All in all, it has been a turbulent year in Alabama politics. Besides the changes in the top elected offices, Alabama lawmakers faced a large number of challenging issues in their recently-completed legislative session. The following are the key bills that passed, along with key legislative proposals that fell short.
BUDGETS: Both the General Fund & Education Trust Fund budgets were sent to the Governor to fund all state services, as well as the state’s education system. In this year’s version of the education budget, several K-12 programs were cut, and higher education budgets cuts were minimal.
AUTISM THERAPY REQUIREMENT FOR INSURANCE: There was quite a battle in the Senate, but lawmakers ultimately passed a measure that forces insurers to cover autism therapies for employees of companies with 51 or more employees. The benefit will apply to individuals 18 and younger. Governor Ivey has already signed the bill, making Alabama the 46th state to enact a law requiring some degree of autism coverage for minors.
VETERANS SCHOLARSHIPS: This bill will continue the Alabama G.I. Dependent’s Scholarship Program to allow dependents of veterans to continue receiving free in-state college tuition. But increasing costs of higher education forced lawmakers to raise the qualifying thresholds. It does allow those currently taking advantage of the scholarship to remain grandfathered in until July 31, 2023.
PROTECTION OF HISTORIC MONUMENTS: On the final day of the 2017 session, lawmakers passed a bill protecting historic monuments from removal, also creating a standing committee to hear waiver requests from cities and counties. Historic artifacts under the care of museums, archives, libraries, and universities are specifically exempt from the prohibition against removal or alteration.
LEGALIZATION OF MIDWIVES: Also on the final day of the legislative session, lawmakers gave final approval to making it legal for certified midwives to deliver babies in the state.
PRISON REFORM: Overcrowding in Alabama prisons has long remained as a costly problem, but the bill to build new prisons is still on the shelf. There are reports from Montgomery that Governor Ivey is considering calling for a special session to specifically address the issue.
REPEAL OF COMMON CORE: A bill that looked to return Alabama education curriculum requirements to pre-Common Core standards stalled in the House Education Committee. House Rep. Barry Moore (R- Enterprise) said that he plans to address the matter again in the 2018 session.