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Recapping the 2017 legislative session: What passed in Alabama, what failed to make the cut

Alabama State House (Photo: Creative Commons/Jay Williams)

State lawmakers tackled a number of challenging issues amid a turbulent year in Alabama politics. Following last week’s conclusion of the legislature’s 2017 Regular Session, following are the bills that passed as well as those that fell short.

NOTEWORTHY BILLS THAT PASSED

The General Fund Budget: The G.F. Budget was sent to the Governor two weeks ago along to fund all state services.

The Education Trust Fund Budget: This approved budget was sent to the Governor late last week. In this year’s version, several programs were K-12 programs were cut, but Higher Education budgets cuts were minimal.

Veterans scholarship changes: The bill will continue the Alabama G.I. Dependent’s Scholarship Program that allows dependents of disabled veterans to receive free in-state tuition, within certain limits.  With increasing costs of higher education, however, lawmakers were forced to raise the qualifying thresholds, but this change does not affect students currently covered under the scholarship program.

Autism therapy requirement for insurance: Following a contentious battle in the Senate, lawmakers ultimately passed a measure that forces insurers to cover autism therapies for employees of companies with 51 or more employees. The benefit will apply to individuals 18 and younger. Governor Ivey has already signed the bill, making Alabama the 46th state to enact a law requiring some degree of autism coverage for minors.

Protection of historic monuments: On the final day of the 2017 session, lawmakers passed a bill protecting historic monuments from removal. The bill creates a standing committee to hear waiver requests from cities and counties, though historic artifacts under the care of museums, archives, libraries, and universities are specifically exempt from the prohibition against removal or alteration.

Legalization of midwives: On the final day of the legislative session, lawmakers also gave final approval to making it legal for certified midwives to deliver babies in the state.

 

NOTEWORTHY BILLS THAT FAILED:

Increased School Choice: Senator Marsh passed his increase to the Alabama Accountability Act, designed make sure students who receive scholarships don’t lose them, but the House voted against the increase in the school choice plan, thanks to intense lobbying efforts by the Alabama Education Association.

Prison reform: Overcrowding in Alabama prisons has long remained as a costly problem, but the bill to build new prisons is on ice for now. Reports indicate that Governor Ivey is considering calling for a special session to specifically address the issue.

Permit-less carry of concealed weapons: A bill that would have allowed citizens to carry guns without a concealed carry permit won approval in the Senate, but failed to pass in the House.

Repeal of Common Core: A bill that sought to return Alabama curriculum requirements to pre-Common Core standards stalled in the House Education Committee. Since introducing the bill, House Rep. Barry Moore (R- Enterprise) said that he plans to address the matter again in the 2018 session.