Bills get passed despite weather
by Chris Norwood
Jan 31, 2014 | 887 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA COUNTY — Like most everything else in Alabama last week, the regular legislative session was hampered by winter weather.

The state Senate barely established a quorum Tuesday, but the House was unable to do so. Senate Committee meetings set for Wednesday were also cancelled, although both houses were able to conduct business on Thursday.

Sen. Jerry Fielding, R-Sylacauga, said he missed the Thursday session because of a funeral, but Tuesday “we were able to pass about 17 or 18 bills. All of those bills were things that had already been agreed on,” he said.

Some of these involved mergers for non-profits, municipal planning and zoning for decommissioned military bases, criminal background checks for people licensed by the state insurance commission and a requirement that presidential electors vote for the candidate who carried the state.

Other bills improved the practices of the public accountancy board, and Partition of Heir Property act was also passed by the Senate. The bill is designed to keep family farms together by allowing heirs to buy each other out, then partition the property if no agreement can be reached.

The Senate also approved a three-day fishing license for out of state fisherman and disabled people, simplified insurance policy and allowed extra time for deployed military personnel to buy license tags.

Fielding also touched on bills that would allow money from the Alabama Health Insurance Act fund to go back to the general fund if that act is replaced by the federal Affordable Health Care act, a bill by regarding armory rentals, licensure requirements for behavioral therapists, and a bill requiring that students who attend private or parochial schools not be discriminated against in the state’s two and four year college admissions processes.

Although Fielding was not present Thursday, he said some of the bills approved then involved tuition credits for national guardsmen, applying the reckless murder statute to fatal water craft incidents and a bill making it a felony to possess obscene material depicting bestiality.

Another Thursday bill involves the disposition of abandoned mobile homes in cities, which Fielding said he felt would be very helpful in the future.

On the House side, Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, said the most significant bill involved individual unemployment benefits. “There was an account that had $140 million in it in 2003, and in 2014 that fund was up to $220 million. This bill would allow people to draw an extra week of benefits right after they find a job. We met with business owners and the department of revenue, and they agreed it gives the employer a chance to hire someone and see how they work out, and it’s an incentive for unemployed people to find work, too, getting them off the rolls. We debated that one a long time, and it was carried over by the chairman, but it was business oriented and people oriented,” he explained.

Another bill passed in the house dealt with alternative housing programs that could be created with some of the $6 million in the Alabama Home Builders Fund.

“It helps with the housing market and mortgage guarantees, and we need those things to help the housing market in Alabama,” he said. He also cited a bill that confirmed that gross proceeds of schools and colleges are exempt from sales and use taxes.

Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, said most of the bills passed on Tuesday “were requested by their departments, just kind of fine tuning. There were no local bills that I was aware of, and the whole week was pretty uneventful because of the weather.”

Johnson said he expected the house to take up the general fund budget sometime in the next two weeks.

Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, said she was not aware that the house did convene Thursday.

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