Key bills left worth mentioning

Lawmakers will return to the State House on May 24th for the final push through the final 7 meeting days of the Regular Session.

Aside to trying to complete the complicated and politically charged reapportionment process, there are several bills that received much fan fare at one point or another during the session that have yet to move. Here’s a sort of primer on what they are.

  • The budgets: Both the Education Trust Fund (ETF) and General Fund (GF) passed both chambers but are now waiting to be finalized by a conference committee with members from both the House and Senate. There are some details that need to be hammered out. Some of the key details on these have to do with bills that are travelling with each of the budgets. The ETF carries with it a proposal to take funds normally reserved for telephone service for the deaf (it’s really revenue from that service) and transfer that to pay for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. With the budgets there’s a bill that would increase how much state employees contribute to their retirement while decreasing how much the state contributes. It would be a 2.5% jump over the next year and a half.
  • Ban on 20 week abortions:Rep. Kerry Rich’s bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy moved through the House with some Democratic opposition and it then soared through the Senate health committee. It now sits on the Senate floor waiting for a third reading. That bill is very close to passage. It is modeled after a Nebraska law outlawing abortions after 20 weeks, citing medical research that a fetus could feel pain inside the womb.
  • The “tenure” bill, having to do with modifying the termination process for public school teachers passed the Senate in the waning hours last week. It would limit terminated teacher pay on appeal to 75 days as well as eliminate the federal arbitrator from the process. The bill sponsor, Sen. Tripp Pittman, says the bill is simply a new mechanism to give school boards the ability to get rid of bad teachers. He also remarked, “If you’re a good teacher, then you have nothing to worry about.” That bill is now down in the House and the Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said several hours before Senate passage, “We’re looking forward to getting that bill down here.”
  • Alabama’s illegal immigration reform bill is ttthhhhiiiiissssss close to passage. Last week, several hours before the vote on the tenure bill, the Senate approved a substitute to the House version, by replacing it with **the entire text of the Senate version.** I overheard someone say, “This is a Senate bill in House clothing.” It would require any company that handles a state contract to use the Federal E-Verify system to prove the immigration status of each employee. It also has several of the same measures in the controversial Arizona law that has since been challenged and rebuked by a Federal Panel. Alabama’s immigration bill could become law before June 1.

Well there you have it. There are several other bills out there like ones on bullying, a ban on texting while driving, and changing the ERS and TRS boards within the RSA but we’ll try to address those at another time.

For now, happy reapportioning.

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