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THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2007
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Sales tax, cell phone, gambling legislation dead this session

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Hundreds of bills, affecting everything from property and sales taxes to gambling and cell phones, have officially died in the Legislature because time ran out for passing them.

Tuesday night was the last opportunity in the current session for a bill to pass in the house where it was introduced. Those that hadnít passed automatically died because only two meeting days remain in the session, and that is too little time for them to receive approval.

Many of the non-budget items that Gov. Bob Riley outlined in his State of the State address on the opening day of the session March 6 never came up for a vote in the House or Senate and are now dead.

Tax breaks

They include tax breaks for small businesses that supply health insurance to their employees and state income tax reductions for some middle-class families and for retirees who receive money from defined-contribution retirement plans. The dead bills also included Rileyís government operations legislation, such as banning K-12 and two-year college employees from serving in the Legislature or holding statewide office.

Riley said Wednesday heís not giving up on his proposals and legislators will see them in a future session.

Before the legislative session started, Democratic and Republican caucuses and the governor endorsed legislation to switch Alabama from annual property tax reappraisals back to doing reappraisals every four years, but the legislation withered under intense opposition from education lobbying groups and city and county governments.

House budget committee Chairman John Knight, D-Montgomery, and the Alabama Arise lobbying group for the poor pushed legislation to remove the state sales tax on groceries, but like similar bills in past years, it never developed broad support.

Like the governor, Knight said he plans to keep trying in the next session.

Popular watercooler issues such as immigration and cell phone use by drivers didnít create a lot of interest in the Legislature. Bills died that would have banned drivers ages 16 and 17 from using cell phones while behind the wheel, allowed police to confiscate the cars of illegal immigrants involved in traffic accidents, and required people to prove their legal status to get state benefits.

Legislation to allow electronic bingo games at the dog tracks in Birmingham and Mobile and to crack down on illegal gambling in other locations won quick approval in a House committee, but proponents gave up on trying to pass it in the House because of too much opposition.

Other dead bills

Some of the other dead bills would have:

  • Authorized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

  • Established a minimum wage in Alabama higher than the national minimum wage.

  • Allowed midwives to deliver babies in homes in Alabama.

  • Scheduled an election for Alabama voters to decide if they want to call a convention to write a new constitution.

  • Allowed the sale of beer with increased alcohol content in all wet counties.

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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