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Legislative briefs for March 21

House approves paternal leave bill

The Alabama House voted Thursday in favor of a bill that would grant state  employees eight weeks of paid parental leave following the birth of a child or the  placement of a child 3 or younger. 

House Bill 309, sponsored by Rep. Ginny Shaver, R-Leesburg, also allows spouses employed within the  same state agencies eight combined weeks of paid leave, with exceptions. 

There is currently no paid leave for state employees, but they can take up to 12 weeks  unpaid under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, their own accrued leave and  donated leave from co-workers. 

Shaver said the bill is needed to help address Alabama’s low workforce participation rate  and the difficulty to recruit and retain state employees. 

“Alabama’s (state employment) turnover rate is over 15%,” she said. 

Under this bill, parental leave would be paid at 100 percent of the employee’s base pay and  requires the state to continue to provide the employee with any health care benefits that  they had before the commencement of leave. 

Shaver said she would be in favor of making the amendment effective immediately rather  than Oct. 1, 2024. 

The bill, which has the support of the State Personnel Department, now goes to the Senate.

 

Bill bans deceptive media in elections

A bill that provides criminal and civil penalties for the distribution of materially deceptive media intended to influence an election passed the Alabama House this Thursday. 

Sponsored by Rep. Prince Chestnut, D-Selma, House Bill 172 criminalizes the distribution of materially deceptive information generated by artificial intelligence and intended to influence an upcoming election. 

The bill defines deceptive media as any that depicts an individual engaging in speech or conduct they did not say or do and that a reasonable viewer or listener would incorrectly believe is factual.

To be in violation of the proposed law, the audio or video must be distributed within 90 days before an election with the intent to harm the reputation or electoral prospect of a candidate or to affect voting patterns.

A violation of this bill results in a Class A misdemeanor but a second conviction within five  years is a Class D felony.  

“As legislators, we’re not here just to react,” Chestnut said. “We are here to be proactive.”

Attorney General Steve Marshall is supportive of the bill.

“We all know that the emergence of AI requires that we modernize various aspects of our laws,” Marshall told Alabama Daily News. “Rep. Chestnut’s legislation ensures that bad actors who attempt to use deep fake technologies to subvert our elections will be held accountable. I applaud his foresight and willingness to tackle this important topic.”

 

Committee approves income tax break for deployed National Guard 

The Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Thursday approved legislation to give National Guard and Reserve members the same income tax breaks given to active duty members of the armed forces.

Current law says members of active duty military do not have to pay income taxes on income earned while they’re in combat zones.

Senate Bill 209 by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, gives the same exemption to guard members and reservists when deployed.

“There are 30 states that either exempt active duty military or active duty military that are deployed, or they have no state income tax for anyone,” Jones previously told ADN. “So, we’re trying to join 30 other states.”

The income tax exemption would reduce revenue into the Education Trust Fund by about $1.6 million in fiscal year 2025 and $2.1 million each following year. 

The bill has bi-partisan support with 28 co-sponsors in the Senate.

“If it’s good for the regular Army, it should be good for our Guard too,” Sen. Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, said in committee Thursday.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

 

Ivey signs ‘Parents’ Right to Know’ bill

Gov. Kay Ivey has signed what’s being called the “Parents’ Right to Know” bill, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper. It requires public schools to post classroom curriculum on their websites and says teachers must communicate other information, such as reading lists, to parents. It also establishes a mechanism for parents to file complaints regarding school material they find objectionable.

“Parents’ involvement is critical in a student’s education, and in Alabama, we know that nobody knows what is best for their children than our moms and dads,” Ivey said in a written statement Thursday. “I am proud to sign this commonsense legislation by Pro Tem Reed to ensure our parents know what is being taught in our schools. Parent-teacher collaboration is important, and SB48 will help us take another step to support them.”

 

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