April 23, 2015
Legislative Days 15-16
This week the Alabama Legislature met for the 15th and 16th legislative days, crossing the half-way mark in the session. As of this week, neither budget has passed both chambers, leaving only 14 legislative days to deal with the projected budget shortfall in the General Fund. The Education Trust Fund, having passed the Senate, will be heard in its house committee next week according to House General Fund Budget Committee Chairman Steve Clouse.
House Passes Bill To Push Back ETF Payment
In the House General Fund Committee this week a bill passed that would postpone a $15 million payment to the Education Trust Fund until 2017. In 2012 the legislature approved a transfer of $437 million from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund, and now the money must be replayed by 2026. The postponement is in reaction to the projected General Fund Budget shortfall of more than $200 million. Governor Bentley described the bill as further kicking the can down the road.
On Tuesday the House spent several hours in a filibuster over a calendar that was filled with bills dealing with changes to voting and election bills. After coming in at 1:00pm the House didn't adjourn until nearly 8:00pm having finished the calendar.
On Thursday, the House passed several bills on a lengthy calendar. Among the bills passed was HB60 by Representative Pringle regulating the practice of lawsuit lending in the state as well as SB191 that would establish the State Board of Postsecondary Education and transfer authority from the State Department of Education to oversee the two-year institutions.
Next week, the House is scheduled to debate HB417 by Representative Patricia Todd establishing a statewide database for pay day lending companies as well as SB80 by Senator Ward dealing with product liability.
Senate Passes Sunset Bills, Medical Marijuana Bill Approved By Committee
Like the House, the State Senate on Tuesday spent much of its time in a filibuster. Senate Democrats were upset due to a resolution dealing with the expansion of Medicaid. After a few hours of debate, a resolution was brought up opposing the expansion of Medicaid. Proponents of the resolution said it was a statement to the Governor that should he decide to expand the program, they would not allocate the funds to an expanded program. Opponents of the resolution said it would be irresponsible to leave federal dollars on the table with a looming budget shortfall.
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would allow certain patients to buy or grow a small amount of marijuana each month. The medical marijuana would also be subject to a 2.5% tax.
On Thursday the Senate spent most of the day taking up sunset bills, which must receive approval on a continuing basis and have already passed through the House.