April 17, 2015
Legislative Days 13-14
This week the Alabama Legislature met for the 13th and 14th legislative days. In a busy week, nearly 100 bills were seen in committees on Wednesday. Next week will mark the half-way point of the session as the legislature convenes for the 15th legislative day on Tuesday. The House is scheduled to convene at 1:00pm while the Senate will return at 2:00pm.
With the clock ticking, and budgets pending, as the process moves forward it will only grow more contentious in each chamber.
Senate Passes Education Budget, Passes Water Works Bill
In an unprecedented point in the legislative session, the Alabama State Senate unanimously passed the $6 billion Education Trust Fund Budget on the 13th legislative day. This is largely due to the stability and slight growth in the fund. The approved budget would increase spending on textbooks, transportation, and daily expenses for public schools, and would also provide for the hiring of about 70 additional middle school teachers. Although the budget passed the Senate, it will now go to the House for consideration in committee.
A highly contentious bill, HB56 by Representative Jim Hill dealing with the solemnization of marriages, was heard by a Senate Health subcommittee this week. Opponents of the bill contend that it would further codify discrimination in the state. Even though the bill received a favorable report from the subcommittee Wednesday, the Senate voted to recommit the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday where it will have to go back through the committee process before coming to the full senate for a vote.
A controversial bill made its way through the senate on Thursday. SB89 by Senator Jabo Waggoner altering the compensation and makeup of the Birmingham Water Works Board received approval from the full senate and will now be sent to the House for consideration. Among the changes in the bill that passed would give the Birmingham City Council six appointments to the board and one appointment each for the Jefferson County Mayor's Association, Shelby County Commission and the Blount County Commission. The bill will also cap the monthly compensation for board members at $1,000, while making the board members and board employees subject to the Alabama Ethics Law.
House Continues Budget Hearings, Adjourns Abruptly Thursday
This week the Alabama House continued hearings on the State General Fund. On Wednesday, members heard testimony from representatives of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), the Judicial System, and the Alabama Department of Human Resources, all of which are facing cuts in the proposed budget. Among the cuts, ALEA is facing a $16 million cut to their budget, which would be detrimental to state operations according to Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier. According to Collier, if the proposed cuts are implemented, 99 of the 431 state troopers will lose their jobs, along with 25 of the 145 special agents.
After a non-controversial session day Tuesday and a busy committee day Wednesday, things took a rapid turn on Thursday as legislators began deliberations. After going into session at 9:30am, things almost immediately fell into a filibuster. Democratic House members were not pleased with the first bill on the special order calendar that dealt with the Department of Human Resources and a new statewide ombudsman position. At 11:45am the House abruptly adjourned for the week without explanation or getting to the first bill on the calendar.
Legislators will return next week to continue deliberations where the House could potentially debate the Education Trust Fund Budget.