The Alabama Legislature has now passed the halfway point of the current session. They’ve met for 16 of the 30 legislative days they are allowed to meet by law.
As they return, lawmakers are expected to begin work on some of the more difficult bills, such as the budget proposals, an authorization of charter schools and changes to the highly controversial Alabama immigration law. While the budget and charter schools legislation has already had some attention, very little has been said about how the lawmakers will change the immigration law that has landed the state in court fighting several groups and the United States Department of Justice.
So far in the current session, more than 50 bills have passed both houses, many are local measures affecting only single counties. About half of the bills authorized certain agencies like the Real Estate Appraiser Board, State Board of Auctioneers, and Public Service Commission to continue pursuant to the state Sunset law.
The other bills include those:
• Giving tax breaks to companies making aircraft parts, components, and systems
• Making it a crime to falsely remove an instrument from court records and falsely filing instruments against public official
• Expanding tax incentives to coal mining industry companies
• Giving tax credits for previously unemployed veterans who found employment or began a business using the “Heroes for Hire” Act
• Removing the obligations for service for basic telephone service, aligning the requirements with those for cell phones
• Clarifying criminal background checks for Human Resources Department and Public Safety Department employees
• Allowing legal notices to be posted on the internet instead of just printed newspapers
• Exempting some prefabricated storm shelters from inspections by the Mobile Housing Commission and requiring manufacturers obtain a surety bond
• Establishing the Blue Alert notification system (http://bluealert.us) to send out an alert when a suspect wanted for injuring law enforcement officer or if officer is missing, possibly kidnaped
• Passed Karina’s Law eliminating some red tape for foreign adoptions
Still some of the more divisive work in the legislature is yet to come. When the lawmakers return in April, they expect the biggest challenge to be the budgets. The governor has already ordered a 10 percent General Fund budget cut for the remainder of the current fiscal year. They expect deeper cuts in the upcoming General Fund budget.
Some lawmakers favor deeper spending cuts, while others are proposing increased taxes to deal with the budget shortfalls.
The issue of charter schools is expected to take center stage at some point as the lawmakers try to find ways to cut spending in education. Some believe charter schools will help reduce the cost of educating children.
And the hotly debated immigration law (http://governor.alabama.gov/news/news_detail.aspx?ID=6269) is also to be revamped, although Republican supporters say they will not weaken it, simply clarify it. Although many supporters say the initial bill was brash and needs work, they also say they are not going to back down from the measure that landed Alabama in federal court defending what federal prosecutors describe as a violation of civil rights and a breach of the federal government’s authority.