May 28, 2015
Legislative Days 25-26
The Alabama Legislature met this week for the 25th and 26th legislative days. With only 4 legislative days left in the session, the legislature still has not passed a General Fund Budget. Even so, Governor Robert Bentley has said that he would veto the current version of the General Fund Budget being considered by the legislature.
Next week, the legislature will be meeting for three legislative days and plans to Sine Die the following week on June 11. Several elected officials have been speculating that if a special session is called it will be called in August.
The House is scheduled to reconvene Tuesday June 2 at 2:00pm and the Senate is set to reconvene that same day at 2:00pm.
House Gives Final Passage To Education Trust Fund, Inaugural Charter School Commission Appointees Approved
This week the Alabama House of Representatives concurred with a conference committee report on the Education Trust Fund and gave final passage to the $5.9 billion budget and it has been sent to the governor for his signature. The approved education budget, which is in much better shape than the lingering General Fund Budget, has increased funding for textbooks, classroom supplies, and transportation.
Also this week in the House, Representative Terri Collins who sponsored the original charter school legislation, sponsored a bill to remove the State Board of Education from the process of approving members appointed to the Charter School Commission. The bill was introduced after the State Board of Education failed to approve the inaugural members of the commission. Shortly before the House was scheduled to take up the bill, the board met and approved the appointments to the board and Representative Collins withdrew her bill.
Senate Committee Holds Public Hearing On General Fund, Falls Into Filibuster On Thursday
On Wednesday the Senate Ways & Means General Fund Committee held a public hearing on the General Fund Budget. Several department heads were present at the meeting to express what consequences would follow if the proposed budget passed which cuts $204 million for state services. Among the agency heads present at the committee meeting were the heads of the Department of Mental Health, Department of Human Resources, Department of Corrections, Pardons and Paroles, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
Senator Arthur Orr, the Ways & Means General Fund Committee Chairman, said that he planned to bring a substitute version of the budget on the floor next Tuesday when they debate the budget. The substitute, he said, will be aimed at alleviating some of their concerns.
On Thursday the Senate was in session into the late afternoon when a number of revenue bills aiming to fix some of the budget shortfalls were on their calendar. One notable bill, SB502 by Senator Gerald Dial, would unify the two budgets in Alabama. That bill was eventually carried over. Another bill that was a point of contention for members was SB496 by Senator Orr dealing with the distribution of use taxes to the general fund. The Senate adjourned before Senator Orr’s bill could be brought up for debate.