March 11, 2016
The Alabama Legislature met for two legislative days in Montgomery this week. The House will reconvene on Tuesday March 15th at 1:00pm and the Senate will reconvene the same day at 2:00pm.
Senate Committee Approves PREP Act
The Alabama Senate Committee on Education and Youth Affairs gave approval to Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh’s SB316 known as the PREP (Preparing and Rewarding Education Professionals) Act. The bill would increase the time required for teachers to earn tenure from three to five years and change the process for teacher evaluations. Proponents of the bill said changes are needed, especially in light of the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, which ranked Alabama fourth and eighth graders last among states in math.
House Committee Approves General Fund Budget, Education Trust Fund Passed By Full House
This week the Alabama House of Representatives Ways & Means General Fund Committee gave approval to a $1.848 billion General Fund Budget. The General Fund includes about $26 million more than a version passed by the Senate on Feb. 25. The bulk comes from about $15 million in voluntary online sales taxes paid by retailers. Transfers from the Public Service Commission and the Department of Tourism, as well as money realized from bond refinancing, also contributed.
The new revenue led to a $15 million increase for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, bringing its General Fund allocation from $685 million to $700 million. Medicaid says it needs $100 million to maintain services and implement regional care organizations (RCOs), which would move Medicaid to a managed care model and aim to slow cost growth in the program. There is speculation that if Medicaid does not receive the $100 million it needs then the Governor will call a special session in order to deal with the shortfall.
The House this week also gave approval to the Education Trust Fund Budget. The House passed the budget by a vote of 105-0, and followed that up with a 104-0 vote in favor of the teacher pay raise bill. The budget, for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, calls for spending $6.3 billion from the Education Trust Fund, an increase of $290 million, 4.8 percent over this year. Education employees who earn less than $75,000 a year would receive a 4 percent raise, while those earning more than $75,000 would receive 2 percent raises.