- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama lawmakers ended the 2016 legislative session on Wednesday. Here’s a look at some of what passed and failed in Montgomery this year.

____

WHAT WAS APPROVED:

TEACHER RAISE

Legislators approved a 4 percent pay raise for teachers and school employees making less than $75,000 a year. Employees making more than that would get a 2 percent raise. The increase is the first net raise for educators since 2008.

____

GENERAL FUND/MEDICAID CUTS

Lawmakers approved a general fund budget that was $85 million short of the $785 million the Alabama Medicaid Agency said was needed to adequately fund the agency. Republican legislative leaders said they could no longer cut other agencies to support Medicaid. Commissioner Stephanie Azar said the agency will be cutting services without additional funding.

____

MARIJUANA OIL

Gov. Robert Bentley signed into law legislation to decriminalize marijuana oil for people who use it as a treatment for debilitating medical conditions. The law, which will decriminalize possession of cannabidiol produced in other states, will go into effect June 1.

___

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS

Lawmakers approved legislation to ban abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of schools. The bill would close a Huntsville clinic and possibly one other. Lawmakers also passed a “dismemberment” abortion ban to prohibit a second-trimester abortion procedure. Both bills are before the governor.

____

LOCAL MINIMUM WAGE BAN

Lawmakers approved a bill to prohibit cities from setting their own minimum wage. The legislation was quickly approved and signed into law in the wake of a Birmingham City Council vote to raise the hourly minimum wage to $10.10.

__

KRATOM BAN

Lawmakers passed a bill to ban substances commonly known as kratom and vivazen by putting them on the list of Schedule I controlled substances. Law enforcement sought to make the over-the-counter substance illegal saying it is as dangerous as narcotics. Bill opponents argued the plant-derived supplement helps with pain relief and isn’t dangerous. The bill is before the governor.

__

SELF DEFENSE/STAND YOUR GROUND

A pretrial hearing would be required for defendants claiming self-defense so a judge could decide if they should be immune from prosecution. The bill would allow judges to dismiss charges if they find the use of deadly force was justified. Defendants could continue to claim self-defense if the case goes to trial.

__

IMPEACHMENT ARTICLES

Lawmakers obtained 23 signatures, enough to file impeachment articles against the governor in the wake of a scandal involving a former aide. The House Judiciary Committee, under a process established this session, will vet the claims to see if there are possible grounds to remove Bentley. The committee chairman said members are trying to determine how to proceed.

__

MEDICAID MANAGED CARE DELAY

Lawmakers voted to allow the state to delay implementation of a managed care system at the state Medicaid Agency. The approval came after state officials said funding troubles threatened the implementation of regional care organizations next fiscal year.

__

FUNERAL LICENSING

Bentley signed a bill that amends a section of a state law that restricts the sale of caskets, urns and other burial materials to licensed funeral directors. The move came after a lawsuit was filed by a north Alabama woman who runs an environmentally friendly cemetery and was blocked from selling biodegradable burial materials because she isn’t a licensed funeral director.

____

WHAT FAILED:

PAYDAY LENDING REGULATION

The Senate approved a bill to enact a Colorado-style law that would give borrowers up to six months to pay back payday loans. However, a House committee watered-down the bill. It did not get a floor vote in the final two days of the session.

___

PRISON CONSTRUCTION

The governor’s proposed $800 million prison construction bill died on the final night of the session. Senators approved a scaled-back plan, but Bentley did not get House approval before the session ended at midnight.

___

OIL SPILL SETTLEMENT

Lawmakers did not approve the plan to dictate how $1 billion in old spill settlement money will be spent. A feud erupted between coastal lawmakers, who said the region should get a larger share, and lawmakers elsewhere who said the region had been compensated from another pot of settlement funds. A plan to use the money for state debt payment, would have freed up $70 million to help fill a Medicaid funding gap.

___

LOTTERY/GAMBLING

Proposals to establish a state lottery did not get a floor vote in either chamber. While lawmakers began the session saying it was time to look at legalized gambling as a revenue source, the bills stalled under a mix of opposition to gambling, disagreements on how state lottery revenue should be used and a push to include casino gambling.

___

GASOLINE TAX INCREASE

A proposal to raise the state’s gasoline tax to pay for road and bridge construction failed to make it out of the House. The bill sought to raise the gasoline tax 6 cents per gallon to bring Alabama in line with neighboring states. The tax would have been adjusted every four years to equal the average tax in Alabama’s four border states.

___

HISTORIC TAX CREDITS

A state tax break that provided $20 million in tax credits for historic building renovations will expire after a bill to extend the program failed to make it to Senate committee. Some say the three-year program, first approved in 2013, sparked a renaissance in downtown Birmingham and beyond. The Senate president pro tempore and budget chairmen said they were concerned about the program’s cost.

___

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

The Senate president pro tempore shelved a bill that would have changed teacher tenure and evaluations. Several state education associations opposed a provision to link student test scores to teacher evaluations. The bill also sought to extend the time teachers wait to attain tenure from three years to five and provide recruitment bonuses to teachers working in low-income areas.

___

CONFEDERATE MONUMENT PROTECTION

The bill sought to prevent the removal of historic monuments without permission from a new legislative panel. The House did not vote on the Senate-passed bill after a threatened filibuster risked shutting down the House.

___

GAY ADOPTION/RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

The bill would have prevented the state from refusing to license childcare service and adoption providers that decline services that conflict with their religious beliefs. Another bill that would have done away with marriage licenses signed by probate judges also did not win final approval. The bill was pushed after some probate judges stopped issuing marriage licenses to anyone in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively legalizing same-sex marriage.

___

GUNS IN AUTOMOBILES

The bill would let people carry loaded handguns in their vehicles without getting a concealed carry permit.

___

INNOCENCE COMMISISON

The bill would have established a state innocence commission to investigate claims of innocence in death row cases.

___

FANTASY SPORTS REGULATION

A bill to regulate and legalize fantasy sports leagues won the “Shroud Award” in the House of Representatives for the “deadest” bill of the legislative session. The bill was a bid to regulate and legalize fantasy sports.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide