Charter school bill in House, prison reform bill headed to Senate, and kids "Kick Butts"

Mar 18, 2015

Alabama Senator Cam Ward

Lawmakers could give final approval very soon to legislation establishing charter schools in the state of Alabama.

The Alabama House of Representatives will debate a bill that would allow charter schools in the state this afternoon. That bill is expected to spark a filibuster from Democrats and other opposed lawmakers.

Charter schools are public schools that have freedom from the curriculum and regulation requirements placed on other public schools. Alabama is one of eight states without charter school legislation currently in place.

This bill passed the Senate last week in a largely party-line vote.

Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican and a supporter of charter schools, opposes a provision of the bill that would allow the schools to contract certain operations to for-profit companies.

The new measure would allow for ten new charter schools to be founded each year and an unlimited number of current schools to be converted to charter status at local school boards' discretion.

A revised plan to address prison overcrowding has cleared a hurdle in the Alabama Senate.

State Senator Cam Ward of Alabaster hopes to have his prison reform bill before the full Senate by the end of the month.

The plan is supposed to help relieve Alabama’s overcrowded prisons, which are holding almost twice as many prisoners as they’re designed for. The bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee after some tweaking to address concerns by law enforcement.

Local sheriffs were worried that their departments might have to shoulder extra costs associated with the plan. The bill is the result of a list of recommendations by a prison reform task force including more supervision to reduce repeat offenders. The $25 million a year reform package will still leave Alabama’s prisons at sixty five percent over capacity.

Kids in Alabama will join thousands of others across the country as part of “Kick Butts” Day.

The day is encouraging themselves and others to stay tobacco-free.

Niko Phillips is the tobacco prevention and health coordinator with Alabama Public Health. She is partnering with the Theo Ratliff Activity Center in Demopolis and the West Alabama Mental Health.

She says students will participate in the “Hashtag Not-a-Replacement” run.

“The tobacco industry targets our youth as replacement users. The activity is about the youth standing up against the tobacco industry, and saying that they’re not falling for their gimmicks, the flavored cigarettes, the advertisements and they will not be replacement users.”

Students will wear “I am not a replacement” signs on their shirts as runner’s bibs. The race will take place at the Ratliff Center in Demopolis at 4 p.m. this afternoon.

Riding a bike in Alabama may be a bit easier soon, as lawmakers are telling motorists to make sure they share the road with cyclists.

The Alabama Senate approved a bill yesterday to require that motorists leave five feet of space when passing a bicycle

Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa says he has seen cyclists run off the road by drivers who don't understand that cyclists have a right to travel alongside vehicles.

Allen originally sought to require only three feet of space, but senators increased the space requirement. Offenders could be ticketed.

Senators approved the bill in a 16-11 vote. The proposal now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.