By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, February 9, the Alabama Legislature met for the third day of the 2016 Legislative Session. While neither House has passed either budget yet (the primary purpose of even having a legislative session) the first bills began moving out of their houses of origin.
State Senator Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) said, “Today, the Senate passed SB 23 – legislation that will make aggravated assault of children under six a Class A felony. A key part of the Senate GOP’s 2016 legislative priorities, this bill enhances legal protections for young children, the most vulnerable members of our society.”
State Senator Bill Holtzclaw said on his blog, “After some procedural votes the Senate debated and passed two bills this afternoon. SB23 (passed 31-0) and SB22 (passed 28-0) relating to aggravated child abuse committing the crime of murder when committing aggravated child abuse resulting in death.”
The legislature got welcome news when Governor Robert Bentley (R) announced that the federal government had approved Alabama’s Medicaid reform plan creating the Regional Care Organizations (RCOs).
Gov. Bentley said, “Together with the Alabama Legislature, we have made significant progress in the way the Alabama Medicaid Agency operates, making it more effective and efficient. I appreciate the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approving Alabama’s plan to use regional care organizations and the National Governors Association for its help during the process. This is a significant step in our efforts to transform the delivery of services to Medicaid patients. I will work closely with members of the Alabama Legislature in the 2016 Regular Session to ensure the Medicaid RCO model is adequately funded so we can continue our efforts in Medicaid transformation.”
On May 30, 2014, Alabama applied for a Section 1115 Demonstration Waiver to provide the funding needed to support the transition to RCOs. Section 1115 waivers are used to approve experimental, pilot or demonstration projects that promote the objectives of the Medicaid program by giving states added flexibility to design improved state programs. In its approval, CMS has agreed to provide Alabama’s RCO system $328 million in federal money over three years to help RCOs start up and pay for projects that could boost access to medical care. Bentley announced that Alabama could qualify for up to an additional $420 million in federal money over a five year period to further support Alabama’s Medicaid transformation process. Potentially Alabama could receive up to $748 million in federal money over five years to help start and improve its RCO program.
Sen. Shelnutt said, “Excited to see that Alabama’s innovative Medicaid reform plan of regional care organizations (RCOs) has been approved by the federal government. RCOs will ensure better medical care for Alabama’s Medicaid patients and save millions of taxpayer dollars over the coming years.”
State Representative Kyle South (R-Fayette) said in a statement on Facebook, “HB 36- Small Business Jobs Act was passed out of the AL House today. This bill will incentivize small businesses to put Alabama back to work with good paying wages.”
State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R-Winston County) said on Facebook, “HB 36 Alabama Small Business Jobs Credit. Bill to provide a $1500 tax credit for small business employers (75 employees or less) for each job created that pays the employee more than $40,000 for that job.”
The House also passed legislation to create the School Security and Student Safety Task Force Study Group. The bill was sponsored by State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville). The bill was included in the House Republican Caucus’s “Right for Alabama” legislative agenda that was announced prior to the session’s start.
The School Security and Student Safety Task Force will be comprised of key education, law enforcement, and emergency management leaders from across the state. The task force is charged with completing a comprehensive review and assessment of state laws, regulations, and protocols related to the preparedness of state and local officials to address active shooter situations and security measures in place at Alabama’s K-12 public schools, colleges, and universities. The task force will then present its report to the legislature to consider proposed changes to Alabama law.
State Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) said, “After much debate HB 38 which is the taxpayer advocate bill has passed.”
Rep. Wadsworth said, “HB 38 Taxpayer Advocate Bill to allow an independent advocate to assist taxpayers when there are disputes between the Alabama Dept of Revenue and taxpayers.”