New Laws

May 20 the Alabama Legislature concluded a busy, sometimes bitterly controversial 105-day session that voted taxpayer money to support private schools, gave K-12 teachers a raise, allowed armed guards at schools, revamped Medicaid, funded a beachfront convention center, allowed workers to bring their guns to the office parking lot and legalized home brew.

Highlights included:

  • A love it or loathe it law that allows parents of children enrolled in “failing” public schools to take a tax credit for tuition they pay to private schools. At the close of the session, Gov. Robert Bentley told the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce that he wants a two-year delay before implementation so money borrowed from the Education Trust Fund can be repaid and so that “failing” schools have time to improve.
  • A $5.8 billion education budget includes a 2 percent raise for K-12 teachers and a $1.7 billion general fund budget that ups court and prison funds but offers no raise to state workers, who have not had a raise since 2008.
  • The governor took to the beach in mid-May to sign a bill authorizing construction of an $85 million lodge and convention center at Gulf Shores State Park. The project will be funded with oil spill recovery funds.
  • Gun rights law that reaffirms policies allowing people to carry guns openly, including provisions that they can be taken as far as the parking lot at work — a provision adamantly opposed by the Business Council of Alabama — and overriding a proposal for “gun-free zones” around schools.
  • Provisions to revamp the state’s Medicaid program from the fee-for-service system in place now into a managed care program. Target date for full implementation is 2016.
  • Lifted a glass to home brewers, allowing them to make a limited amount of beer or wine for personal consumption, without license or fee — the last state to pass such a law.

text by Nedra Bloom

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