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State legislators will have full plates when they return to the statehouse Monday for the last day of the current session.

In addition to bills that have garnered national headlines, such as the Alabama Accountability Act and a gun rights bill, lawmakers representing Chilton County will try to push through bills that affect residents here.

“This is it,” state Rep. Kurt Wallace said about the final day. “We’ll be here until midnight if we have to.”

State Sen. Cam Ward said a data processing fee increase that would raise additional funding for the Chilton County Humane Society has cleared the Senate and is on the schedule for the House of Representatives to consider.

Ward said he expects the bill to pass.

Wallace is less hopeful about a bill he sponsored that would regulate the state’s barber industry.

He said Monday marks the fourth time the bill will be on the House’s schedule, but this time it is so far down the agenda that Wallace said he doesn’t expect it to come to a vote.

“Everybody has bills they are trying to get up there,” he said.

Wallace said he intends to re-introduce the bill during the Legislature’s next session, possibly with some modifications.

Ward, meanwhile, hopes to see final passage of three bills he is sponsoring: one would strengthen laws against financial and physical abuse of the elderly, the second would place caps on the amounts state government can pay to outside legal representation, and the third would increase penalties against an unauthorized person who boards a school bus and assaults the driver or a student.

Wallace and Ward differed on the latest development with the Accountability Act, which has garnered attention nationwide while being hailed by its Republican supporters as groundbreaking for education in the state.

Gov. Robert Bentley announced that instead of signing a set of revisions to the act into law, that he would tack on an executive amendment delaying implemenation by two years.

The Legislature would then consider the amendment.

The Accountability Act calls for tax credits for state residents who take their children out of “failing” schools and enroll them in non-failing schools. Bentley said the state needs to focus first on re-paying more than $400 million borrowed from the Education Trust Fund, a position Ward said he agrees with.

“We need to start paying that money back,” Ward said. “[Bentley’s amendment] doesn’t do away with the tax credit, and it doesn’t do away with school choice.”

But Wallace said legislators have been assured that the act is “fiscally responsible.”

“If everything continues on the path we’ve been on, we’ll be fine,” Wallace said. “We worked really, really hard, and this could put our work in jeopardy. Right now, I don’t support it.”

Wallace said he thinks both the House and Senate would override Bentley’s veto if the amendment came to a vote.

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By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Students at Alabaster’s Creek View Elementary School who have seen Taylor Swift’s Geico Insurance commercial recognized a familiar face during Awesome Authors Day on May 15.

Josh Castle, a Nashville musician featured on the commercial, donned a rainbow-colored mohawk and peace sign glasses as he played alongside singer-songwriter Roger Day in the school’s cafeteria.

During the performance, Day and Castle played songs dealing with topics ranging from brain-freeze to coastal ecosystems.

“I love coming here,” Day said, noting it was is his fifth straight year to play at Awesome Authors Day. “It’s great for the kids to associate a real live person with a musician, illustrator or writer.”

CVES holds Awesome Authors Day each year to give students a chance to meet authors, musicians and illustrators whose work they have enjoyed throughout the school year.

In addition to Day and Castle, Awesome Authors Day also featured children’s authors Kim Norman, Jo Kittinger and Will Rankeillor, illustrator Carly Strickland and state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster.

While reading to a group gathered in Lyn Wyatt’s art room, Ward encouraged the students to read as often as possible both inside and outside the classroom.

“No matter what you read, it’s good to keep reading your whole life,” Ward said. “If you take time to read now, that’s going to make you a lot smarter when you grow up.”


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Legislature Gives Final Passage to Fleet Management Reform Bill

The Alabama legislature passed a bill to create The Office of Fleet Management today. The new office will be housed in The Alabama Department of Transportation, and is tasked with the cost efficient acquisition, allocation, and maintenance of state owned motor vehicles and facilities.

“This is sound conservative fiscal management in action. It will put the management of all the vehicles of all state agencies under one roof, and answerable to one person,” Ward said. “Currently, each agency buys its fleet vehicles piecemeal, based on their individual needs. The truth is that most of the cars and trucks we use have the same specs and the same usage requirements. Combining the purchase of all vehicles under one office will allow the state to use buying power as a force multiplier and negotiate for better deals.”

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‘Doctor shopping’ prevention bills pass legislature

The Alabama Senate on May 2 granted final passage to a series of bills that will help combat the abuse of prescription drugs.

The three-bill package will enhance the tracking of prescriptions for opioids, painkillers and other commonly abused drugs, prevent “doctor shopping” and provide the State Medicaid Agency with tools to combat drug abuse among its patients. The bills now go to Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature.

State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, said these are necessary tools for combating a dangerous and costly problem in the state of Alabama.

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Press conference held in Alabaster to discuss elder abuse

The issue of elder abuse was front and center at a press conference held at the Alabaster Senior Center on Monday.

State Sen. Cam Ward is sponsoring legislation that would increase penalties for elder abuse.

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State Sen. Cam Ward stirs support for elderly abuse legislation in Alabaster

As the Alabama Legislature approaches its home stretch, state Sen. Cam Ward of Shelby County and others at a press conference this morning stirred support of a bill he sponsored that protects seniors from criminal abuse.

"We're only one vote away from this bill getting final passage," Ward said at the Alabaster Senior Citizens Center, urging those in attendance to call their legislators to approve the bill within the session's remaining eight days.

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New legislation paves way for aviation industry

With Redstone Arsenal and its associated aerospace industry in the Tennessee Valley and with Airbus locating its new factory in Mobile, Alabama has an opportunity to become a major player in the commercial aviation industry in the Southeast. The Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act increases the state’s chances of expanding on its successful foundation.

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House to consider trio of bills

A state medical association and lawmakers are trying to clamp down on fraudulently obtained prescription drugs in Alabama through better monitoring and more penalties for those who seek them and those who issue them.

A trio of bills expected to be debated today in the Alabama House would hinder the practice of “doctor shopping” for prescription drugs; make the state’s prescription drug monitoring program more accessible; and better regulate pain management services in the state, according to proponents.

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Alabama bills make it easier to prosecute elder abuse

Alabama lawmakers have passed two very similar bills that would make it easier to criminally charge people who abuse, neglect or financially exploit the elderly, and the sponsors say they expect the governor to sign one of them into law.

The Senate sponsor, Republican Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster, said only one word in the measure that passed the Senate is different from the House-passed version sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood.

Ward said he believes the legislation will get final passage.

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Alabama Job Creation Legislation Signed into Law

Governor Robert Bentley signs the Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act on Thursday, April 4.  Also pictured, from left to right, Senator Cam Ward, Senator Vivian Figures and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield joined Governor Bentley as he signed the bill.Governor Robert Bentley on Thursday signed legislation aimed at attracting thousands of additional jobs to Alabama.

The Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act will help the state recruit more aerospace industry suppliers.  Those suppliers are expected to locate in the region as Airbus builds its first U.S.-based production facility in Mobile.  Groundbreaking for the Airbus facility is scheduled for next week.

The legislation signed by Governor Bentley levels the playing field between Alabama and nearby states in the recruitment of supplier companies and the additional jobs they will bring.
“Putting Alabamians back to work is my number-one priority,” Governor Bentley said.  “This bill will make sure Alabama remains competitive with neighboring states in attracting supplier jobs.  Already, Airbus will directly provide 1,000 jobs in Mobile, and more than 3,000 people will be employed in the construction phase of the Airbus facility.  As suppliers move in, we can attract thousands of additional jobs as well.  We want those jobs for the people of Alabama.  This legislation will help us accomplish our goal.”

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