2017 Regular Session; Days 11, 12, & 13

Legislative Update, Week 6

The Alabama Legislature convened this week for the 11th, 12th and 13th  legislative days. The House is expected to reconvene after a two week spring break on Tuesday, April 4th at 1:00PM. The Senate will reconvene earlier than normal to address the Education Trust Fund Budget on Tuesday, April 4th at 10:30AM.

The House met all three days long into the evening addressing the General Fund Budget and other controversial issues such as faith based child care licensing and pro-life bills.  After passing the General Fund Budget, the House dedicated Thursday to “Pro Life” Day. They passed three pro-life bills and the Alabama Child Placing Agency Act.

Meanwhile in the Senate they focused on the gun permits, the Education Trust Budget and prison construction.  Please see below a quick recap of week 5 in the Alabama Legislature.

The General Fund Budget Passed in the House

The House passed the General Fund Budget, HB 155   late Tuesday evening after Democrats filibusteredfor nearly 3 and a half hours over the state employee pay raise.  There were three amendments offered to give state employees a one-time bonus, which all failed.  The last pay raise state employees received was nine years ago.  

The $1.843 billion General Fund Budget, HB 155  sponsored by Representative Steve Clouse, R-Ozarkpassed the House on Tuesday putting aside $97 million for next year. The FY2018 budget begins on Oct. 1 and level funds most state agencies.  Medicaid, the state’s largest expense will receive $700 million with a one-time $105 million from the BP Oil spill.

The $97 million savings for next year was based on not knowing what changes Congress would make to the Affordable Care Act, which could potentially cost the state more for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Former Budget Chair, Representative John Knight said the “$97 million wouldn’t make it through the budget process” fearing the Senate would utilize it.

The General Fund is expected to be in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee when the Legislature returns in April.

Education Trust Fund Budget is Debated in the Senate

Disappointed Senator Arthur Orr, R- Decatur  had every intention of passing the $6.4 billion Education Trust Fund Budget, SB 129 in the Senate before they legislature departed for a two-week spring break.  However, with a substitute offered on the floor, many Senators didn’t have a chance to read the budget and wanted to offer amendments.

The budget would increase spending by $90 million over this year, an amount determined by the Rolling Reserve Act, which caps spending based on a 15-year history of tax revenues. There were concerns about “earmarks” for higher education and that K-12 was not properly funded.  The most notable item was an increase to the state’s Pre-K program of $15 million and would hire an additional 150 teachers for grades 4th-6th.  The Senate will convene earlier than normally, at 10:30AM when they return from spring break to pass the education budget.

Prison Construction Bill Passes Senate

After several hours of debate, the Senate passed the third, but scaled down version of the Prison Construction Bill.   The scaled down bond went from $800 million to $325 million which would allow construction of three new men prison and up to a $100 million for renovations for the women’s prison.   The bill will allow a partnership between counties and municipalities who would issue bonds to build prisons and lease them to the state. The lease payments would be applied to paying the bond debt, then the state would own the prisons at the end of the lease terms. The bill moves to the House to be considered. Representative Connie Rowe, R-Jasper will carry the bill in the House.

Coming Up!

The Alabama Legislature will be on spring break for two weeks.  Those items expected to be the focus will be the Education Trust Fund Budget, the General Fund Budget, child care licensing and prison construction.

 

 

 

2016 Special: Days 6-9

Legislative Update
August 26, 2016

This week the Alabama Legislature met to continue deliberation on the BP Settlement legislation and legislation to authorize a constitutional amendment for the people of Alabama to vote on a statewide lottery. Both House and Senate will return on September 6 to continue the special session.

House Passes Lottery, Dies In Senate
This week the Alabama House was tasked with passing the lottery bill sponsored by Senator Jim McClendon and supported by Governor Bentley through the House. On Tuesday when the House Economic Development & Tourism Committee failed to meet due to an unforeseen procedural hurtle, questions were raised whether or not the legislature could pass the bill in time to be placed on the November 8 ballot. Secretary of State John Merrill has stated that unless the legislature changes the law, the deadline to have the lottery on the November 8 ballot was Wednesday, August 24. After passing out of committee on Wednesday, the House spent all day debating the bill and addressing amendments. Only a few amendments were placed on the bill, one sponsored by Representative Richard Lindsey allocating 1% of the proceeds allocated to the general fund to go towards rural fire departments. Another amendment placed on the bill was by Representative Tommy Haines that would dissolve the lottery commission should the lottery reach a point where it could not financialy sustain itself. The final vote on SB3 was 64-25and was sent to the Senate for concurrence.

Senate Stalls Passage of the BP Settlement Bill
While the Alabama House debated the lottery bill, the Alabama State Senate waited to see what their action would be before taking action on the BP Settlement bill which is a crucial part of the solution to fund the State’s Medicaid Agency. On Friday morning, the Senate took up the lottery bill the House had passed the night before. After discussion and urging by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh to agree with the House changes, the Senate voted to non-concur with the House version of the bill effectively killing the lottery bill. The only other measure the Senate had to address was the BP Settlement, also a controversial issue among the members. The Senate did not take a final vote on the legislation before adjourning until September 6.

Legislature Passes Constitutional Amendment Aimed at Preserving Local Bills
Also this week during the special session, the legislature was tasked with passing a bill by Senator Cam Ward, SB7, that would provide a fix to an issue stemming from a court case in Jefferson County where a court ruled that a procedural action commonly taken by the Alabama House of Representatives puts hundreds of local bills at risk of invalidation. The legislature has consistently passed local bills with allowing only members of that local delegation to vote on a procedural vote known as the BIR (Budget Isolation Resolution). The Jefferson County court ruled that the entire body must vote and pass the BIR, but that case has been appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court. Senator Cam Wards bill which is a constitutional amendment, should it be placed on the ballot in November and pass, would ratify all previously passed local bills. If the constitutional amendment fails then hundreds of local bills are at risk of being invalidated. On Thursday, after a conference committee met and worked out differences in the House and Senate passed versions, the House and Senate gave final approval to SB7. The Senate passed a resolution, also sponsored Senator Cam Ward, urging Secretary of State John Merrill to place the constitutional amendment on the November 8 ballot, which the Secretary of State has said he will do.