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Legislative Update - Week 10

Bills Waiting for the Governor's Signature:

HB251 (Rep. K. Johnson) – ABLE Program Savings Account

This bill originally allowed 529 plans to be used for K-12 private school tuition. A major change happened on Tuesday. On the Senate floor, a substitute was adopted. The substitute changed the bill to address only ABLE accounts. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts are for individuals with disabilities and are tax-exempt savings accounts to save for disability-related expenses without impacting eligibility for resource-based benefits. The bill as substituted would authorize a contribution to, and continued investment in, an ABLE Program savings account for a designated beneficiary by the guardian or conservator of the designated beneficiary.

Action in the House:

HB236 (Rep. Pettus) School Resource Officer Qualifications

Under existing law, a local board of education may contract with a local chief of police or sheriff to employ school resource officers. This bill would authorize a local board of education to also employ as a school resource officer a person who retired in good standing from a federal or state agency with at least 25 total years of law enforcement experience.

The bill passed the House on Tuesday and has been referred to the Senate ED&YA Committee.

HB225 (Rep. Hill) Juvenile Justice

The bill received 3 amendments from the House Judiciary Committee and 6 floor amendments. After a roughly 6 hour floor discussion the bill unanimously passed the House Thursday. Now the bill moves to the Senate.

Action in the Senate:

HB174 – 2.5% Pay Raise

A pay raise for education employees in K-12 and community colleges unanimously passed the Senate on Thursday. The expected cost of the raise is about $102 million. The funding for the pay raise is tied to the ETF budget, the ETF Budget has to be finalized for the pay raise to be finalized.

HB175 (Rep. Poole) – ETF Budget

Passed the Senate Thursday. Now it will go back to the House for consideration of changes made in the Senate. It is highly likely the House will non-concur with the Senate changes, and the bill will move to conference committee to work out the differences. Conference committee consist of 3 Senators and 3 House members, and they will meet sometime next week.

 

Changes in the Senate Budget were difficult to understand, but a few items to mention are:

  • Department of Early Childhood Education appropriation was decreased $2 million.

  • Transportation Program under State Board of Education Local Board of Education received a $2 million increase to cover a pay raise for bus drivers.

  • Alabama Reading Initiative received an increase.

  • Middle and High School Robotics Grant Program totaling $350,000 was added. The grant will be through SDE. Provides grant of not more than $1,500 per school to support robotics programs.

  • Higher Ed received many plus ups throughout the budget. 

HB179 (Rep. Poole) Education Advancement and Technology Fund Supplemental Appropriation.

Sen. Dial’s amendment allows funds in the Education Trust Fund Advancement and Technology Fund to be used for school security, in addition to the allowed expenditure categories in the law. The one-time appropriation, if expended for school security, would be restricted to things included in the school’s current security plan. Passed Senate and goes back to the House for consideration of changes made in the Senate.

HB180 (Rep. Poole) Supplemental Appropriation for FY19 from ETF

This bill makes a supplemental appropriation from the Education Trust Fund to the Department of Veterans' Affairs and makes a supplemental appropriation from the Education Trust Fund to the State Department of Education for the Alabama School of Cyber and Engineering. Passed Senate and goes back to the House for consideration of changes made in the Senate.

Bills in Committee:

HB435 (Rep. Ainsworth) Teachers Authorized to Carry Firearms

The House Public Safety Committee held a public hearing on this bill Tuesday. CLAS, SSA, and AASB spoke in opposition. On Thursday, the bill was back in committee for a vote. A substitute was offered. Rep. Will Ainsworth included elements of Rep. Farley’s school security bill. A few changes in the sub are as follows:

  • Allows the local school system to opt-out.

  • Approved person must be employed by a state or local board of education as a teacher or school administrator and meet qualification and conditions. Person must be recommended by school principal, local superintendent, and chief law enforcement officer, and approved by the local board of education to carry, possess, store, or control authorized weapon on public school premises.

  • Definition of public school includes a school bus used for grades K-12.

  • Requires Chief Law Enforcement Officer to authorize weapons.

Qualifications:

  • Person is neither a minor nor individually disqualified or prohibited from possessing or controlling firearms.

  • Successfully completed all safety and training requirements established and approved.

  • The public school has adopted and implemented, a detailed crisis response and emergency plan.

  • Person carrying, possessing, storing, or controlling weapon is in accordance with the specified guidelines and rules adopted and approved.

  • Person shall possess a valid pistol permit.

  • Persons authorized shall be confidential.

Training Requirements:

  • Successful completion of at least 40 hours of annual training in courses approved by the chief law enforcement officer. Training shall include but not be limited to instruction in firearms safety, crisis management, active shooter training, and hostile situations.
  • Proof of annual successful firearms qualification, signed by certified firearms instructor.
  • Mental assessement by the chief law enforcement officer

The bill narrowly received a favorable report as substituted. The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee voted 5-4 to approve the bill. Voting for Ainsworth's bill were Rep. Will Ainsworth, Rep. Allen Farley, Rep. Allen Treadaway, Rep. Issac Whorton, Rep. Tommy Hanes. Voting against it were Rep. Chris England, Rep. Thomas Jackson, Rep. Mary Moore and Rep. Harry Shiver. The bill still has to pass the House and Senate. Keep in mind the bill could be on the House floor next week.

HB194 (Rep. Weaver) Pallative End of Life Individual Health Plans

The bill received a favorable report as substituted and moves to the Senate floor.

HB202 (Rep. Weaver) Palliative End of Life Individual Health Plans to be used in a school setting
Senator Dial added an amendment. If the taskforce has not come back with a plan by June 1, 2019 the bill would become null and void and the process would have to start over. The amendment was adopted, and the Senate Health Committee gave the bill a favorable report as amended. The bill now moves to the Senate floor.

HB356 (Rep. Boyd) Kyle Graddy Act
Bill allows the administration of autoinjectable epinephrine on K-12 school campuses by students. If the bill were passed it would be named the Kyle Graddy Act. Received a favorable report from the Senate ED&YA Committee. Now goes to the Senate floor.

HB261 (Rep. Lovvorn)

This bill creates the Alabama Math and Science Teacher Education Program (AMSTEP) and authorizes ACHE to administer the loan repayment awards to eligible public-school math and science teachers in underserved areas of Alabama. The bill was amended. The amendment requires an evaluation of the effectiveness of the commission be conducted every four years and be based on a survey of certain specified entities. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee gave the bill a favorable report as amended, now it’s pending third reading in the Senate.

SB153 (Sen. Melson) County Superintendents

The bill removes the prohibition against county superintendents of education having additional employment and removes the limit of $600 on annual travel expenses for certain county superintendents of education.  The bill now moves the House floor.

SB280 (Sen. Brewbaker) Superintendents All Appointed

Current law states a county superintendent of education may be elected if authorized under a local law or amendment to the Constitution of Alabama. This bill would require all county superintendents to be appointed by the county board of education and provides transition to appointed office. Superintendents statewide that are up for re-election this year would not be impacted by this bill if it becomes law. The bill received a favorable report from the House Education Policy Committee and moves to the House floor.

HB447 (Rep. Collins) – School Safety and Security Taskforce

Reconstitutes the Alabama Taskforce on School Safety and Security, requires the task force to annually study the education and safety laws, rules, and policies of the state, and make legislative recommendations to the Legislature when necessary. One amendment was adopted that added to the taskforce, a parent of a public school student; one elementary, middle, and high school classroom teacher appointed by AEA; and a school board attorney. The bill received a favorable report, now moves to the Senate floor for consideration.

SB21 (Sen. Dial) and HB330 (Rep. Rowe) 13th CHECK

This bill authorized legislation that allows a 13th check for education retirees based on number of years times $1 per month. The funding comes from the PEEHIP Savings and Reserve account.  The cost of this 13th check is $24.7 million. SB21 received a favorable report from committee and now moves to the House.

Bills Introduced:

HB511 (Rep. Ingram)

Allows public schools to offer elective courses focusing on the study of the Bible in grades six to 12, and provides immunity for teachers who teach in good faith with proper historical context. The State Department of Education would adopt rules and policies to implement the requirements of the bill.

SB391 (Sen. Melson)

Allows public schools to offer elective courses focusing on the study of the Bible in grades six to 12, and allows public school to display artifacts, monuments, symbols, and text related to the study of the Bible if displaying these items is appropriate to the overall educational purpose of the course. The State Department of Education would adopt rules and policies to implement the requirements of the bill. 

NEXT WEEK

There are only 5 days remaining in the 2018 Legislative Session. Next week will be a three-day week. The House and Senate will meet Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Sine Die is expected to be March 29.

Convene Report - The House will convene Tuesday, March 20 at 2:00 p.m. and the Senate at 2:00 p.m. the same day.