Local bills get attention in Montgomery
by Chris Norwood
TALLADEGA COUNTY – It was a fairly productive week in both houses of the Legislature, with the Senate and House taking up bills with particular relevance to Talladega County.

“We handled about 15 bills on Tuesday, with agreement from the other side,” Sen. Jerry Fielding, R-Sylacauga, said. “Then we handled nine more bills on Thursday. One of those, introduced by Sen. Gerald Dial, would divert some money from the sale of specialty license tags from the penny trust fund, where it goes now, to some funds for senior programs. Another bill from Thursday involves weeds and overgrown grass in our cities and how that is handled. Next week will be tough, though. We’ll be taking up the education budget.”

Some of the most significant action of the week in the Senate took place in the committees that met Wednesday. Fielding is a member of the Judiciary, Health and Job Creation committees.

The Judiciary Committee took up 16 bills and passed 14 of them into the full Senate, including two bills requested by Talladega County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Bill Kennedy.

“One of those would expand the definition of burglary in the second degree to cover a residence, whether it’s occupied or not. The other one would bump a crime up to the next level of punishment if someone is wearing body armor when they commit the crime.”

Other bills passed out of the Judiciary Committee include enhanced penalties for animal cruelty, including felony charges for the wanton or intentional killing or torturing of a dog or cat. Other bills on their way to the full Senate include making trespassing on a school bus a misdemeanor, enhancement of criminal forfeiture to include ill-gotten bank funds and making possession of gambling equipment or paraphernalia a felony rather than a misdemeanor. The committee also signed off on legislation that would create a special driver’s license designation for people with autism spectrum disorders and a proposed Constitutional Amendment to repeal the requirement for circuit and district court judges to retire at 70.

The major accomplishment of the health commission was passage of a Medicaid reform package. Medicaid, Fielding said, accounts for about 42 percent of the state’s General Fund budget.

The legislation, if approved, would divide the state into eight regions, which would be managed by local authorities and stakeholders. “We’ll have to see what the problems are when it’s implemented, but I think it should save us some money.”

Other health committee bills include one to allow excess prescription medications to be distributed to county jails, as they are currently to state prisons, and another that would allow people with expired prescriptions to return them to the pharmacy and have them destroyed.

The job creation committee passed the homebrew bill, which would allow residents to manufacture up to 10 gallons of beer or wine at home.

In the House, according to Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, a stack of bills requested by the leadership passed during a long day Tuesday, and about 20 more passed Thursday. Johnson said he sponsored two of those.

The first, requested by entities in Lincoln and Sylacauga, exempts non-profit food pantries from paying sales tax on groceries. His other bill involved some changes to the board that oversees land surveyors, adding two consumers to it.

The House delegation also visited with members of the Childersburg Chamber of Commerce last week, and will take up a dozen budget related bills next week.

Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, said the week had gone fairly well, with the food pantry bill being the highlight.

Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford was not available Friday afternoon.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com.

© 2013