May 27 Issue
News & Views from the State House
Teacher Tenure Reform a Reality
On Tuesday, a House committee approved a Senate-passed bill to reform teacher tenure guidelines in Alabama. On Wednesday night, after a marathon debate on the House floor, the House voted 56-43 to give final passage to a bill that streamlines the process that school boards use to discipline or fire teachers. The vote was principally along party lines, with Republicans voting overwhelmingly to approve the measure and Democrats voting against the bill. Read more here.
Temporary Setback for Payroll Deduction Law
The International Association of Firefighters and the American Federation of Teachers won the first round of a legal battle over Alabama’s new payroll deduction law. U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith in Huntsville has issued a temporary injunction that prohibits state officials, officials at Alabama State University and the cities of Mobile and Jacksonville from refusing to deduct union dues for the two unions. Read more here.
Final Approval of State Budgets
In the early morning hours on Wednesday, The Alabama Legislature gave final approval to both state budgets. The pre-dawn vote occurred after members adjourned just before midnight on Tuesday and re-convened at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning. The bare-bone budgets provide for over 1,100 fewer classroom teachers and less money for the state Medicaid agency. Governor Bentley is said to be unhappy with the cut to Medicaid and is rumored to be considering an executive amendment to address funding for the agency. Read more here.
State Employees' Insurance Costs
The Senate passed two bills this week that require state employees and school workers who retire after December 31 to pay more for their health insurance if they are not 65 and eligible for Medicare. The bills’ sponsor, Republican Senator and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston, said the state’s cost is spiraling out of control for insuring retirees who are not eligible for Medicare, and the insurance coverage will be threatened if the state does not get help from retirees. The amount paid would depend on their years of service and age. The votes were mainly along party lines, with Republicans favoring the bills and Democrats opposing the measures. Democrats maintain the bills break a promise the state made to public employees. The bills now go the House for consideration.
Limits on Lawsuits
On Thursday, the House gave final approval to three bills that place limits on lawsuits in the state. One of the measures restricts where lawsuits can be filed in wrongful death lawsuits. The second bill will reduce the amount of interest that can be collected following a verdict from 12 percent to 7 percent. The third bill reduces the amount of time plaintiffs have to file lawsuits against architects, engineers and general contractors. Governor Bentley is expected to sign all three.
Sex Offender Bill
The House voted unanimously on Tuesday to strengthen the law that requires convicted sex offenders to register with law enforcement. Current law requires offenders to register two times each year. The House proposal requires registration four times each year. The offenders would be required to provide vehicle information, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. The bill also closes a loophole in the current law by requiring homeless sex offenders to register once a week with law enforcement.