo Waggoner (R) of Vestavia Hills.

Both nominees were praised as strong leaders in the Alabama Senate and as people who can take Alabama into the future without looking back.

President Pro Tempore Hinton Mitchem Resigns Effective Immediately

The Alabama Senate convened at 2:00 pm CST today.

Immediately after beginning for the day, Senator Hinton Mitchem (D) Guntersville resigned from his post as President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate, citing that he is a man of his word. During the 2007 Organizational Session Mitchem vowed to step down as President Pro Tempore after serving only two years.

Following Senator Mitchem's resignations, Lt. Governor Jim Folsom and a number of Senators rose to the podium to give praise for his service in office. Among those Senators were Senator Bedford, Senator Z. Little, Senator T. Little, Senator Sanders, and Senator Singleton.

Inside Governor Bob Riley's State of the State Address

Economy, Ethics & Education were the key topics of Governor Bob Riley's State of the State address this evening.

After paying homage to the late Governor Guy Hunt. Governor Riley began his speech by discussing the economic state of Alabama. The Governor proclaimed that Alabama is weathering the storm better than most, and its business climate is ranked in the top 3 in the nation.

Governor Riley received the 1st standing ovation of his speech when he announced that Alabama has no better partner for growth than Germany. More than 50 German companies have located in the state. Dr. Lutz Goergens, Germany's Consul General was in attendance seated with First Lady Patsy Riley.

Part of Governor Riley's plan for stimulating Alabama's economy and workforce is a Back-to-Work Tax Credit of $500.00 to encourage companies to hire unemployed workers. Governor Riley stated that we want employers to hire people who need a job right now rather than someone who already has a job.

Another proposal made by Governor Riley is a Targeted Job Creation Tax Credit. As laid out in the Governor's plan it is a $1,500.00 incentive over three years for each new job created in counties with the highest unemployment levels.

Moving into Ethics reform, Governor Riley stated that this state will never reach its full potential unless it enacts ethics reforms that finally build confidence in state government.

The proposal calls for a complete overhaul of Alabama's ethics code. Noted by Governor Riley, this would be the first comprehensive rewrite to Alabama's ethics laws since 1973. In the proposal the ethics commission would-for the first time-have subpoena power and an attorney general or district attorney would be given a reasonable amount of time to either prosecute an ethics case or decline it.

Governor Riley finished his speech with Education, praising the state for all of the accomplishments it has made over the past 6 years with the Alabama Reading Initiative, Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative and ACCESS Distance Learning. He then recognized State Superintendent Joe Morton and the Alabama State Board of Education for its efforts.

The Governor's proposal to the State Budget would protect funding for those programs mentioned above. Governor Riley also discouraged those who believe gambling money would solve the State's Education budget problems.

The speech ended with the Governor asking everyone to stand together, find common ground and work for a common good.

Look for more legislative coverage on Thursday inside the Alabama State House.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

1st Day of the 2009 Legislative Session

Today is the first day of the 2009 Legislative Session, already 89 Senate Bills and 238 House Bills have been introduced. Among those bills are a couple that might catch the eye.

One in particular is a bill that would ban cloning in the state of Alabama. This bill introduced by Rep. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa and assigned to the Health Committee would prohibit the cloning of human beings and would provide for penalties and civil fines for violations. If this bill passes, it will be illegal to perform or attempt to perform human cloning; participate in human cloning, ship or receive for any purpose an embryo produced by human cloning or any product derived from an embryo produced by human cloning; no person shall knowingly import for any purpose an embryo produced by human cloning or any product derived from an embryo produced by human cloning.

Other bills of interest:

HB21 introduced by Rep. Mitchell
Synopsis: Legislature, persons employed by any entity that contracts with any two-year or four-year institution of higher education may not serve in Legislature, Section 47 (Section 47, Recompiled Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended), am'd., const. amend.

HB22 introduced by Rep. Mitchell
Synopsis: Legislature, persons in occupations or vocations involving serving as an officer of the court may not serve in Legislature, Section 47 (Section 47, Recompiled Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended), am'd., const. amend.

HB30 introduced by Rep. D. Newton
Synopsis: Constitutional Convention, election for calling to amend and replace Constitution of Alabama of 1901, delegates, election for ratification or rejection

HB42 introduced by Rep. Gordon
Synopsis: This bill would require the State Board of Health to provide each parent or guardian of a female student entering into the 6th grade certain information concerning infection and the immunization against the human papillomavirus.

HB154 introduced by Rep. McLaughlin
Synopsis: Campaign contributions, PAC to PAC transfers, prohibited, Sec. 17-5-15 am'd.

HB210 introduced by Rep. Allen
Synopsis: Alabama Boxing Act, Alabama Boxing Commission, established, medical advisory panel, licensure of promoters, standards for buildings for matches, boxing under the influence prohibited, age requirements, civil and criminal penalties, subject to Sunset Law

HB216 introduced by Rep. Graham
Synopsis: Student Harassment Prevention Act, established, Education Department to develop and implement model policy to prevent student harassment, appropriation

SB35 introduced by Sen. Erwin
Synopsis: Motor vehicles, students, drivers' licenses, suspension of by Public Safety Department for disruptive behavior in classrooms resulting in suspension or expulsion from school, based on recommendation of principal, procedures for hearing, Sec. 16-28-40 am'd.

SB47 introduced by Sen. Barron
Synopsis: Methamphetamines, drugs containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine used to manufacture methamphetamines, provision-prohibiting sale after Oct. 1, 2009, deleted, Sec. 20-2-190 am'd

As the 2009 Legislative Session proceeds we will keep you up to date with updates from the Alabama State House. Stay tuned for a special State of the State blog tonight from the Alabama Capital.