The Bloom Group, Inc. newsletter covering week 6 of the 2011 Alabama Legislature.
The Bloom Group:
(left to right)
James Dupree
Lisa A. Woodard
Allen Sanderson, Principal
Hal W. Bloom, Jr., Principal
John W. Floyd


Contact us:

www.thebloomgroup.com
401 Adams Ave, Ste 710
Montgomery, AL 36104
Telephone: (334) 244-8948
Fax: (334) 213-0688

 

Our Mission

For every client and in every situation, The Bloom Group operates in pursuit of these goals:

  • To consistently deliver to each of our clients the highest level of governmental relations services tailored to the client’s specific individual needs and based on a firm understanding of their business.
  • To develop and value a personal and professional relationship — based upon mutual trust and respect — with clients, legislators, members of the executive branch and others with whom we deal.
  • To always conduct our governmental relations affairs in an ethical and honest manner.

April 15 Issue

News & Views from the State House

Education Budget to Senate & "Forever Wild" Thru House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, and the Senate wasted little time passing a bill to ban the use of gas chambers to euthanize dogs and cats in animal shelters. The Senate voted unanimously for legislation by Senator Del Marsh, which was inspired by a dog that survived the gas chamber last year and was subsequently adopted. Most shelters in Alabama have abandoned the use of gas chambers and use injections. They also passed a bill that makes it a crime to threaten harm or violence against a judicial officer or employee. The House spent several hours debating a bill to require public employees, including judges, to pay more towards their pensions. The measure eventually passed 54-41 after stalling tactics by members aligned with the education and public employee lobbies. The House then turned its attention to the education budget, which was debated until after midnight. The House passed an education budget that sustains important programs for reading, math, science and distance learning that allows students in isolated rural schools to take classes offered in urban schools. The $5.5 billion spending measure now goes to the Senate.
Other items debated and/or passed include:
  • The House Education and Tourism Committee approved a bill supported by Governor Bentley to provide incentives for new and existing companies that create jobs and a bill to allow local voters to decide on allowing Sunday liquor sales at Guntersville State Park and Lakepoint State Park in Eufaula.
  • The House Health Committee discussed, but did not vote on a bill and a proposed constitutional amendment that says life begins at the time of fertilization.
  • The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee approved a bill backed by the governor to offer new tax breaks for industrial recruitment and a House-passed bill requiring the state Finance Department to put more of the state’s financial records on its website.
  • The House and Senate Education Committees met jointly to conduct a public hearing on legislation to rewrite the teacher tenure law, but did not vote. Read more here.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills to make it easier for people convicted of minor drug crimes to get their driver’s licenses back; to allow non-violent felons on probation to move from supervised probation to unsupervised probation if they have completed two-thirds of their probation without problems; and to increase the penalties for possessing illegal gambling equipment.
  • On Thursday, the House voted to approve a bill to require businesses to inform Internet customers about how much they have purchased online and inform them that they are responsible for paying sales taxes on those items. The bill does not force consumers to pay taxes on Internet purchases but provides a mechanism for doing so. Legislators say many local businesses are hurt because not paying taxes encourages consumers to shop online rather than at local stores. Veteran political observers say that those of a certain income threshold who pay no taxes for Internet purchases are probably at an increased threshold for state audit.
  • The House also approved legislation to extend Forever Wild, a program that allows the state to use 10 percent of earnings from a trust fund for Alabama’s oil and gas revenue to buy land for hunting, recreation, wildlife habitat and other uses. The sponsor of the bill says that the program has preserved thousands of acres of land. Critics say the these resources should go to meet essential needs of the state during the financial downturn. Read more here.
  • The Senate gave final approval to a House-passed bill to increase the state income tax deduction that small businesses get for supplying health insurance for their workers. The House passed the bill 83-12 in March, and the Senate cleared the measure 29-1. It now goes to the governor for his signature. Under this bill, businesses with fewer than 25 employees will see their deduction go from 150 percent to 200 percent. 

Surgeon General Speaks

U. S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin returned home to Alabama where she addressed the Alabama Legislature on Thursday. Dr. Benjamin, who hails from Bayou La Batre, stopped in Montgomery as she moves across the country promoting a healthcare system based upon overall wellness and preventing illness. Dr. Benjamin received a warm welcome as she addressed a joint session of the Legislature. Alabama lawmakers commended Dr. Benjamin for her response to last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Read more here.

Higher State Cigarette Taxes?

Smokers in Alabama are on the hot seat. The state health officer, the Supreme Court chief justice and several health groups are proposing legislation to increase the tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack. The legislation sponsored by Democratic Representative Patricia Todd of Birmingham would raise the total tax to $1.42 per pack, the highest among neighboring states. The bill’s sponsor and supporters say the bill would generate revenue for the state during tough economic times and discourage smoking. Statistics show that 20 percent of the state’s adults smoke, and research shows a decline in smoking when the price goes up. Some say the increased taxes could produce in excess of $200 million annually even with reduced use. Also this week, the Senate Health Committee held a public hearing on a bill to restrict smoking in public places, but took no vote. 

Legislators’ Voluntary Pay Cuts

Alabama lawmakers are getting in line to cut their pay voluntarily. Both Democrats and Republicans have turned down the Cost of Living Allowance in addition to prorating their own salaries at the same rate of budget reductions. Legislative leaders emphasized the cuts are voluntary, and current budget cuts to many agencies do not target legislators’ pay. Republicans announced that 55 of its members in the House have opted to cut their pay. Democrats have not released a tally for their members at this time.

Principal Perspective: Here's To You

by Hal Bloom
In the first few months of 2011, The Bloom Group has been working to ensure that our clients are fully aware of the many ways we work for them and the many services we can and do provide. With our new and improved e-newsletter plus a fresh design and added functionality to our website, we hope we're presenting a clear picture of who we are and how we represent your interests. But we would be remiss if we failed to note how privileged we feel to work with such great companies, organizations and municipalities, some of you for many years and through many legislative sessions. I appreciate the trust each of you puts in us, and I know I speak for the rest of The Bloom Group when I say, thanks to all of you, this job, while certainly never boring, is also very rewarding. 
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