Daily News Digest – May 18, 2021

Daily News Digest – May 18, 2021

Good morning!

Here’s your Daily News for Tuesday, May 18.

 

 

1. Sine die: What passed

 

As expected, it was a late night at the State House for the Alabama Legislature’s last day of the 2021 Regular Session.
It has been a memorable session partly because lawmakers took on almost two years worth of legislation having curtailed last year’s session due to the pandemic.
Here’s our rundown of what passed on the final day…

General Fund

  • The state’s General Fund budget received final passage Monday, as lawmakers sent a record-setting $2.4 billion budget to Gov. Kay Ivey for her approval.
  • House Budget Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, took to the House floor to explain that changes made in the conference committee added about $900,000 from what the Senate passed.
  • The House and Senate voted unanimously on Monday to agree with the changes made in the conference committee.
  • The approved 2022 fiscal year budget is $90.6 million larger than the current year’s budget and is about $26.5 million more than what Ivey recommended in February.
  • Read more from Caroline Beck HERE.

Medical Marijuana

  • Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday signed Senate Bill 46, which outlines the usage of medical marijuana along with its regulation and distribution.
  • “Signing SB46 is an important first step,” Ivey said in a written statement. “I would like to again thank Sen. Tim Melson and Rep. Mike Ball for their hard work over the last few years and their willingness to address the legitimate concerns.
  • The law goes into effect immediately. It allows people with qualifying medical conditions to purchase medical marijuana with the recommendation of a doctor. Conditions include cancer, a terminal illness, depression, epilepsy, panic disorder and chronic pain. Allowable forms of marijuana include pills, skin patches and creams but not smoking or vaping products.
  • However, Melson said he expects it to be another 12-15 months before there will be cannabis products in the state.
  • Read more from Mary Sell HERE.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

  • Lawmakers passed a bill changing how law enforcement can seize and keep property from low-level drug offenders.
  • The House approved the bill unanimously and sent it back to the Senate with some minor changes which were also agreed upon unanimously. The bill now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey.
  • The bill is a compromise with law enforcement after several years of failed attempts by Sen. Arthur Orr and advocacy groups to change the law they said disproportionately hurts low-income individuals and minorities.
  • Advocates say the bill is a start, but doesn’t go far enough.
  • Read more from Mary Sell and Caroline Beck HERE.

Literacy Act delay

  • Late into the night the House gave final approval to a bill to delay the student holdback provision under the 2019 Literacy Act.
  • Senate Bill 92 from Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, delays from spring 2022 to spring 2024 the requirement that third-grade students not proficient in reading repeat the grade.
  • Rep. Barbra Drummond, D-Mobile, sponsored the bill in the House and said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a delay in some students’ education and more time is needed before the retention piece of the act goes into effect.
  • “It’s not fair to our children when they have not gotten schooling for 14 months and to be tested and expected to read on their level,” Drummond said. “Let’s give them a chance catch up.”
  • The bill passed with a vote of 68-27 and it now goes to the governor for approval. The bill got bi-partisan support and the Republican-led chamber cut short debate on the bill with a vote of 60-36.
  • Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, who sponsored the Literacy Act legislation in 2019, voted against the bill saying lawmakers should wait until data shows that the holdback provision needs to be delayed.
  • “We’re going to have good data in just a month and then see where we are, see what we need to do, we can make good decisions based on data and how we need to best address the reading issues of students,” Collins said.
  • Read more from Caroline Beck HERE.

Curbside voting

  • The Alabama Senate on Monday gave final approval to legislation to put into law a ban on curbside voting in the state. The Alabama Secretary of State has already disallowed drive-up ballot drop offs.
  • “It makes it abundantly clear (curbside voting is not allowed),” Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, said on the Senate floor about House Bill 285. “… The goal is to secure ballot custody.”
  • Democrats argued the state should be expanding voting access and allow elderly and disabled voters to cast ballots without having to enter a precinct.
  • Read more from Mary Sell HERE.

Yoga

  • Lawmakers approved legislation to lift the state’s decades-old ban on yoga in public schools even though the bill’s sponsor said lawmakers added language he thought was foolish and unneeded.
  • The House of Representatives voted 75-14 to approve Senate changes to the bill. It now goes to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. Democratic Rep. Jeremy Gray, the bill’s sponsor, is attempting to allow public schools to offer yoga and override a 1993 ban on yoga that was approved by the state school board under pressure by conservative groups.
  • Read more from Kim Chandler HERE.

‘Vaccine passports’

  • A bill that would prohibit the issuance of state or local government “vaccine passports” passed its final vote on Monday.
  • Senate Bill 267 from Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, says state and local governments “may not require an individual to receive an immunization or present documentation of an immunization as a condition for receiving any government benefit or service or for entry into a government building…”
  • The final vote on the bill in the House was 76-16 and fell along party lines. The Senate then concurred with the changes unanimously with no discussion.
  • Read more from Caroline Beck HERE.

Citations vs arrests

  • Lawmakers moved to allow city police officers to issue citations for some misdemeanor offenses rather than taking offenders into custody. Senate Bill 59 now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey.
  • Supporters say it will save officers hours of time they now spend arresting and booking into jail non-violent offenders, time they could better spend on patrol.
  • The bill from Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, requires cities to pass ordinances specifying what offenses could get court summonses rather than immediate arrests. Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, carried the bill in the House.
  • Read more from Mary Sell HERE.

Sexual assault survivor ‘bill of rights’

  • The Senate on Monday gave final passage to House Bill 137 to create a sexual assault survivor “bill of rights” and set a requirement for how long law enforcement must preserve evidence from sexual assault cases.
  • “Sexual assault is a traumatic and life-changing experience, and its survivors often have to deal with interminable delays, unanswered questions, and feelings of being lost in the legal system as their cases are being resolved,” sponsor Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollinger’s Island, said in a written statement. “With passage of this legislation, survivors of assault will be afforded the respect, attention, and timely information that they deserve.”
  • The bill now goes to the governor.
  • Read more from Caroline Beck HERE.

COVID restaurant relief

  • And in its final move of the 2021 session, the Alabama Legislature Monday ensured that restaurant owners don’t have to pay state income taxes on the newest round of COVID-19 federal relief.
  • Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, earlier in the session sponsored a bill to clarify tax code to ensure restaurant grants in the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan don’t raise the state income tax liability for owners. It also would have untaxed the plan’s enhanced child tax credit, earned income tax credit and child and dependent care tax credit.
  • But that bill didn’t move because legislative leaders said it could wait until a special session later this year, or even early in the 2022 session.
  • Roberts instead got the restaurant language on the existing HB227 to allow for an income tax credit for the construction of storm shelters.
  • Roberts said Alabama restaurants are expected to receive about $426 million in grants and if lawmakers didn’t act, the businesses would be taxed on that money.
  • Read more from Mary Sell HERE.

 

 

2. Sine Die: What failed

 

Plenty of legislation was left on the cutting room floor Monday night. Here are the highlights of what died in the session.

Emergency orders

  • A bill that would have shortened state of emergency orders and given the Legislature a say in extending them died Monday, the final day of the legislative session.
  • A vote to reconsider debate on the bill failed with a final vote of 41-44 with 13 abstentions. It needed a three fifths majority to pass. The vote was taken with just minutes to spare before the procedural vote was taken off after the Senate approved the General Fund budget, otherwise it might have had a chance to pass.
  • Senate Bill 97 from Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, would have limited state of emergency orders, like those issued since last spring in response to the Coronavirus, to 45 days and with a possible 120 day extension. But any extension after that would have had to be approved by a joint resolution from the Legislature.
  • Read more from Caroline Beck HERE.

Transgender treatment

  • The session adjourned without a House vote on a controversial measure to outlaw the use of puberty-blockers or hormones to help transgender minors with their transition. The Alabama Senate approved the bill in March, but it did not get a vote in the House. Opponents, including parents and trans youth, say such measures interfere with medical decisions and target trans individuals for the sake of politics. Sponsors counter that they are trying to protect children from decisions that should wait until adulthood. Arkansas earlier this year became the first state to enact such a measure.

Gun legislation

  • The session also closed without a House vote on legislation to make it a crime for local police officers to enforce any new federal gun restrictions. The bill is part of a wave of GOP nullification proposals to try to resist any new gun control measures. Senators voted 21-5 for the bill by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa, but it did not get a vote in the House.
Read more about what passed and what failed from Kim Chandler HERE.

 

 

3. Gambling dies again

  • Alabama lawmakers on Monday ended the 2021 legislative session without a vote on a gambling bill, and Gov. Kay Ivey indicated she will only call a special session on the issue if lawmakers can reach an agreement — something they have been unable to do for decades.
  • The session wound down Monday night without a House vote on the Senate-passed lottery and casino bill. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said House leaders opted not to bring the bill up for debate on the busy final legislative day after negotiations fell apart earlier this month.
  • “I’m quite disappointed,” said Republican Sen. Jim McClendon, who sponsored the bill. He said the Senate worked hard to get a compromise, only to see the bill fall apart in the House. “It was a lot of work, but so much for that this session,” McClendon said.
  • Alabamians last voted on the issue of gambling in 1999 when voters rejected then-Gov. Don Siegelman’s proposed lottery to fund education. Over the next two decades lawmakers made multiple attempts to pass a gambling bill but the efforts failed amid battles and turf wars over casino gambling.
  • A spokeswoman for Ivey said the governor has no plans to call a special session at this time and would only consider it if lawmakers reached an agreement.
  • “As she has said, we would need a plan and an agreement on that plan for her to consider that,” Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola said.
  • Read more from Kim Chandler HERE.

 

 

4. Judge dismisses suit seeking to block Alabama prison leases

  • A judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to lease prisons that would be owned by private companies and operated by the state.
  • Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin granted the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit after rejecting plaintiffs’ claims that the leases are unconstitutional. Among other grounds, the lawsuit contended the leases violate state law because the massive $3 billion expenditure was not approved by the Alabama Legislature and is an unconstitutional debt.
  • “Specifically, this Court finds that the Leases do not constitute a debt to the state, and therefore are not unconstitutional,” Griffin wrote.
  • A spokeswoman for Ivey praised the decision and said the governor is committed to getting the facilities built.
  • “Today’s ruling confirms what we knew all along – this was a frivolous lawsuit with political motivations. The governor continues to pursue solutions to this decades-old problem, and she remains focused on ensuring these facilities are built,” Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola said.
  • Read more from Kim Chandler HERE.

 

 

5. Supreme Court to take up major abortion case

  • The Supreme Court agreed Monday to a showdown over abortion in a case that could dramatically alter nearly 50 years of rulings on abortion rights.
  • The court is taking on a case about whether states can ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb. Specifically, it will look into a Mississippi law that bans abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.
  • The court now has a 6-3 conservative majority, with three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.
  • Mississippi’s ban had been blocked by lower courts as inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent that protects a woman’s right to obtain an abortion before the fetus can survive outside her womb.
  • The case probably will be argued in the fall, with a decision likely in the spring of 2022 during the campaign for congressional midterm elections.
  • Read more HERE.

 

 

Headlines

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – In last move of session, Legislature removes state income tax on restaurants’ federal rescue money
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – ‘Vaccine passports’ ban passes final vote
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Bill to allow citations instead of arrests goes to Ivey
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Literacy Act requirement delay passes final vote
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Curbside voting ban goes to governor
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Sexual assault survivor ‘bill of rights’ goes to governor
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Bill to change governor’s control state of emergency orders dies
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama Legislature: What passed and failed on the last day
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Gambling bill dies as Alabama legislative session ends
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama lawmakers OK legislation to lift yoga ban in schools
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Judge dismisses suit seeking to block Alabama prison leases
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Supreme Court to take up major abortion rights challenge
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – About 88% of children qualify for monthly payments in July
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Israel says Gaza tunnels destroyed in heavy airstrikes
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Afghans who helped the US now fear being left behind
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – CDC director says mask turnaround based solely on science
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Pipeline operator says “normal operations” have resumed
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – May 17, 2021
AL.COM – Bills on gambling, transgender treatments for minors dead as session comes to end
AL.COM – Alabama lawmakers pass bill requiring care for babies born alive after attempted abortions
AL.COM – Huntsville tech company land nearly $2 billion in Army contracts
AL.COM – Verdict likely weeks away as Bellefonte trial begins in Huntsville
AL.COM – Joel Greenberg pleads guilty to child sex trafficking: What does that mean for Matt Gaetz?
AL.COM – 15 Alabama counties expected to grow the most by 2040
AL.COM – Jefferson County Judge Nakita Blocton off bench, accused of forcing staff to take diet pills, mental instability
Montgomery Advertiser – Wetumpka is still improving after Home Town Takeover
Montgomery Advertiser – Bill targeting treatments for transgender youth dies in Alabama Legislature
Montgomery Advertiser – Wetumpka Boutique owner recalls working with Home Town Takeover
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Local business owner reacts to recent shootings in Five Points South
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Gas prices still high, when will they come down?
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Nurses’ union disappointed in CDC’s mask ruling that vaccinated people can stop wearing masks
Tuscaloosa News – With one seat still unfilled, Tuscaloosa elected leaders take oaths of office
Tuscaloosa News – Gov. Kay Ivey signs Alabama medical marijuana law
Tuscaloosa News – Alabama House agrees to ban on ‘vaccine passports’
Decatur Daily – American Legion postpones George Mills birthday lunch
Decatur Daily – Street artist to paint tribute to Brittany Howard in Athens on Friday
Decatur Daily – Some aren’t ready to give up masks despite new CDC guidance
Times Daily – Knights of Columbus taking orders for Memorial Day fundraiser
YellowHammer News – Alabama Democrats speak against resolution supporting Israel, condemning Hamas
YellowHammer News – Senator Shelby again introduces flat tax proposal
YellowHammer News – ALGOP chair Wahl: ‘Proud,’ ‘excited’ to support pro-constitutional carry Rep. Stringer; Calls Mobile Co. Sheriff Cochran decision ‘disappointing,’ ‘cancel culture’
Gadsden Times – Jones to launch reelection campaign with events in Etowah, Cherokee counties in May, June
Gadsden Times – Alabama House agrees to ban on ‘vaccine passports’
Gadsden Times – Gov. Kay Ivey signs Alabama medical marijuana law
Dothan Eagle – Court clears way for Samoa to get its first woman leader
Dothan Eagle – Watch Stelter press IDF spokesman on Gaza tower airstrike
Dothan Eagle – 5 things to know for May 17: Mideast violence, coronavirus, Capitol riot, US policing, Tigray
Opelika-Auburn News – Global stocks, US futures mixed as virus cases surge in Asia
Opelika-Auburn News – EU, US agree to temporarily suspend tariffs in steel dispute
WSFA Montgomery – Transgender treatment ban fails in Alabama Legislature
WSFA Montgomery – Lawmakers: Delay high-stakes reading test for 3rd graders
WSFA Montgomery – High school graduations resume amid pandemic
WAFF Huntsville – Colbert County High marching band invited to Pearl Harbor commemoration
WAFF Huntsville – No concerns over O’Neal Bridge after I-40 crack in Memphis
WAFF Huntsville – President Biden wants 30% of land conserved by 2030, local farmers say they need incentives to join
WKRG Mobile – Man dead following skydiving accident
WKRG Mobile – Mobilians react to historic medical marijuana bill passing
WKRG Mobile – New year, same results; Home depot sales boom in 1Q
WTVY Dothan – D.A. Pat Jones seeks seizure of inmate stimulus checks
WTVY Dothan – Demand outweighs lumber supply leading to price increase
WTVY Dothan – Aquatics supervisor encourages safety before heading to pools, water parks
WASHINGTON POST – Israeli airstrikes pound Gaza despite cease-fire calls
WASHINGTON POST – Biden calls for cease-fire in Israel-Hamas fighting as pressure mounts to halt violence
WASHINGTON POST – ‘Our democracy is imperiled’: Maricopa County officials decry 2020 recount as a sham and call on Arizona Republicans to end the process
NEW YORK TIMES – Live Updates: Humanitarian Catastrophe Deepens in Gaza
NEW YORK TIMES – Biden Supports Israel-Gaza Cease-Fire, as Fighting Rages Into Second Week
NEW YORK TIMES – Covid Live Updates: U.S. Help Is Falling Short in Global Vaccine Drive, Experts Say
WALL STREET JOURNAL – President Biden Supports Cease-Fire in Call With Netanyahu
WALL STREET JOURNAL – U.S. Bank Stocks Shine as Investors Bet on an Economic Recovery
WALL STREET JOURNAL – AT&T’s Hollywood Ending Erased Billions in Value

 

 

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