It was a slower week in the legislature, but check out what happened in Montgomery last week during week five of the 2018 legislative session!
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1. Education budget is on the move.
It was a pretty slow legislative week, but one big thing did come out of it: movement on the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget. The House Ways and Means Education Committee met this week, where Chairman Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) introduced this year’s proposed education budget, which includes a 2.5% raise for all education employees and a $20 million increase for prekindergarten. Ten people spoke in favor of the budget on Tuesday. When the committee returned for day two of budget discussion, the $6.6 billion budget passed easily and will now go to the full house for consideration next Tuesday.
2. House says “In God We Trust” should be allowed to be displayed on public property.
A big debate this week came from a bill that aims at allowing the phrase “In God We Trust” to be displayed on public buildings. The AP reported that, “Rep. David Standridge, the bill sponsor, said he wanted to clarify that people can put the phrase on state property.” After mention on the house floor that the phrase comes from the national anthem, debate on the bill turned to debate over the history of the Star Spangled Banner, and specifically Francis Scott Key’s history as a slaveholder. The debate lasted roughly two hours before the bill passed by a 91-4 margin.
3. Payday lending might see some changes.
Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) has proposed a bill that would, according to AL.com, “set the terms of loans at 30 days, instead of 10 to 31 days allowed under Alabama law now. . . . Efforts to roll back the cost of payday loans come and go every year at the State House, but not much changes. Orr has tried before but his latest bill is probably the simplest approach. It would change only the length of the loans.” The bill has garnered support thus far from within the walls of the state house, but some folks on the outside—payday lenders in particular—have lobbied against the bill. After a public hearing on the bill in committee this week, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will likely vote on it next week.
I think I’m too awkward to talk about this, but it happened this week so here we go. This week, the Senate passed a bill that criminalizes voyeurism. As reported by Mike Cason of AL.com: “Sneaking a cellphone under a woman’s skirt or otherwise secretly taking photos or videos of someone’s intimate areas would become a crime under a bill passed by the Alabama Senate.” Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) proposed this bill because two women in his district had their cases about this issue dismissed because there is no specific law on it. This bill now moves on to the house.
Other things that you might want to know about:
– Folks are talking infrastructure investment again. Senate debated—and ultimately carried over—a bill this week that would allow for a building program for roads and bridges if the funds become available.
– There’s talk of potential change to ethics law. AL.com reports that a bill by Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) that “requires legislators to get approval from the Ethics Commission before entering new business contracts to sell goods or services. . . . The Ethics Commission issues opinions for public officials about whether business and employment activities under certain circumstances run afoul of the ethics law. Pittman’s bill would expand on that, setting up a specific process for the commission to review new business arrangements for legislators in their private sector jobs.” Senator Dick Brewbaker pointed out that making the ethics laws less “murky” could encourage more business-owners to run for the legislature.
– The fentanyl bill was discussed at a public hearing in committee this week, and it saw some opposition. The AP reported: “Kenyen R. Brown, former U.S. attorney in Mobile and a critic of the bill, said since fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs — and cases can be prosecuted based on the total weight of the mixture — low-level offenders could be treated like traffickers.” Barry Matson, chairman of the District Attorneys Association, spoke in favor of the bill: “No part of me or anybody on the proponents’ side wants to put more people in jail. . . . This is about lives. This is such a deadly substance.”
See you next week!
Taylor Dawson is Director of Communications at the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.