2016 Regular: Days 26-28

Legislative Update
April 28, 2016

The Alabama Legislature met for three legislative days in Montgomery this week. The House will reconvene on Tuesday May 3rd at 1:00pm and the Senate will reconvene the same day at 1:00pm.

Next week will be the last week of the 2016 Regular Legislative Session. The legislature will meet for two legislative days, ending the 2016 Regular Legislative Session on Wednesday May 4th.

 

House Passes Prison Bond Issue, BP Settlement Bill

This week the Alabama House spent several hours debating SB287 by Senator Pittman, the $800 million prison bond issue, a legislative priority for Governor Robert Bentley. Many members of the legislature voiced their concerns over the legislations lack of transparency and uncertainty regarding where and who would build the four new facilities. After several hours of filibuster the bill passed 52-23 and must now be concurred with by the Senate. The senate had adjourned before its House passage and was not able to concur with the changes made in the House. The Senate could take up the legislation as early as Tuesday.

The legislature also spent hours debating a bill surrounding the BP settlement funds. The bill had been stalled earlier in the session, but after a compromise was reached with legislators from south Alabama the bill was placed on a special order calendar. HB569 by Representative Steve Clouse would provide $161 million repayment to the Rainy Day Fund, $287 million to the Oil & Gas Trust Fund, and approximately $191 will be allocated to Mobile & Baldwin Counties for road and bridge projects. Disagreements on the legislation surrounded the lack of money being spent in areas other than Baldwin and Mobile Counties and legislators from the northern part of the state wanting funds spent in their districts. The House adopted a substitute version of the bill that freed up $70 million for the Alabama Medicaid Agency which is facing a large budget shortfall.  The substitute bill was ultimately passed 82-12.

Medicaid Future Uncertain

The status of a fix for Medicaid seem bleak, and the governor has said that the Alabama Medicaid Agency may have to rely on cuts. A special session is possible, but if and when the governor would call the legislature back is uncertain. 

2016 Regular: Days 23-25

Legislative Update
April 22, 2016

The Alabama Legislature met for three legislative days in Montgomery this week. The House will reconvene on Tuesday April 26th at 1:00pm and the Senate will reconvene the same day at 1:00pm.

Next week the legislature will meet for three legislative days, and the next week they are expected to end session on the 29th or 30th legislative day.

 

Legislature Approves Education Trust Fund, Governor Expected To Sign

This week the Alabama Legislature gave final approval to the $6.3 billion Education Trust Fund, the largest education budget since the recession which began in 2008. Along with the budget, the legislature gave approval to give teachers and most other education employees a 4 percent cost of living raise. School funding dipped by more than a billion dollars after a peak of $6.7 billion from the ETF in 2008. Most of the money comes from income and sales taxes. After its passage, the governor released a statement praising the passage of the teacher pay raise bill and is expected to sign both the budget and teacher pay raise.

 

Historic Tax Credit To End, Medicaid Shortfall Looms

A tax incentive credited with fueling the recent revitalization of aging buildings in downtown Birmingham and Mobile will expire next month. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said the legislation authorizing an extension of the state's historic tax credit would not move until there is a better understanding of its financial implications. Marsh said he was concerned about the budget impact on the initial three years of the tax credit program, which doled out up to $20 million a year to developers willing to take on revitalization projects of aging or historic structures.

Members of the legislature met Wednesday to hear a presentation by Alabama Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar who presented an overview of the agencies funding and spending. Medicaid asked for an additional $100 million in state funding but only got $15 million. The Legislature formed the committee as a way to gather data and learn more about the functions of the agency. Medicaid consumes about 38 percent of the General Fund budget. Commissioner Azar has warned that the state may cut adult prescription drugs, outpatient dialysis and hospice care for patients. The cuts could also force Medicaid to remove a primary care bump for physicians that keeps reimbursement rates close to Medicare levels. Getting rid of that could force many providers out of the program. Medicaid has not ruled out additional reimbursement cuts after the primary care bump.