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Peritus panel discusses legislative takeaways

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Corinn O’Brien said there are potential options for the Alabama Legislature to further enact protections for in-vitro fertilization in the 2025 session – one of several issues discussed during in a recent online panel hosted by Peritus Public Relations.

O’Brien, vice president of policy for A+ Education Partnership, became a de-facto leader of a grassroots movement urging the legislature to act on IVF. That came from her own experience with IVF, which she shared on the panel. O’Brien said she was receiving IVF care when the Alabama Supreme Court made its decision in February defining embryos as children under Alabama law. About a week later, the Legislature responded by passing bill in to protect fertility clinics in the state from lawsuits. But O’Brien said more will need to be done.

“Is it federal legislation? Is it state legislation where we just pass another bill that actually addresses the core issue here? Or is it potentially a constitutional amendment?” O’Brien said. 

Regardless of the solution, O’Brien said the issue will likely come up in the 2025 session.

“There’s just lots of talk, you know. We’re not done with IVF. We’re gonna have to come back,” she said. “We’re already hearing folks that are working in the background right now, legislators that are thinking about this issue.”

Another panelist, Jordan Howard, highlighted the new residential high school in Demopolis that will be focused on training health care professionals. The senior policy advisor for the Alabama Department of Finance said students will get hands-on training at Whitfield Regional Hospital, and later intern at hospitals and clinics across the state. He said the hope is that students will return to rural hospitals after they complete their education.

“If they’re learning all of these skills in a rural setting, then hopefully, they’ll go back and work in the rural setting,” he said. 

Students at the school will also be able to earn “stackable credits,” like dual enrollment credits, according to Howard, so that they can go straight into the workforce or a college or university.

Panel member and Alabama Daily News owner  Todd Stacy spoke about why Alabama has two budgets, the Education Trust Fund and General Fund. He said the Legislature moved to have a separate budget for education to protect its funding. The General Fund though, is more complicated, he said. 

“This actually goes back to the health care question and the Medicaid question, which actually kind of goes back to the gambling question,” he said. 

He said that Medicaid expansion, or a public-private partnership to similarly close the coverage gap, could have been boosted by an influx of General Fund revenue from the gambling plan debated but not passed by the Legislature this year. He said an expansion of Medicaid would generate more revenue for the state, but that revenue would go into the ETF because that’s where sales and income taxes are directedd. 

“That’s kind of been an undercurrent in this whole discussion because of the way the budgets are funded,” he said. “Even the benefits that come from a Medicaid expansion wouldn’t pay for Medicaid expansion.”

This panel was the first annual “Lunchtime Legislation” hosted by Peritus PR.

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