April 3, 2015
Legislative Days 9-10
This week the Alabama Legislature met for the 9th and 10th legislative days after not meeting last week for spring break. Each chamber also received an austerity budget report, a budget that shows what the state budgets would look like if none of the governor's tax increase bills are passed. Under this model, both corrections and Medicaid would see a 3% cut while most other state agencies would see 11.5% cuts without any additional revenue.
Next week the legislature is scheduled to meet for two legislative days and hold hearings in each chamber on the State Education Trust Fund and General Fund. The Education Trust Fund hearings will be held in the Senate and the State General Fund budget hearings will be held in the house.
The House is scheduled to reconvene at 1:00pm on Tuesday April 7 and the Senate will reconvene at 2:00pm.
House Passes Sunset Bills And Economic Development Bill
The Alabama House of Representatives this week spent a considerable amount of time working through a number of non-controversial bills. Among them were bills authorizing boards and commissions that have a sunset provision, needing to be re-authorized after a set number of years.
On Thursday the House Democrats filibustered a bill by Howard Sanderford that would remove the requirement that county commissions print voter registration lists in newspapers. The bill sponsor said the legislation will save the state $650,000 a year. The bill was eventually carried over so that the House could concur with changes that had been made to HB58 in a conference committee. The Senate also concurred with the changes and HB58, one bill in a package of economic development bills supported by the governor, was passed and signed by Governor Bentley on Friday April 3, 2015.
Senate Passes Prison Reform And Alabama Accountability Act Changes
On Tuesday the Alabama Senate passed changes to the controversial Alabama Accountability Act. The most notable change to the law would be the current limitation on how much can be raised by Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGO's) every year. Currently, only $25 million can be donated to SGO's in the state and be eligible for a tax deduction. If the bill that passed in the senate is also passed by the house, that cap will be raised to $30 million.
The Senate on Thursday passed a bill by Senator Cam Ward that would address the overcrowded prison systems in Alabama and provide much needed relief to the pardon and paroles officers who have oversized case loads. Although the bill will cost an estimated $25 million a year, Senator Ward said he would filibuster and oppose any budget proposal that did not include funding for his prison reform bill.
The senate also took up HB57, another bill in the governor's economic development package which had been carried over before spring break. The bill passed the senate unanimously before they adjourned for the week.
In committee this week, the Senate Fiscal Responsibility & Economic Development Committee passed a bill by Senator Arthur Orr, SB110, which would place further regulations on pay day lending companies. This bill would cap interests rates and require loans be paid back over a 6 month period. Two other bills dealing with pay day lenders were introduced in the house, HB400 by Representative Rod Scott and HB417 by Representative Patricia Todd.