Senate expected to take up Medicaid overhaul, Alabama Accountability Act changes

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Senators gather for a discussion prior to the start of a session on April 25, 2013.  (Montgomery Advertiser, Brian Lyman)

Senators gather for a discussion prior to the start of a session on April 25, 2013. (Montgomery Advertiser, Brian Lyman)

The Alabama Senate is expected to take up legislation Thursday that will overhaul the controversial Alabama Accountability Act and make changes to the delivery of Medicaid services in the state.

The Alabama Accountability Act, sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, allows families of students zoned for schools listed as failing to claim a tax credit for transfers to a private school or non-failing public one.  According to the Alabama State Department of Education, the credit would have been worth about $4,200 in the 2012 school year.

The act, also known as HB 84, aroused strong opposition from Democrats, who have objected to the tax credits, the bill’s definition of what a failing school is and the means by which it was passed.  Among other definitions, the law currently lists a failing school as one that has been in the bottom 10 percent of testing scores for at least three years.  A Senate committee Wednesday approved a change that would keep that definition in place until 2017, when a grading system developed by the ALSDE would be put in place.

Lawmakers have also discussed a means test for claiming the income tax credit.  That was not included in the version of the bill passed out of the Senate committee Wednesday.

The tax credits were introduced in a conference committee convened for what had been legislation to allow school districts to apply for waivers from certain school laws.

The Medicaid overhaul would create an unspecified number of regions in the state, to be run by regional care networks that would use a capitation model in their delivery of services.  The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper.

– posted by Brian Lyman

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