Alabama lawmakers on Friday ended an election-year Session that saw Republicans push through measures ranging from gun legislation to a ban on gender-affirming medications for transgender minors.
Here is a look at some of the measures that passed and failed in the 2022 Regular Legislative Session:
WHAT WAS APPROVED:
PERMITLESS CONCEALED CARRY
Alabama will become the 22nd state to allow people to carry concealed handguns without first undergoing a background check and getting a state permit. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the legislation into law soon after it was approved by lawmakers. The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2023, will end the requirement for a person to get a concealed carry permit to carry a loaded handgun concealed under their clothes, in a car or in a purse or bag. The proposal had been introduced for years in Montgomery, before finally winning approval this year.
The bill would make it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to transgender people under age 19 to help in their gender transition. Alabama is the second state to try to impose a ban on gender-affirming care for minors and the first to impose criminal penalties. Ivey signed the legislation a day after it was approved. Groups have vowed to challenge the law in court. A similar measure in Arkansas, which would have banned doctors from prescribing the medications, was blocked by a federal judge.
“DON’T SAY GAY”/ BATHROOM BILL
The bill would mandate that in public K-12 schools, students can only use multi-person bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with the gender on their original birth certificate. It also includes what critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” provision that would prohibit classroom instruction or discussion on sexual orientation or gender identity for students in kindergarten through the fifth grade. Ivey signed the legislation Friday. It also is expected to be challenged in court.
Alabama lawmakers approved the largest teacher pay raise in a generation to try to combat a teacher shortage. Teachers with nine or more years of experience would get raises ranging from 5% to up to nearly 21%. A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 20 years of experience would see their minimum salary rise from $51,810 to $57,214. Teachers with less than nine years of experience would see a 4% raise.
Alabama will spend $772 million in pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Plan on a mix of broadband, water and sewer projects and health care reimbursements. Lawmakers met in a January special session to approve the spending plan that had broad bipartisan support. Alabama faced criticism last year for using $400 million — nearly 20% of the state’s total $2.1 billion allocation from the American Rescue Plan — for prison construction.
DELAY OF READING PROMOTION
Alabama lawmakers voted to delay a high-stakes requirement to hold back third graders who don’t meet reading benchmarks. The requirement was set to begin this spring. Lawmakers voted to delay it until the 2023-2024 school year. Many lawmakers expressed concern about putting the requirement on students after the pandemic interrupted classroom instruction for two years.
Lawmakers approved a series of tax cuts for people and businesses. One bill will increase the optional standard deduction by $1,000 for married taxpayers and by $500 for single, married filing separately and head of household taxpayers. It would also increase the adjusted gross income range allowable for the maximum optional standard deduction and for the dependent exemption. Another approved bill will exempt up to $6,000 in retirement income from state income taxes for people who are 65 years of age or older.
REMOVING RACIST LANGUAGE
Alabama voters in November will vote on a plan to strip racist language, such as provisions about poll taxes and segregated schools, from the Alabama Constitution. The sections were invalidated by court rulings but remain in the document. The plan also reorganizes the massive, sprawling document that has nearly 1,000 constitutional amendments to try to make it more user-friendly.
Lottery and casino legislation failed again amid longstanding disputes over who should get casino licenses. A sweeping school choice bill that would have let parents tap $5,500 per year to pay for private school or other school options also failed. A bill to ban a list of “divisive concepts” from being taught in K-12 classrooms and state worker training was approved in the House of Representatives but did not get a Senate vote.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.