The Legislature is officially in the home stretch of the 2022 Regular Session. There seems to be growing momentum for the Legislature to finish the session and adjourn sine die this week, which could mean that we have a long four-day week ahead of us.
Here is a rundown of bills that the legislature is working on or has passed over the past week.
The Senate unanimously passed an amended $8.26 billion FY23 Education Trust Fund budget Thursday, which would result in pay raises for public school teachers based on years of experience. The raises represent an effort to retain experienced teachers and attract more students to pursue a career in education.
The proposal would provide an automatic 1% annual raise and eliminate the salary cap that currently ends step raises after 27 years, and teachers with less than nine years of experience would see a 4% raise. Teachers with a bachelor’s degree and 20 years of experience would see an increase from $51,810 to $57,214 annually, and teachers with a master’s degree and 25 years of experience would see an increase from $61,987 to $69,151 annually. Teachers with 35 years of experience would see an increase of nearly 21%. The amended Education budget now returns to the House, where leadership has expressed support for the pay raises.
A bill that would affect the Teachers’ Retirement System moved quickly this week and was delivered to Governor Ivey Thursday afternoon. HB 134, as amended, would provide a retirement plan to Tier II teachers after 30 years of service (instead of at age 62). The bill is intended to reduce disparities between Tier I and Tier II retirement benefits and make the teaching profession more attractive to potential educators.
The Legislature gave final passage this week to SB 171, the “Numeracy Act,” which would direct resources and math coaches to struggling schools in an effort to improve the state’s math proficiency. The bill would establish an Office of Mathematics Improvement inside the State Department of Education which would oversee the state’s math curriculum and testing to ensure that students are at or above grade-level proficiency by 5th grade. Unlike the 2019 Literacy Act, the Numeracy Act does not include a holdback requirement. The bill would also require universities to establish guidelines for training its math education students. Implementation costs for the bill are estimated to be around $114 million per year. The Numeracy Act was forwarded to Governor Ivey Wednesday afternoon.
A bill that would direct county tax revenue to charter schools has died for this legislative session. Due to technical problems with funding language in the Senate-passed bill, advocates pulled the bill instead of passing it and having to potentially amend the language in the future. A new bill will likely be introduced next session. A separate supplemental appropriations bill approved by the Senate Thursday allocated $2.9 million in state funding to charter schools based on enrollment.
Neither of the two gambling proposals are likely to receive a floor vote this legislative session, as time is running short and significant hurdles remain. A House proposal would have established a state lottery, which would have used revenue for scholarships, and a more comprehensive Senate proposal would have authorized a lottery, sports betting, and eight casinos with slots and table games.
The Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would authorize the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners and the Medical Licensure Commission to establish standards for remote doctor visits. SB 272 as originally introduced would have required an in-person visit in the event a doctor sees a patient four or more times within a year. As amended in the Senate, if a doctor sees a patient more than four times within a year for the same condition, the doctor would be required to see the patient in person within 12 months or “refer the patient to a physician who can provide the in-person care within a reasonable amount of time, which shall not exceed 12 months.” SB 272 would not limit a patient’s future telehealth visits. Remote appointments must be initiated by patients or through referrals from existing physicians, and doctors could not prescribe controlled substances absent a recent in-person visit. SB 272 is currently pending in the House along with a similar measure, HB 423.
Incarcerated Pregnant Women
The House passed a bill Tuesday that would establish standards regarding the treatment and restraining of pregnant inmates and those who have recently given birth. HB 230 would in essence extend part of the federal First Step Act to Alabama’s state prisons and county jails. The First Step Act places limits on the ways pregnant women or women who have recently given birth can be restrained and requires incidents during which such women were restrained to be documented. HB 230 prescribes very detailed and extensive requirements regarding what is allowed and what is prohibited during the “immediate postpartum period,” which is defined as “[t]he six-week period following childbirth unless extended by a health care professional due to complications.” HB 230 now moves to the Senate for consideration.
The Senate Children, Youth and Human Services Committee approved a bill this week that would establish requirements for women of childbearing age prior to purchasing medical cannabis. SB 324 “would require a dispensary site to require a negative pregnancy test for women of childbearing age before allowing them to purchase medical cannabis and would prohibit breast-feeding women from purchasing medical cannabis unless as a registered caregiver.” Further, the bill “would also require that any dispensary be located one thousand feet from a day-care center, or 2-year or 4-year institution of higher education.” SB 324 can now be considered by the full Senate.
Governor Ivey signed “Shirley’s Law” Thursday, which will create the Nation’s first elder abuse registry. The new database will include the names of people convicted of mistreating senior citizens, which will allow family members to see whether someone being considered for a job working with seniors has been convicted of or is under a protection order for elder abuse.
Traffic Ticket Revenue
A bill that would limit the revenue retained from traffic tickets passed the Senate and was unanimously approved by the House State Government Committee this week. SB 282 would mandate that no more than 10% of a city’s budget can come from traffic ticket fines. Of note, the bill exempts Class 1 municipalities from the cap. Birmingham is Alabama’s only Class 1 municipality. Ticket revenue above 10% of a city’s annual budget would be distributed to the Fair Trial Tax Fund and the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund, which assists victims and their families with medical, counseling, and funeral costs. SB 282 can now be considered by the full House.