Government agencies contract with many private businesses for assistance in handling disasters. Those contracts are typically made well before the need arises. A conference on how to become a pre-approved vendor for emergency response is being held at Alabama State University today. Several prime contractors will also be on hand offering presentations on how to do business with them.
The Alabama Senate approved a compromise General Fund budget that increases funding for courts and prisons. The Senate voted 25-5 last night for a compromise budget that provides more than $5 million dollars extra for the court system and nearly $17 million extra for prisons. Legislators also passed the $5.7 billion dollar education budget. Both spending plans were sent to the governor for his signature.
A task force of Montgomery police officers are following several leads in connection with a violent home invasion that occurred on Bell Road last Friday. Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy also believes the same suspects were responsible for a home invasion that occurred on Crestwood Lane on April 11th. Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks said a $10,000 reward has been offered for information that could lead police to the suspects.
AT&T announced Wednesday the telecommunications company will create 350 new jobs statewide as part of a $1.4 billion dollar upgrade to its wireless networks. AT&T President Hugh McCallum said 4G LTE mobile services soon will be available in Montgomery. The service has already debut in Birmingham, Mobile and Auburn-Opelika.
Governor Robert Bentley signed the Best Interest of the Child Act into law. The measure will shorten the process by which children are moved from the foster care system into permanent homes. The legislation requires the Department of Human Resources to file a petition to terminate parental rights to a child who has been in the foster for 12 of the most recent 22 months. It also mandates the completion of a "termination of parental right" trial within 90 days after the petition has been served and the judge must enter a final order within 30 days following the trial.
Last night, the Alabama Senate approved an Education budget and a two percent pay raise for K-12 employees. The Senate voted 22-11 for a nearly 5.8 billion dollar budget that would increase spending on schools next year. Then it voted 18-16 to give teachers a two percent pay increase. Both the Education budget and the pay raise bill must return to the House for review on Thursday.
Alabama lawmakers are one step from letting voters decide, at least in theory, whether to make it harder for government to adopt restrictions on firearms. A proposed constitutional amendment would apply a judicial standard strict scrutiny to any limits on possessing weapons. The proposal cleared a Senate committee Tuesday. It must pass the full Senate before it goes on a statewide ballot. The bill repeats what the U.S. Supreme Court already requires under recent decisions striking down local weapons bans.
The Alabama House will consider a bill that would reorganize the state's Medicaid program. The bill will be up for final passage in the House of Representatives today. The Medicaid bill will be debated with just three days remaining in the 2013 legislative session. The bill replaces that current payment method with the regional care organizations. The bill would create several Medicaid regional care organizations around the state. There will be no change for nursing home patients or long term care until 2016 under the plan.
Private schools want to make sure Alabama's new tax credits and scholarships for private school attendance don't lead to state government having a role in their operations. They are concerned about one proposed change in the law that would require schools accepting the scholarship student to test participating students and report their scores to the state Revenue Department. The department would hire a researcher to analyze them and recommend improvements.
The Education and General Fund budgets await consideration in the state Legislature. Lawmakers have only three days before the end of 2013 regular session, expected to be May 20th. In a recent speech on the Senate floor, Montgomery Democrat Quinton Ross pleaded with Senate leaders to begin debate on the school spending plan. Lawmakers will return to the Alabama Statehouse Tuesday.