Alabama Legislature

A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit that accuses the Alabama Legislature of racially discriminating against the city of Birmingham by preventing the majority-black city from setting its own minimum wage within the city limits.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a judge's decision to dismiss the lawsuit. The court says "plaintiffs have stated a plausible claim that the Minimum Wage Act had the purpose and effect of depriving Birmingham's black citizens equal economic opportunities on the basis of race."

An Alabama legislator and a lobbyist who once chaired the Alabama Republican Party are scheduled to appear in federal court later today on conspiracy charges.

Alabama Republican Representative Jack D. Williams of Vestavia Hills and lobbyist Marty Connors are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in federal court in Montgomery.

The two were arrested earlier this month, along with G. Ford Gilbert of California, on conspiracy to commit bribery and mail fraud charges.

Alabama lawmakers are stretching out this year's legislative session as tensions and disagreements on Wednesday derailed what they hoped would be their final meeting day.

Legislators abandoned a plan to conclude the session Wednesday as a number of measures had not reached final passage by late evening. They are returning to the State House Thursday morning.

"I think everybody — with clearer heads, at nine in the morning, making reasonable decisions— we'll still end up with a good session," said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.

Patricia Todd
via Twitter

Alabama's first openly gay legislator bid farewell to the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening.

Representative Patricia Todd, a Democrat from Birmingham, will not seek re-election after serving 12 years in the state House.

Todd said on the House floor that her colleagues are "incredible, beautiful people" who all treated her with equality, even though some she thought she "would never get along with or like."

Alabama lawmakers are expected to conclude the legislative session this week.

Legislators plan to adjourn Wednesday after a flurry of last-minute work. Lawmakers will put the final touches on the education budget. They could also vote on an ethics law exemption, juvenile justice reform and other bills.

Alabama lawmakers are advocating to keep daylight saving time year-round and stop changing clocks.

The Alabama Senate approved a resolution Thursday by Republican Sen. Rusty Glover to "forever put an end to the deadly, energy-wasting, productivity-killing, twice-yearly changing of time." It was co-sponsored by 24 of 35 members and now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives for a final vote.

Alabama lawmakers are set to hold public hearings this morning on proposals to allow some teachers to carry concealed handguns into schools.

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the bill by Republican Representative Will Ainsworth this morning. The bill would allow public school teachers and administrators to carry a pistol on school property after undergoing police training.

Ainsworth's bill is one of a number of ideas introduced to make schools safer after the fatal shooting of 17 people at a Florida high school.

State lawmakers have approved an $85 million increase for Alabama’s prison system in an effort to comply with a federal court order to improve mental health care for inmates.

Yesterday, The House of Representatives approved $30 million for the Department of Corrections before September as well as a $55 million boost in next year's general fund budget.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled last year that mental health care in Alabama's prisons was "horrendously inadequate" and ordered the state to improve conditions.

A bill that passed the Alabama Senate yesterday would give payday loan customers longer to repay their loans.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr, would give borrowers 30 days to repay a loan, instead of as little as 10 days in some cases. Orr says that change would give people a much better chance at paying off the loan. He says the change drops the effective yearly interest rate of payday loans from 450 percent APR down to 220 percent.

Alabama state employees would see their first cost-of-living raise in a decade under a bill that passed the state Senate yesterday.

Senators voted nearly unanimously to approve a 3 percent pay raise for state employees. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for debate.

Republican Senator Clyde Chambliss says “This is a long time coming. That being said, we’ve had some difficult waters economically between then and now.”

State employees haven’t had a cost-of-living pay increase since 2008, although there have been merit-based raises issued since then.

AL House, Senate Debating Marijuana Reform

Feb 26, 2018

Alabama lawmakers are considering a bill that would weed out less serious drug offenders.

Democratic Representative Patricia Todd and Republican Senator Dick Brewbaker are sponsoring a bill that would reclassify possession of less than ounce of marijuana as a civil offense. The bill has passed through the Senate and House Judiciary Committees and will now move to the Senate floor.

The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced a bill aimed at getting more oversight for hundreds of faith-based day cares that currently go uninspected by the state.

Committee members voted unanimously yesterday in favor of the bill, described as a compromise between child welfare advocates and church centers. The measure has already passed the House and now moves to the Senate floor for debate.

The Alabama Senate has approved a state general fund budget that gives additional money to the state prison system.

That’s part of an effort to comply with a court order to overhaul the health and mental health care provided to inmates. Last summer, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the prison mental health system was “horrendously inadequate” and that changes had to be made.

A former federal prosecutor is raising concerns that Alabama’s proposed crackdown on the synthetic opioid fentanyl could end up putting low-level users behind bars for years.

Former U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown told the Alabama House Health Committee yesterday that under the proposed law, a person with a trace amount of fentanyl mixed with other drugs could potentially be prosecuted as a major drug trafficker.

A state Senate committee has delayed a vote as to whether a man who was freed after spending nearly three decades on death row is entitled to financial compensation.

State Senator Paul Bussman has proposed legislation that would grant Anthony Ray Hinton $1.5 million in compensation over three years. Hinton was freed in 2015 after spending 28 years on Alabama’s death row for two murders that occurred during separate robberies of fast food restaurants in Birmingham in 1985.

fentanyl dose
Kensington Police Service

The Alabama Senate has voted in favor of tougher penalties for distributing fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

Senators voted unanimously in favor of the bill yesterday. It now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives for debate.

Sen. Cam Ward, the bill's sponsor, said an influx of fentanyl, which is significantly more powerful than heroin, is causing a spike in overdose deaths. Ward says state penalties for fentanyl possession are disproportionately low, and the new bill would make the penalties similar to those for heroin.

Alabama lawmakers are holding a public hearing later today on legislation that would allow state officials to inspect church-affiliated day cares.

The House Children and Senior Advocacy Committee will discuss the proposal to allow state inspections of church-affiliated day cares at least once per year. The centers would also have to submit proof of insurance as well as the names of all workers and their criminal histories to the state.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

In the wake of the first Democratic U.S. Senate victory in Alabama in a quarter-century, state lawmakers are working to get rid of special elections for Senate.

House members voted 67 to 31 yesterday in favor of a bill that would change how Senate vacancies are filled in Alabama. Instead of a special election, the governor would appoint an interim senator who would serve until the next statewide general election – up to two years.

The Alabama Senate has approved a bill that would take the state out of the marriage business. 

The measure Senators approved yesterday would do away with marriage licenses issued by county officials as well as the state requirement for married couples to have a wedding ceremony. Couples would instead sign and submit a form.

The bill comes as a few probate judges in Alabama still refuse to issue marriage licenses to anyone so that they don’t have to issue them to same-sex couples.

Alabama lawmakers return to Montgomery on Tuesday to begin the 2018 legislative session. Here are seven issues to watch throughout the session.

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PRISON SPENDING

Alabama is facing a court order to improve conditions in its prisons after a federal judge last year ruled that mental health care was "horrendously inadequate." State lawmakers this session will deal with the price tag of trying to comply with the ruling against the state.

Federal judges have tossed out lawsuits challenging the new redistricting plan for the state of Alabama, which effectively clears the way for the new districts to be used in next year’s election cycle.

According to the Alabama Political Reporter, a three-judge panel in federal district court in Alabama’s Middle District decided the lawsuits brought by the Alabama Democratic Conference and Alabama’s Legislative Black Caucus were untimely and lacked standing in the specific districts.

A recent report shows Alabama is lagging behind much of the country when it comes to tobacco use.

The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network released its annual report called "How Do You Measure Up?" earlier this month. It finds that although the national adult smoking rate is just over 15 percent, more than one in five adults in Alabama are smokers. Meanwhile, nearly four thousand people in the state are diagnosed with tobacco-related cancer each year.

State prosecutors are urging an appellate court to uphold the ethics conviction of former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.  

The attorney general's office argued this week in a court filing that Hubbard's behavior was in clear violation of the law.

Lawyers for former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard say his ethics conviction is "legally baseless" and prosecutors stretched the bounds of the state law to bring charges against him.

 Hubbard's lawyers filed the appeal Wednesday in the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. They are seeking to overturn his 2016 conviction on ethics charges.  Hubbard was convicted of wrongly accepting investments, employment and financial advice from people with business before the Alabama Legislature.

 Alabama lawmakers have given final approval to new legislative districts.

The Alabama Senate voted 21-8 to approve the redistricting legislation. It now goes to Governor Kay Ivey for her signature.

An Alabama bill requiring some insurers to cover autism treatment for children is set to become law.

The state House of Representatives voted unanimously yesterday morning to go along with Senate changes and send the bill to the governor. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey's press office has indicated she will sign the bill later this morning unless a legal review finds problems.

The mandate applies to employers with 51 or more employees.

Lawmakers in both chambers of Alabama’s legislature have approved an education budget. Now it’s just waiting on Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s signature to go into effect for the upcoming fiscal year.

Lawmakers gave final approval to the $6.4 billion education trust fund early this morning. The budget will keep Alabama’s schools mostly funded at the same levels as this past year, but it does provide for some increases for K-12 schools and other programs.

Alabama State Senator Cam Ward says his prison construction bill is dead for this year’s legislative session.

Ward made the pronouncement yesterday. He says the bill already had heavy opposition in the House and was wounded further by tensions over redistricting and other issues in the final days of the session. Ward says opposed lawmakers had threatened to filibuster the bill.

Republicans are pushing toward a redistricting vote over the objections of House Democrats as Alabama lawmakers burned plenty of midnight oil last night.

The House of Representatives met until nearly 4 a.m. this morning. Representatives will resume debate later this morning after lawmakers get a few hours of sleep.

Republicans have the votes to approve the proposed new legislative district lines. But black lawmakers in the House are once again using delaying tactics to protest the plan. They argue the new districts diminish the influence of black voters statewide.

The Alabama Senate has voted in favor of a bill that would require insurers to cover autism therapy but only until the child turns 18.

Senators voted 33-1 Tuesday to mandate the coverage of applied behavioral analysis, an intensive therapy for those with autism.

The House approved the bill unanimously earlier this session. The bill now heads back to the House, where Representatives will decide whether to go along with Senate changes to the bill.

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