Legislators returned to Montgomery for week 2 of the 2017 Session on Tuesday. What began to shape up to be an interesting week quickly fizzled. Early Tuesday morning, rumors circulated of an attempt to "end around" the House Impeachment Committee. As I understand it, a plan was hatched over the weekend for House Members to submit a resolution containing "articles of impeachment" of the Governor rather than continue to wait for the House Impeachment Committee to finalize...or re-start, their work. I'm told the group "shopping" the resolution was asked to stand-down and given assurances that the Impeachment Committee would re-start their work.
Late on Wednesday the newly appointed State Attorney General appointed a staff attorney to lead (continue?) an investigation of the Governor. Definitely a fluid situation.
Most of the action on Tuesday stayed in the House as they debated a resolution for almost 5 hours and then followed up with a Sanctuary University Bill as reported here. Controversial debate will start in the Senate soon enough but not so on Tuesday.
The Senate debated an agenda of 13 bills, passing 12 of them in relatively short order. These are now off to the House for debate. A bill regarding increased weight limits for Commercial Carriers converted for Compressed Natural Gas was carried over due to concerns regarding application to Federal Highways vs. State/Local Highways. The other 12 bills were wide ranging and non-controversial. Of note:
SB96 includes military bases in the notification for mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect requirements. This bill was requested by the Department of Defense as it brings in the resources of Defense Family Advocacy Programs that might otherwise be overlooked. I am the sponsor of this legislation. The bill passed the Senate unanimously.
SB73 a mandatory seat belt usage for all occupants (front and back seat) in a vehicle passed the Senate. I don't mind sharing that I was surprised that this was not already the law. The bill was amended so that passenger(s), rather than the driver, would receive the ticket for adults violating the law. I supported the law as few can argue that seat belts save lives but I had reservations based on how this can be enforced by law-enforcement.
SB85, dealing with Medicaid Fraud. Essentially this bill brings Alabama State Law in line with Federal Law and allows the state to pursue cases where an entity, i.e. an LLC, can be charged for Medicaid Fraud rather than just an individual. Apparently this is somewhat of a loophole that has, on occasion been exploited. Fraud is fraud and I support measures that can help prevent such.
SB21, dealing with over-the-counter sales of nonprescription eyeglasses also passed. A couple of media/blogs had erroneously reported that passage of this bill would require someone to obtain a prescription for the reading glasses, aka "cheaters" that some of us - including me! - rely on as reading glasses. I confirmed with the bill sponsor during debate that this bill does not include these type glasses, currently readily available at local convenience stores. If you are like me you likely buy the multi-pack and have several pairs located around the house, office and in cars! Again, this bill does not affect what consumers can currently purchase and rather address reading glasses that include dials to increase and decrease power and target prescriptions greater than the 3.5 maximum currently available over-the-counter.
Wednesday started with a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Caucus meeting. The focus of today's meeting was an update by Google concerning the Data Center being built in Jackson County and the Google Fiber initiative in Huntsville. I didn't know that Google has 15 Data Centers around the World with 8 in the US. Pretty neat that Alabama is one of those sites - worldwide! The project was announced in in 2015 and has focused largely on site-work and infrastructure, prepping 100+ acres for the data center to be built. The Google Fiber initiate is also progressing and should be ready for their first customers in early summer.
I was also able to meet with several groups throughout the day to include a large group of students from Athens High School visiting the State House and talking with legislators about Career Technical Education - which is outstanding! We called it Vo-Tec back when I was in high school and this is where I learned to change oil, replace brakes and so much more on my car that I still enjoy to this day! Of course so much more is offered through Career Tech today including Agriculture, Business Management, Education, Law/Public Safety, STEM and more. I have and will continue to support Career Technical Education.
I was also able to meet with members of the Alabama Birth Coalition supporting midwifery in our state. A Senate bills is being drafted that I plan to co-sponsor. Little known fact - I was born in a house in rural Arkansas and not in a hospital. I believe and support that this should be choice if the parents desire this course of delivery.
I have attended several Legislative Receptions this week including Realtors, Republican Women, Cattleman's Association and ALFA's annual "Taste of Alabama". It is always great to visit with so many folks that journey to Montgomery to visit with us! I enjoy the conversation and casual discussion of various interest groups at these receptions.
A quick reminder of two events for Monday the 20th of February. First, the weekly Coffee and Conversation at Libby's; even though Monday is a Federal Holiday, I'll be there at 0600 to discuss this weeks activity in Montgomery and listen to your concerns about all this is going on in our State's Government. Second, the annual Madison County Legislative Delegation Public Forum. This Forum is normally held prior to the Legislative Session but due to schedule conflicts it was shifted to after the session this year. The Forum will be held Monday night at Huntsville City Hall at 7PM. Read more about the Forum here.
Have a great weekend. Semper Fi - Bill