Here’s What You Missed in the 2019 Legislative Session

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Lawmakers last week ended the 2019 legislative session passing a slew of bills and the budgets. It was by far one of the busiest and most contentious sessions in years. WBHM’s Gigi Douban talks with Don Dailey, host of Alabama Public Television’s Capitol Journal, for a recap.

The 2019 legislative session was a first for dozens of lawmakers elected in November. Dailey says the freshman crop took a cue from their constituents on a polarizing issue like the gas tax increase lawmakers approved in a special session. “That was a difficult thing for freshman lawmakers to have to tackle their first couple of weeks on the job,” Dailey says.

There was no overhaul of the state’s troubled prison system, which is plagued by overcrowding, violence, and a number of inmate suicides. But lawmakers passed a few key bills to address understaffing. It’s estimated the state needs to hire 2,000 correctional officers to adequately staff its prisons; a measure approved by lawmakers would hire 500. “And also significantly it would raise the pay of those new officers and the existing officers,” Dailey says. Low pay compared to other states and the violent conditions in state prisons have been obstacles to hiring more correctional officers.

Gov. Kay Ivey was non-committal on whether she will call a special session to address prisons, Dailey says. But she planned to assemble work groups of key legislators to meet and discuss ways to address the problems in state prisons. Dailey says most lawmakers expect to return to the issue in early fall.

The $2.1 billion General Fund budget includes a 2 percent pay increase for state workers, a $44 million increase to the Alabama Department of Corrections, and it fully funds the state’s share of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The education budget was a record $7.1 billion spending plan. It includes a 4 percent raise for teachers and other education personnel, and funding increases across the board for most education programs.

Here’s a recap of some other measures passed this session:

Medical Marijuana

Alabama lawmakers voted to establish a medical marijuana commission to draft legislation for possible consideration next year.
Lawmakers approved the study commission Friday. Dailey says the bill is watered down from the original medical marijuana bill, which members of the House opposed.

Republican Sen. Tim Melson of Florence has said it would be a step forward toward the goal of allowing ailing patients to access medical marijuana.

Melson’s original bill would have allowed patients with certain medical conditions to purchase medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval. The Alabama Senate approved the measure, but the proposal hit opposition in the House.

The approved study commission bill also extends Carly’s Law, a law that allows some patients to access CBD oil through a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Driving-Related Bills
The legislature passed two bills that affect drivers. One requires all vehicle passengers to wear a seat belt. The other makes it so drivers who camp out in the left lane for more than a mile without passing someone can be ticketed.

Chemical Castration
This measure makes chemical castration a condition of parole for people who commit sex crimes against children 13 or younger. Rep. Steve Hurst has sponsored this measure for years; this time it passed. According to the legislation, these individuals can avoid chemical castration by serving out a full prison sentence.

 

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Alabama OKs $725M bond sale to build 2 supersize prisons

That money will be added to $135 million in state funds and $400 million in pandemic relief dollars that the state already agreed to put toward the project.

Britt wins tumultuous Alabama Senate race scrambled by Trump

Katie Britt won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama Tuesday, defeating six-term Rep. Mo Brooks in a primary runoff after former President Donald Trump took the unusual step of rescinding his initial Brooks endorsement.

2022 Alabama primary runoff results

Republicans will be choosing between Katie Britt and Roy Moore as their nominee for U.S. Senate. Democrats will pick a nominee for governor between Yolonda Flowers and Malika Sanders-Fortier.

Voters go back to the polls Tuesday for primary runoffs

Party runoff ballots are fairly light for Tuesday’s election. But at the top of the Republican ballot is the nomination to the U.S. Senate. At the top of the Democratic ballot is nomination to the governor’s race.

More 2019 Legislative Session Coverage