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Legislative committees considered several bills Wednesday

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MONTGOMERY — Several state legislative committees met to consider bills Wednesday. Here are the highlights of action from the State House.

K-12 yoga bill advances to Senate floor

A bill to allow yoga instruction in K-12 public schools is now one vote from final passage.

The Senate Judiciary Committee quickly approved House Bill 246 from Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika, on Wednesday.

The Alabama Board of Education voted in 1993 to prohibit yoga, hypnosis and meditation in public school classrooms. Gray’s bill says school systems could authorize yoga if they choose. Yoga done in school would be limited to poses and stretches, and all poses would have to have English names. The use of chanting, mantras and teaching the greeting “namaste” would be forbidden, per a House amendment added last month.

Conservative groups have pushed back against the bill, saying it could lead to the promotion of Hinduism.

Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, thanked Gray for sponsoring the bill, saying it will benefit students' physical and mental health.

Student-athlete compensation bill advances

The Senate Judiciary Committee also approved House Bill 404 to allow student athletes at Alabama institutions of higher education to be compensated whenever their name, image or likeness is used in promotional material.

Sponsor Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, said he wanted to make sure Alabama has procedures in place when the National Collegiate Athletic Association gives a final vote on their own compensation rules.

Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, said the University of Alabama and Auburn University are supportive of the bill.

Democrats on the committee noted that Sen. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, had a similar bill that hadn’t yet gotten a committee vote. Whatley said it could still move forward.

Bill targets unemployment compensation overpayments

The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday approved a bill requiring the Alabama Department of Labor to recover overpayments in unemployment compensation.

Senate Bill 373, the Unemployment Insurance Program Integrity Act of 2021, is sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur. He said many of the policies outlined in the bill are already done by the department, but the legislation would put them into law.

Requirements of the bill include weekly checks of unemployment insurance recipients against the Alabama Department of Corrections list of incarcerated individuals to verify eligibility and the adoption of policies to recover overpayments to the “fullest extent possible by state and federal law.”

There are 14 Republican co-sponsors on the bill that now moves to the Senate.

Bill preventing governor's change in election law passes first vote

A bill that would prevent the governor from making any changes to election procedures six months before an election passed its first vote on Wednesday.

House Bill 351 from Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, does allow the governor to make changes in case of a natural disaster such as hurricanes or tornadoes.

“It would keep a governor from doing something that would individually affect the election law in our state,” Mooney said.

Mooney pointed to Pennsylvania as an example of when a governor changed election procedures and said this isn’t necessarily in reaction to any election law change that happened in Alabama last year.

“It would be so we can be careful with our elections and avoid getting into the controversies that other states have,” Mooney said.

The US Supreme Court ultimately denied hearing the case against Pennsylvania, which involved allowing mail-in ballots to be counted if they arrived after election day, along with multiple other state lawsuits related to the 2020 election.

The bill passed on a voice vote with Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, and Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile, voicing opposition to the bill.