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.