Day 2 of the Legislative Session: Abortion, Medical Marijuana, and Budget Decisions

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By Jessica Gertler

From Montgomery -- State lawmakers start tackling a busy agenda that includes finances and social issues.

Lawmakers discussed several controversial issues on day two of the legislative session. Some of those issues include abortion, medical marijuana and budget decisions.

Controversy filled the Joint Briefing Room as the House Health Committee passed the Women's Health and Safety Act, which places new restrictions on abortion clinics.

Tori Smith came to the meeting show opposition. She says the bill will cause abortion clinics to shut down.

"We don't anticipate the women of Alabama to be treated as second class citizens," Smith says.

The Health Committee also discussed a bill to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in the state. The committee did not pass that bill.

And back at the State Capitol, Finance Director Marquita Davis unveiled Governor Bentley's General Fund and Education Trust Fund budget proposals for next year.

Davis says the General Trust Fund is flat, so in the governor's proposal, only a few state agencies will receive additional funding including Department of Corrections, Pardons and Paroles, Department of Human Resources and Senior Services. All other agencies will receive the same funding as last year.

"This is the governor's proposal, and now it is up to the legislature," Davis says. "We didn't provide any pay raises in the General Fund."

As for the Education Trust Fund, Davis says there is revenue growth. The governor wants to give a 2.5 percent pay raise for public school teachers and support staff, and hopes to expand the state's Pre-K program.

"He wants to expand voluntary Pre-K program in the state, so he will increase the budget $12.5 million," she says.

Senator Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, reacts to the governor's proposal.

"I definitely support a raise for teachers and state employees, but 2.5 percent is not enough," he says.

Under the governor's proposal, state employees would not receive a pay raise. Senator Ross says he disagrees with that decision.

Today a house committee passed the Alabama Firearms Protection Amendment, which they say contains the strongest gun protection provisions in the country.

Another house committee passed the School Flexibility Act,  which allows school systems to have more flexibility with their curriculum and staffing.

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