2016 Special: Days 6-9

Legislative Update
August 26, 2016

This week the Alabama Legislature met to continue deliberation on the BP Settlement legislation and legislation to authorize a constitutional amendment for the people of Alabama to vote on a statewide lottery. Both House and Senate will return on September 6 to continue the special session.

House Passes Lottery, Dies In Senate
This week the Alabama House was tasked with passing the lottery bill sponsored by Senator Jim McClendon and supported by Governor Bentley through the House. On Tuesday when the House Economic Development & Tourism Committee failed to meet due to an unforeseen procedural hurtle, questions were raised whether or not the legislature could pass the bill in time to be placed on the November 8 ballot. Secretary of State John Merrill has stated that unless the legislature changes the law, the deadline to have the lottery on the November 8 ballot was Wednesday, August 24. After passing out of committee on Wednesday, the House spent all day debating the bill and addressing amendments. Only a few amendments were placed on the bill, one sponsored by Representative Richard Lindsey allocating 1% of the proceeds allocated to the general fund to go towards rural fire departments. Another amendment placed on the bill was by Representative Tommy Haines that would dissolve the lottery commission should the lottery reach a point where it could not financialy sustain itself. The final vote on SB3 was 64-25and was sent to the Senate for concurrence.

Senate Stalls Passage of the BP Settlement Bill
While the Alabama House debated the lottery bill, the Alabama State Senate waited to see what their action would be before taking action on the BP Settlement bill which is a crucial part of the solution to fund the State’s Medicaid Agency. On Friday morning, the Senate took up the lottery bill the House had passed the night before. After discussion and urging by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh to agree with the House changes, the Senate voted to non-concur with the House version of the bill effectively killing the lottery bill. The only other measure the Senate had to address was the BP Settlement, also a controversial issue among the members. The Senate did not take a final vote on the legislation before adjourning until September 6.

Legislature Passes Constitutional Amendment Aimed at Preserving Local Bills
Also this week during the special session, the legislature was tasked with passing a bill by Senator Cam Ward, SB7, that would provide a fix to an issue stemming from a court case in Jefferson County where a court ruled that a procedural action commonly taken by the Alabama House of Representatives puts hundreds of local bills at risk of invalidation. The legislature has consistently passed local bills with allowing only members of that local delegation to vote on a procedural vote known as the BIR (Budget Isolation Resolution). The Jefferson County court ruled that the entire body must vote and pass the BIR, but that case has been appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court. Senator Cam Wards bill which is a constitutional amendment, should it be placed on the ballot in November and pass, would ratify all previously passed local bills. If the constitutional amendment fails then hundreds of local bills are at risk of being invalidated. On Thursday, after a conference committee met and worked out differences in the House and Senate passed versions, the House and Senate gave final approval to SB7. The Senate passed a resolution, also sponsored Senator Cam Ward, urging Secretary of State John Merrill to place the constitutional amendment on the November 8 ballot, which the Secretary of State has said he will do.