Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Filibuster Ends in House But Senate Shuts Down Once More

One week after the filibuster in the House began, bills are moving again - for now! The House will convene again tomorrow at 4:00 at which time the grocery tax bill will be the first item for discussion on the agenda. If the bill fails to pass, it would be reasonable to expect another filibuster in the House.

Whereas the House is at work late this afternoon, the Senate shut down around 3:45 due to a disagreement over a bill relating to rural telephone service, SB 373. Senator Barron brought an amendment to the bill which he said would prevent companies from raising rates on rural customers. Senator Beason also brought an amendment which he stated would accomplish this. After much discussion, Senator Barron's amendment was not adopted, so he began a filibuster with enough support from fellow senators to keep it going.

With the Senate at a stalemate, a motion to adjourn was made. The Senate will reconvene at 1:00 tomorrow.

Filibuster End in Sight? Not So

Shortly after the House convened at 1:00, a small glimmer of hope that the filibuster would end today was shorted lived.

Representative Knight stated, “I know how important the grocery tax is but also realize we are midway through the session and in order to accomplish what is necessary we can’t stop work. I am working and will continue to work with anyone who would like to come with a compromise for removing sales tax on groceries.”

While Representative Knight was ready to concede, his colleague, Representative Thomas took a different perspective. He pointed out that this is not the first year Representative Knight has worked on the issue of removing the grocery tax, and within two years he believed something could have been fashioned to lift the taxes off of poor people. He declared that as far as he was concerned nothing is so important on this calendar that is paramount to this legislation – with the exception of the budgets which are not ready for consideration at this point.

Responding to Rep. Thomas, Rep. Knight said, “If I shall die trying to take the sales tax off of groceries then so be it”

Representative Thomas blames Republicans for no movement taking place toward a compromise. There was word last week that Republicans were preparing an alternative grocery tax bill; however, no bill has been presented as of today.

And the filibuster continues…

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"You Know You Are Poor If," By Rep. Joseph Mitchell

One might ask what on earth the title of this blog has to do with the Alabama Legislature?

Well, after sitting for hours at the Alabama Statehouse today listening to filibusters in both the House and Senate, Representative Joseph Mitchell enlightened us all this afternoon with his rendition of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Know You’re a Redneck If” and replaced it with his list of “You Know You’re Poor If”. Please note that this is only a partial list from his speech.

“You Know You are Poor If”:

1. “You have to shake the ants off your laundry before taking your clothes in from drying.”

2. “If your supper is the same as what you ate for breakfast.”

3. “If you eat your lunch out of the same bowl and with the same spoon you ate your breakfast with.”

The following was yelled from the House floor adding to Rep. Mitchell’s list after he apologized for wearing sneakers to work this afternoon because he stepped in a puddle outside on his way in.

“You know you are poor if you wear white sneakers with your black suit to the floor of the Alabama House!”

Laughter throughout the House immediately followed. I think some college co-eds can relate to this list as well. Oh, our tax dollars hard at work!

In case you missed earlier blogs this week, the filibuster by the Black Caucus began in the House Tuesday after the bill which would remove the tax on groceries failed to garner enough support to go before the House membership for a vote.

Filibuster Continues in the House Due to Grocery Tax Bill

As soon as the special order calendar was introduced in the House this morning, Representative Buskey (D) expressed his disappointment in not seeing HB 116 on the calendar that would remove the grocery tax. This is the same bill that shut down the House on Tuesday after it failed to receive enough votes to move forward for a vote on the House floor.

It appears that the Black Caucus will continue to filibuster indefinitely in the House today.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Senate Electronic Bingo Bill Carried Over Once Again

The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee carried over SB 471 addressing electronic bingo in the state for the second time. At the star-studded committee meeting two weeks ago where George Jones, Tracy Lawrence, and Darryl Worley were in attendance, the bill was carried over for a vote today; however, due to amendments being prepared to add to this bill, it was carried over yet again until next week.

The bill should be on the committee calendar for next Wednesday, April 1st.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

House Brought to a Stand Still After Grocery Tax Bill Fails

This afternoon, Democrat legislators filibustered in the House after HB 116 on the repeal of the grocery tax failed to be brought for a vote. Things came to a complete stand-still at around 2:30, and the House finally adjourned at 4:54.

The filibuster may well continue on Thursday when the House reconvenes at 10:00 am. Stay tuned to find out.

Senator Barron Commended for Effort to Make Senate Calendar Available

Last week, the Senate was slowed due to the special order calendar being made available prior to session convening. Today, Senator Barron was commended for his work toward making this a possibility. It was brought to the members' attention today that the calendar is made available for prior public viewing in the following states:

Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky – available the night before
South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Texas – day before
Virginia – by 6:00 am and the legislature convenes at 12:00 pm

Debate Begins on Grocery Tax Bill HB 116

The Alabama House began debating a bill presented by Representative Knight that would eliminate the grocery tax, HB 116.

This bill would eliminate the tax on groceries; however, to make up the foregone dollars from doing away with this tax, the deduction for federal income taxes paid on the state income tax return would be eliminated for certain citizens. According to Representative Knight, a revised version of this bill would allow married couples with an adjusted gross income of $125,000 or less as well as individuals with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less to still be able to deduct federal income tax dollars paid from their state income tax return. Adjusted gross income is the income remaining after all deductions and adjustments are made to gross income for the tax year.

While presenting his bill, Representative Knight stated that he does not know of another issue that is as important as removing the sales tax on groceries - he is concerned about the families in Alabama that are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. Further, he told members that he has tried to work across party lines with this bill to address issues that are of concern.

Opponents of the bill led by Representative Mike Hubbard ( R ) of Lee County feel that many middle-class, small business owners (particularly LLC’s and LLP’s) will be adversely affected by this bill as it would serve as an income tax increase to them. He said that Republicans are not opposed to eliminating the grocery tax, but are opposed to the methods taken in this particular bill to make up the dollars lost by eliminating the grocery tax. In removing the federal income tax deduction for some, you are essentially taxing a tax by causing filers to pay state tax on the amount of tax they are paying to the federal government. In addition, Rep. Hubbard went on to say that during a time when the economy is in decline and many individuals are losing jobs, now is not the time to increase taxes on small business owners who are working to provide jobs to citizens of Alabama.

If passed, the bill would go for a vote before the citizens of Alabama, but, currently, proponents of the bill do not have enough votes in the House for the bill to be presented for a vote. The chamber is divided down party lines with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing - Democrats lacked three votes to bring the measure forward, with one of their members, Rep. Laird, voting against it.

Republican Rep. DeMarco of Jefferson and Shelby counties expects to have an alternative bill ready soon, and HB 116 may come back for consideration later this afternoon with some changes.

Rep. James Thomas (D) Angry Over Incident at White Hall Last Week

Shortly after the House convened this afternoon at 1:00 pm, Rep. James Thomas (D) of Wilcox, Lowndes, Dallas, and Autauga counties was recognized and given time to speak on the House floor during which he angrily expressed his resentment for the raid on White Hall Casino last week. He stated that officers, under the authority of the Governors Gambling Task Force, went into the establishment with weapons drawn on unarmed, innocent workers. During the raid machines were confiscated as well as cash.

Representative Thomas said that all of this took place over a legal discrepancy, not a criminal offense, and innocent people could have been hurt over a legal disagreement. “No court has ruled that what White Hall is doing is criminal and they have a right to exist until such time as the court says that what they are doing is wrong. These officers went in on law abiding, tax paying citizens.” He further said that he “resents to hell that the Governor allowed my people to be treated like that…I could not stand still as a representative of my people if I did not let the public know how I feel.”

Representative Thomas intends to take this matter to the US Attorney General in Washington D.C.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Senate Commerce, Transportation, and Utilities Committee Meeting

Today the Commerce, Transportation, and Utilities Committee of the State Senate passed HB 282 sponsored by Representative Mac Gipson. This legislation encompasses issues related to driver’s licenses and driver training programs, sets age requirements for licensed drivers with a student, age requirements for licensed drivers accompanying a driver with a learner’s permit, places restrictions on persons 17 years of age with a regular drivers license, and creates a three-stage graduated licensing requirement.

According to the bill, the following are the three stages for the graduated license: stage 1 – learner’s permit. Stage 2 – a regular driver’s license with restrictions based on age and date of issuance. Stage 3 – an unrestricted driver’s license.

HB 282 now awaits action by the Senate.

An Entertaining End to the 12th Legislative Day in the House

Some comedic relief came to the House this afternoon as representatives attempted to garner enough votes to adjourn for spring break. After a couple of failed attempts to adjourn had already taken place, Representative Guin made yet another motion to adjourn and stated that he would continue to make motions after every bill.

A little over-confident that they would have enough votes to head home, a few legislators began walking toward the door when a tied vote came in. Yells and laughter filled the room and they returned to their seats. HB 559 was then passed, and Representative Guin returned to the podium to make his third attempt to adjourn. This time he was successful by 2 votes.

The House of Representatives observe spring break next week and will return to work on Tuesday, March 24th.

Filibustering in the House Continues Into the Afternoon

The twelfth legislative day in the Alabama House began as a productive day this morning while legislators voted on resolutions and passed the first item on the agenda, Officer Houts Act, which had been delayed from Tuesday for clarification.

The bill was amended to zero in on the type of officer that can actually make an arrest of an individual eluding an officer. It also protects citizens from being charged with eluding an officer while trying to find a safe place to pull over so long as they perform some type of activity (such as slowing down or turning hazard lights on) to alert the officer that they are aware of him / her.

Things slowed to a virtual stand-still after the second bill, HB 175, relating to alcoholic beverages was introduced. Opponents of the bill as well as others opposed to a bill further down the calendar began filibustering. Representative Rogers said that he was going to filibuster until Representative McClendon agreed to carry over his bill, HB 152, to another day. Shortly thereafter, Representative Laird made a motion to adjourn since the legislature will be on spring break next week. The motion failed by a vote of 18 yea’s and 49 no’s.

The filibuster continued after the lunch break and another failed attempt was made to adjourn for spring break by Representative Bridges.

At 2:00 the filibuster broke and HB 175 passed; however, activity has slowed as representatives continue to take advantage of the full time allowed for debate.

Senate Republicans Continue to Filibuster

Filibustering continues in the Alabama Senate. Senator Rusty Glover’s SB15 pertaining to eluding a police officer is up for a vote currently. For the past hour and a half the senate republicans have been filibustering on Senator Glover’s bill but not because of the piece of legislation rather because of the lack of the rules chairman, Senator Lowell Barron, to provide the senate republican’s with the special order calendar one day before the following legislative day.

According to Senator Scott Beason (R), this filibuster is about good government, transparency, honesty and openness in the senate for the people of Alabama. Senator Beason noted that not only senators, but the people of the state should know what will be debated in the senate ahead of time. Receiving the special order calendar ahead of time would give senators time to do research on legislation so they will know exactly what a piece of legislation is going to do and how it will affect the state.

Filibustering in the Senate this 12th Legislative Day

This morning the Alabama Senate convened at 10:00 am CST and opened by discussing the murders in South Alabama. Senator Smith introduced Congressman Bobby Bright who flew home from Washington to help after the events of Tuesday afternoon. Congressman Bright commended the law enforcement, the community and Governor Riley for their help in the wake of this tragic incident.

After committee reports and introductions of bills, Senator Barron presented his resolution from the Rules committee for the Special Order calendar. Upon the introduction Senator Jabo Waggoner rose to the mic to discuss the fact that Senator Barron did not present this calendar to the minority 24 hours before the following legislative day as previously request on the 11th legislative day.

Senator Beason also rose to agree with Senator Waggoner. Beason further stated that as a legislator it is unwise not to receive the calendar ahead of time because it does allow legislators the appropriate time to do their homework on the bills.

It appears that the minority party, republicans, is looking to filibuster on the Senate floor this afternoon. Currently Senator Marsh is filibustering SB383 introduced by Senator Little however, he is speaking in regards to the timeliness of receiving the special order calendar further conveying what Senators Waggoner and Beason have already addressed.

Senator Marsh noted that it’s the people of the state that deserve as much or more than the legislators to know what the senate is dealing with so they have the opportunity to come attend the meetings. According to Marsh this issue gives citizens of Alabama no opportunity to come to Montgomery and have a voice in government.

The Senate recessed until 1:00 in the midst of Senator Marsh taking his hour to speak on SB383.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Star-Studded Committee Meetings in both the Alabama Senate and House

It is not everyday that you sit down in a committee meeting at the Alabama Statehouse only to have country music legend George Jones take the seat behind you accompanied by his wife, see Darryl Worley standing in the back of the room, and then hear Tracy Lawrence sing the chorus to “Paint Me a Birmingham” live at the request of the committee chair, but that is exactly what happened during the House Tourism and Travel Committee meeting this afternoon.

What would bring such an assortment of country music stars to the statehouse for a committee meeting? Both the House and Senate committees on tourism addressed bills today relating to electronic bingo in the state of Alabama (HB676, SB470, SB471), and the Country Crossings development in Houston County which these personalities are involved with is slated to feature electronic bingo machines as a portion of the entertainment it will provide.

This has been a controversial and hot topic of discussion recently, and the issue at hand, electronic bingo, can easily become convoluted to appear as a disagreement over whether or not Country Crossings should come to fruition. That is not the case. The developers of Country Crossings stated during the committee meetings today that because of last year’s real estate debacle and current conditions in the economy they are unable to borrow and / or find enough investment dollars to cover the costs that will be incurred up-front to proceed with the project. Mr. Ronnie Gilley told the committee today that an operation such as Country Crossings usually operates in the red for the first 3 – 7 years, and they cannot afford to sustain losses for such a long period of time; however, by adding the electronic bingo element to the project, those dollars can be made up in a shorter period of time acting as an “economic catalyst”, and thereby, allowing them to continue as planned.

Virtually the same discussion took place in both the House and Senate meetings. Opponents of electronic bingo take the position that it is illegal according to a 2004 ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court in addition to an interpretation of Section 65 of the Code of Alabama, and bills HB 676 and SB 471 would seek to legalize what is currently illegal.

Proponents of these bills argue that by enacting this legislation, the state will benefit financially from the tax dollars coming from these entities, be able to control the spread of gaming by limiting electronic bingo to only nine venues throughout the state, and will establish a gaming commission to oversee licensing and regulation of the operations. It also provides for an initial infrastructure prerequisite of $100 million that any existing or future development must meet before electronic bingo would be permitted on the premises.

The opposition states that these criteria, in essence, would create a monopoly on gaming in the state of Alabama benefiting only a few individuals who are already invested here as SB471 also includes a profit-sharing clause.

An alternative bingo bill presented by Senator Erwin, SB 470, which would prohibit the use of an electronic device to engage in gambling activity and provide that no current or subsequent constitutional amendment may authorize such electronic device was sent back to sub-committee for review. SB 471 did not make it out of committee either and is scheduled to be voted on at the next committee meeting. HB 676 was passed by the committee.

If any version of these bingo bills is passed, it will go before the people of Alabama for a vote in the form of a constitutional amendment.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Legislative Day 11-Inside the Alabama House of Representatives

HB 67 sponsored by Representative DeMarco passed the Alabama House this afternoon. This bill which was carried over from last Thursday is relating to commercial motor vehicles and trucks carrying metal coils passed the Alabama House. It invokes criminal penalties for failure to comply with federal regulations and for violations where metal coils fall off onto public roads.

HB 68 sponsored by Representative Collier was carried over until Thursday, March 12, 2009. This bill is also referred to as Officer Keith E. Houts Act. Representative Collier introduced this bill last year and brought it for consideration once again this year.

The bill seeks to establish criminal status and invoke penalties for individuals eluding law enforcement officers. There was some confusion on the version of the bill to actually be considered for a vote on the floor; so it was carried over for clarification by the Rules Committee and will be the first bill brought on the special order calendar for Thursday.

Representative John Rogers, Jr. of Jefferson County brought discussion relating to identifying and distinguishing law enforcement officers from imitators at night and expressed concern over citizens’ safety and potentially facing criminal charges for taking time to determine a vehicle’s identity and not immediately stopping. Additional changes may be made to include a provision for instances such as this.

Alabama Senate passes bill that would raise the high school drop out age to 17 with parental consent

Senate Bill 334 passed the Alabama Senate this afternoon. This bill would raise the drop out age to 17 and require parental consent. If the bill passes, a student could no longer drop out at 16 years of age.

Senator Barron rose to the microphone and noted that he thinks this is a bad piece of legislation, because when a 16 year old gets to the age where they no longer want to attend school trying to make them stay in the school would be difficult. Barron believes the students would become disruptive in the class room. Barron said he understands what Senator Orr is trying to do, but notes that it would have a bad impact on those students who actually want to be in school.

Senator Orr responded to concerns about disruptive students by saying that the school systems have a system to expel disruptive students who are in the class room. Another alternative that some of our systems have is to send the students to an alternative school.

Senator Orr said the up side of raising the age, is if the law requires a child to stay in school until age 17 that child will be closer to graduation and closer to their goal. Alabama is one of the few states that has a 16 year drop out age. Orr noted that some states have an age 18 year drop out age. According to Orr the statistics are astounding with regard to the economic cost to every child that does not receive a diploma, stating that close to 85% of those in our Alabama prisons are high school drop outs.

Prior to final passage, Senator Beason said that he agrees with Senator Barron, which obviously frustrated Senator Orr. Beason said that he doesn’t think the law should force people to stay in school when they clearly do not want to be there. Senator Beason further noted that students will drop out mentally and will cause problems in the classroom for the thirty other students who actually want to be there.

After debate SB334 passed the Alabama Senate with a vote of 19 yeas to 4 nays.

Debate over Senate Special Order Calendar

The Alabama Senate convened at 2:00 pm CST this afternoon. Upon convening tensions began to rise quickly. Upon Senator Lowell Barron (D) introducing the Special Order Calendar from the Rule Committee, Senator Jabo Waggoner (R) approached the podium to discuss his concerns and the timeliness of receiving the Senate special order calendar.

Senator Jabo Waggoner spoke to Senator Barron and the entire body conveying that the minority (Republicans) does not receive the special order calendar until convening each day. Senator Waggoner said that the minority party does not have time to review the bills and prepare for discussion and debate.

Speaking on behalf of the minority, Senator Waggoner noted that the minority requests that the Rules Committee provides them with the Special Order Calendar at least 24 hours-one legislative day prior to the legislative day. Senator Waggoner said the minority thinks its only fair and would give the minority the same opportunity as the majority (Democrats) to discuss and debate on that legislative day.

Senator Waggoner warned that if the minority cannot make that agreement on Thursday they are going to give the minority ample time to read and discuss the bills because the minority will stall the senate until the minority has time to read and discuss the bills. Senator Waggoner asks that the minority have the same advantage as the majority does.

Lt. Governor Folsom stepped in after Senator Author Orr threatened to use his fifteen minutes while he colleagues had a chance to review the bills on the special order. Lt. Governor Folsom said he would not like to see this turn into a major problem when its not. He feels that everyone is getting a long, and would like to continue that way.

Following Lt. Governor Folsom, Senator Barron, Chairman of the Rules Committee which produces the Special Order Calendar, said he is surprised that the minority did not come forward and discuss this with him earlier. He said he has been in the Senate a long time and has never been a part of this process were the rules committee had a more open and fair process of handling the special order calendar.
Senator Barron said he gave the rules calendar to Senator Waggoner about 10:30 am this morning and that he doesn’t want to hear anymore of this harping. Barron noted that he has been fair and said the minority is getting under his skin.

Addressing Senator Waggoner’s request for the special order calendar 24 hours-one legislative day before the legislative day, Senator Barron said that no chairman has ever passed out a rules calendar any earlier than the morning of the legislative day. Barron said the Senate is not the House (The House receives their calendar no later than 24 hours before the following legislative day) and they are not going to operate like the House.

As for the threats by the minority party, Senator Barron replied saying that they can shut down the Senate until the cows come home but as for him, he is going to keep coming with good non controversial bills without any surprises. In closing Senator Barron said that if the minority really cared about the calendar that they should have attended the rules committee meeting this afternoon at 1:30 pm which is open to anyone to attend.

Committee Report-Senate-Governmental Affairs

Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Meeting

This morning the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Alabama State Senate held a meeting to discuss among other agenda items Senate Bill 298 sponsored by Senator Lowell Barron. The bill as amended by Senator Barron deals with the length of time the Ethics Commission has to launch and complete an investigation. SB 298 stipulates that the commission has 30 days from the date a complaint is filed to begin an investigation and six months to complete the investigation. If the commission is unable to finalize an investigation within the specified six month period and more time is needed, the director of the Ethics Commission may petition to the Montgomery Circuit Court Judge who can allow up to an additional six months.

Senator Barron stated that currently there is no time frame for the Ethics Commission to operate under when conducting an investigation, and this bill would expedite the process and help bring about a more timely conclusion. He further elaborated that nothing in this bill addresses the prosecution of an ethical violation but rather deals with the amount of time allowed for the determination of probable violations.

The Director of the Ethics Commission, James Sumner, Jr., was also present at the committee meeting and expressed concerns over the proposed ethics legislation. Mr. Sumner explained that currently the commission has three investigators on staff and that proper investigation of complicated matters can easily go beyond six months. He stated that the commission received 223 complaints in the last year alone. Also of concern to Mr. Sumner was the Ethics Commission being required to petition a circuit judge to request additional time to complete an investigation and felt that this bill “rips the heart and soul out of the Ethics Act.”

After nearly an hour of discussion, debate was closed on SB 298 with Senator Barron’s amendment until next week’s committee meeting.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

HB448 Passed the Alabama House

Following the "Free the Hops" passage in the House on Tuesday, the Alabama House continued and passed a bill this morning that would raise the alcohol content in table wine from 14.9 percent to 16.5. Representative Canfield (R) explained that this bill was initiated after an international wine meeting that occurred around a year ago where the topic was the rising alcohol content of wines being produced around the word. As it is happening, grapes are remaining longer on the vine than they used to which increases the sugar in the grapes and increases the alcohol content. This would affect zinfandels, cabernets, etc.

With little debate but a number of cheers from the full body HB 448 passed the Alabama House with a vote of 48 yeas 32 nays and 8 abstentions.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Senate Republicans block SB279

The second bill on the senate’s special order calendar was SB279 which would provide for a ten year road and bridge construction program to be funded with withdrawals from the Alabama Trust Fund.

If enacted, beginning January 1, 2010 and continuing through January 1, 2019 the board of trustees of the Alabama Trust Fund would transfer $100,000,000.00 from the Alabama Trust Fund annually to be distributed as provided by the bill. Seventy-Five percent of the annual transfer would be appropriated by the legislature to the Alabama Department of Transportation for state highways, roads, and bridges and other transportation purposes to be further allocated. At least five million of this amount would be used in each congressional district in the state.

SB279 did not pass with a vote of 19 yeas and 11 nays. SB279 would need to receive at least 21 yeas to pass the Alabama Senate. Senator Marsh (R) said he will work with Senator Barron (D) on this bill, encouraging him that there is still enough time left in the legislative session to get this bill passed.

Senate Bill 367 passes the Full Senate

Senate Bill 367-- pertaining to mortgage financing program and mortgage guarantee fund, established, Housing Finance Authority to administer program and State Treasurer's Office to administer fund, appropriation from Alabama Capital Improvement Trust Fund, Home Buyers Initiative Act--passed the Alabama Senate.

Senator Barron said this bill is great for the state of Alabama and shows that the members of the Alabama Senate are not just going to wait around on the federal government to bail them out. Barron hopes this bill will create jobs and industry in Alabama for many years to come.

With a vote of 28 yeas and 1 abstention SB367 passed the Alabama Senate.

HB373 “Free the Hops” passed the Alabama House of Representatives

HB373 “Free the Hops” would further define the term “beer” for ABC licensing purposes, to include malt beverages with higher alcohol content (13.9% increase of alcohol content).

First to take his fifteen minutes was Representative Bridges. Bridges said he thinks this bill would encourage more drinking, help people get intoxicated quicker and have less quality of life just because Alabama is trying to keep up with other states. Following Representative Bridges were three other members. Representative Holmes spoke against the bill stating that Alabama should focus on other things that affect the citizens of Alabama rather than the content of alcohol in gourmet beer.

With a vote of 49 to 37 House Bill 373 passed the Alabama House of Representatives.

Black Caucus Filibuster in the Alabama House

While the Alabama Senate took up sunset bills beginning at 2:00 pm CST, the Alabama House continued on their Special Order Calendar. Following some slight controversy over HB183 pertaining to methamphetamines, House Bill 146 regarding DNA testing of all persons arrested for a felony offense, fees, appropriation from DNA Database Fund to Forensic Sciences Department received a short filibuster from the House Black Caucus. HB146 passed after a thirty minute debate with 98 yeas, 1 nay from Representative Mitchell and 1 abstention from Representative Holmes.

HB373 “Free the Hops” has just come up on the House Floor.

Day 9 from the Alabama House

The Alabama House of Representatives convened at 1:00 pm CST. Following committee reports the Alabama House passed some uncontested bills then moved to their consent and special order calendar.

House Bill 183 by Representative McDaniel pertaining to methamphetamines--drugs containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine used to manufacture methamphetamines provisions prohibiting sales after October 1, 2009 deleted—caused the first stir in the House on the 9th legislative day.

Representative Alvin Holmes challenged Representative McDaniel about his intentions for this bill. Holmes noted that meth affects more whites in Alabama than blacks. Holmes noted that McDaniel has never sponsored a bill that would keep cocaine off of the streets. Representative Holmes urged Representative McDaniel to focus on all drug problems in the state rather than just those that affect a higher percentage of whites.

Further down the House Special Order Calendar today is a bill that has gained much popularity over the past year, HB373 “Free the Hops” pertaining to alcoholic beverages, beer, and definition to include malt beverages with higher alcohol content. Stay tuned for Free the Hops updates.

Inside the Alabama State House

The Alabama Senate following committee reports and bill introductions moved to their special order calendar proposed by the Rules Committee.

The Senate Special Order consisted of two bills sponsored by Senator Lowell Barron, SB367 and SB279. The first bill, according to Barron, is a stimulus package for the state that is tied to homes and homebuilders.

Senator Barron addressed the full senate stating that the concept for senate bill 367originated a couple of months ago. Barron said he began trying to discuss with various groups things that the legislature could do to stimulate jobs and boost the economy.

This bill would set aside $6,000,000.00 from the Capitol Improvement Fund, which was passed to allow the Governor to build industry. SB367 creates a “who will back the mortgages” in case one company is bad and goes under. This would guarantee up to 40% of the mortgage and give additional assurance to the mortgage holder. The Alabama Housing Finance Authority would administer the program and service the mortgage loans originated under the program.

The Alabama Housing Finance Authority created in 1980 has over 17,000 homes in their portfolio, their foreclose rate on the loans financed is .08% compared to Alabama’s 1% and the national foreclosure rate of 3.5%. Senator Barron says that this kind of management would finance more than seven thousand new or existing homes in Alabama.
The Alabama Senate is currently taking up Sunset Bills. 2:00 pm CST.