2016 Special: Days 1-5

Legislative Update
August 22, 2016

Last week the Alabama Legislature began meeting for the Special Session called by Governor Robert Bentley to address a statewide lottery and the state’s Medicaid Agency which is facing a budget shortfall of nearly $85 million. After adjourning on Friday, the legislature will return Tuesday August 23 to continue their work.

House Passes BP Settlement Bill
The legislature met for five straight days working on bills aimed at addressing the shortfall. The House of representatives focused mainly on a bill that would distribute the funds from the BP Settlement. According to the settlement Alabama will get $1 billion over the next 18 years from the 2010 oil spill. Under HB36  the state would take a smaller amount up front, approximately $640 million by doing a bond issue. The version passed by the House  would allocate about $450 million to be used for debt repayment and $191 million for coastal roads. Paying $450 million towards debt would free up around $70 million in interest payments that could be used to fund Medicaid. The bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Tourism & Marketing and is expected to be taken up on Tuesday.

Senate Passes Governor Bentley’s Lottery Bill
The Alabama State Senate spent the majority of the week debating two lottery bills. The first lottery bill by Senator Jim McClendon was a proposal to set up a statewide lottery and establish video gaming terminals in some cities and counties that already have gambling facilities. That particular bill failed on a procedural vote and the senate took up Senator McClendon’s second lottery bill, the one proposed by Governor Bentley. On Friday the State Senate added a number of amendments to the bill, one which would split the lottery revenues between the General Fund and Education Trust Fund 90% and 10% respectively. Another amendment prohibits the lottery commission from employing lobbyists and another prohibits legislators or their family members from working for the lottery commission. After several hours of debate the amended bill passed the senate 21-12 and will be transmitted to the house for consideration.

2016 Regular: Days 29-30 Sine Die

Legislative Update
May 6, 2016
Sine Die

The Alabama Legislature met for two legislative days in Montgomery this week, ending the 2016 Regular Legislative Session on Wednesday May 4th.

Governor Bentley this week did not rule out the possibility of calling a special session to address Medicaid, BP, and Prisons, but did say he would not do that anytime soon.

 

Legislature Adjourns Without Passing Prison Bond Issue, BP Settlement or Medicaid Fix

In the final hours of the 2016 Regular Legislative Session the legislature failed to pass several major pieces of legislation. The $800 million bond issues meant to build four new prisons and a legislative priority for Governor Bentley went through a number of changes before eventually dying when the legislature adjourned before providing final passage.  A conference committee scaled it back to two men's prisons, the women's prison and a total bond issue of up to $550 million tonight.  The Senate passed that version by a vote of 23-12. That left enough time for it to pass the House before the session ended at midnight. But the House did not take it up for a vote.

The BP Settlement bill, which would have provided much needed funding for the state’s Medicaid Agency, died this week also. The legislation, which would split an estimated $639 million payment over the 2010 oil spill, had already passed the House and needed to pass a Senate committee to stay alive. The bill would have split the proceeds between state debt payment and coastal road projects, and freed up money for Medicaid.

But Finance and Taxation General Fund chairman Trip Pittman abruptly adjourned a committee meeting Tuesday afternoon after members voted 9 to 6 against a motion to table a substitute that would have increased the state debt repayment and distributed a smaller amount of money around the state.

 

Historic Tax Credit, Payday Lending, Monument Bill All Fail To Pass Legislature This Session

There were several other pieces of legislation this session that garnered attention around the state that failed to receive final passage by the time the legislature adjourned sine die. A bill that would have extended the state’s Historic Tax Credit did not receive approval this week, effectively ending the program. Late last month, Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh indicated that this bill would be holding up the legislation authorizing the seven year extension until there was a better understanding of its financial implications.

SB91 by Senator Orr which would have drastically reformed the payday lending industry also died on the last day of session this year. The effort to lower interest rates has been unsuccessful in the Legislature for several years, though it got further this year than in previous sessions.

A bill that partially kept the House of Representatives in a filibuster on the final day was SB13 by Senator Gerald Allen, the confederate monument bill. The bill would require local governments to get approval from Montgomery before moving historical monuments, which was widely believed to be aimed at the removal of confederate monuments across the state. The bill was eventually carried over and did not receive final passage.