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Lots of Hot Button Issues in Committees Today

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

A lot of red meat political issues are appearing in committees in the State legislature on Wednesday, April 8. The legislature is going to be considering a number of issues including: loaded guns in automobiles without concealed carry permits, the repeal of common core, offering off campus religion classes to public school students, ABC stores, virtual schools, changes to the Alabama Accountability Act, the rolling reserve, zoning, the education budget, the legislative council, and other issues.

The day starts off at 8:30 AM with a public hearing on SB101 repealing the controversial Common Core standards in Room 304.

The Repeal Common Core group wrote on Facebook, “The techniques for teaching and testing the Common Core Standards are not age appropriate and the stress levels are too great. This has been noted by many professionals in the field of education and psychology. Here are two. If you do email, send these links to them with your nicely worded DEMAND that they REPEAL Common Core in Alabama.”

SB101 is sponsored by Rusty Glover (R-Semmes).

Alabama Eagle Forum wrote: “SB101 will re-establish local and state control of education; terminate implementation of the Common Core standards; direct the State Board to replace these standards with the Math and English courses in use immediately prior to Common Core; convene Course of Study committees to update these standards and improve upon them using the pre-common core standards from states whose national scores ranked no less than the top 10%; implement these proven, improved standards and aligned assessments; prohibit imposition on Alabama of other such national standards or assessments that cede control away from Alabamians.”

The bill to repeal the unpopular College and Career Ready Standards is opposed by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and the Alabama Association of School Boards.

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The Senate Education Policy Committee chaired by Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) will also consider SB317 which would prevent charter schools from being virtual schools.

At 9:00am the House Ways & Means Education committee will hold a public hearing on SB71 which expands the Alabama Accountability Act and which will place new rules on the Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs) which award the Accountability Act scholarships to children who are trapped in Alabama’s worst schools. Teachers Professional Associations and the school boards oppose diverting additional dollars from the Education Trust Funds to the (SGOs).  Some critics claim that the proposed rule changes would primarily benefit the SGO managed by former Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R).

SB71 is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston). SB71 would:  increase the percentage of public K-12 schools defined as failing from the bottom six percent in reading and math to the bottom ten percent.  It also increases the frequency of failing scores needed for a school to qualify as failing.

This could increase the number of schools added to the failing schools list, which could increase the number of parents eligible for parent tax credits and the number of students eligible for educational scholarships from SGOs. An increase in the number of parents eligible for parent tax credits could reduce the amount of sales tax collections deposited into the Education Trust Fund.  

The bill increases the cap on the cumulative amount of tax credits from $25 million annually to $35 million annually.

This will reduce income tax receipts to the Education Trust Fund, by as much as $10 million annually, assuming that taxpayers choose to divert their payments to the SGOs and that the SGOs can find enough students who want to participate.

The committee will meet in room 617.

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At 9:30 the Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee will hold a public hearing on SB115 sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) in room 727. Since Prohibition ended Alabama hard alcohol drinkers have bought their liquor from the state of Alabama.  SB115 would sell off the state’s ABC liquor stores. Supporters claim that removing all of those store employees from state benefits will generate an estimated $16 million a year in savings. Critics argue that the ABC stores are a profitable business that contribute to the General Fund.

>At 10:30 there will be a public hearing on the Education Trust Fund Budget in the Senate Finance & Taxation Education committee in room 727.

Senate Bill 179 is sponsored by Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose).  SB179 appropriates the sum of $5,985,157,973 from the Education Trust Fund (ETF) to various state agencies, entities, institutions, and public schools for the support, maintenance, and development of public education in Alabama for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016. The above sum includes a transfer from Gross Sales Tax in the amount of $33,952,000 to the State Treasurer for the PACT Program.

This draft of the Education budget appropriates: $175,532,864 for public schools; $10,000,000 for the Two-Year College System Dual Enrollment Program; $6,718,324 to the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission; $4,960,792 from the Driver Education and Training Fund to the Department of Education; $5,000,000 from the Special Education Catastrophic Fund to the Department of Education; $8,058,135 to the Alabama Supercomputer Authority; $6,506,272 to the Alabama Board of Nursing; $500,000 to the Department of Children’s Affairs.  This act appropriates the sum of $8,484,439,360 from federal and other funds.

The committee will also hold a public hearing on SB182 sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman.  Senate Bill 182 is a supplemental appropriation from the Education Trust Fund, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015.  The additional funds being appropriated in the current fiscal year are: $1,410,551 for the Legislature itself; $2,663,775 to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to be expended for the Student Financial Aid Program; and $3,000,000 to the Department of Human Resources to be expended for the program created by the Fostering Hope Act of 2015.

Guns are the next hot button issue on the Wednesday docket.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 1:00 pm in room 325.  Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) is sponsoring SB14 which will expand and clarify gun rights issues in Alabama. 

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SB14 would: provide that lawfully carrying a firearm under certain conditions does not, in and of itself, constitute the crime of disorderly conduct. This bill would authorize a person to carry a pistol without a license on property under his or her control, in his or her vehicle, in his or her place of abode, in his or her fixed place of business, and on the property of another or a vehicle owned by another, with consent.

The bill would prohibit a person under 19 years of age from possessing a pistol on his or her person or in any vehicle, except on land under his or her control, in his or her abode, or in his or her place of business.

Bob Blain with the pro-Second Amendment Group, Bamacarry said on Facebook, “This Wed. our supported bill by Senator Gerald Allen will be before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Montgomery at 11:00 am. My request is for anyone available who can be there to support Billy Denton, please show the politicos that we are solidified in our efforts and will stand proud without compromise in supporting this bill. There will be those there who disagree with our stand, which is their right to do so, however it is now time to either fish or cut bait & we have too great an organization to fail.”

At 1:30 pm the House Education Policy Committee will meet in Room 418.

They will hold a public hearing on HB236 the “Tim Tebow Act” sponsored by State Representative Mike Ball (R-Madison).  HB236 would allow children who are in Church school or home school to participate in public school extracurricular activities like: football, band, cheerleading, etc. in the community in which they live.

HB236 would allow students instructed at home by either a private tutor or under the church school law to participate in athletic activities and on athletic teams provided that the students comply with the participation conditions imposed by the bill, including the payment of any required student activity fees or increased school insurance premiums and compliance by the student with the school’s residency, conduct, behavior, and academic eligibility policies.

The committee will also hold a public hearing on HB255 sponsored by Rep. Kerry Rich (R-Guntersville) which authorizes school boards to let students in public high schools take religion as an elective off-campus.

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Also at 1:30 there will be a public hearing in the House Committee on County and Municipal Government on HB370 giving municipalities enormous new powers to zone property outside of their city limits.

People who choose not to enter the city limits of a neighboring town or city would still have their use of their real property restricted and controlled by that city’s zoning regulations if they live within that town’s claimed police jurisdiction under HB370.

HB370 is sponsored by Rep. Reed Ingram (R-Montgomery).

By our count there are 11 public hearings scheduled on Wednesday in House Committees and 11 public hearings scheduled in Senate Committees.  

A public hearing may be cancelled at any moment including right before the meeting… happened last week to the parents rights bill. 44 bills are being considered on Wednesday by Senate Committees and 70 are in House Committees.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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