Clock Ticking on Both General Fund Budget and State Lottery Bill

May 28, 2015

Alabama State House
Credit Jay Williams / Flickr

Time is running out for the Alabama Legislature to work out a general fund budget, but the state Senate is beginning to iron out the details.

State agency heads told members of the Senate Budget Committee yesterday that proposed cuts will close circuit clerk offices, slash Medicaid services and send state prisons into a danger zone of crowding and violence.

Committee Chairman Arthur Orr says there are close to $150 million in revenue-generating bills under discussion that could reduce the cuts if they win legislative approval.

One would transfer $80 million in use tax collections from the education budget and give the money to the General Fund. Other proposals would offset those losses to the education budget.

Another bill would allow state boards to raise fees to reflect Consumer Price Index changes.

The Legislature has a little more than two weeks, or 13 business days, to come up with a plan to plug a hole in the projected $200 million shortfall in the general fund.

Time is much closer to running out on a lottery and casino bill in the Alabama Legislature.

The much-discussed gambling bill will be dead this session unless it wins Senate approval today.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh has proposed allowing Alabamians to vote on creating a state lottery and allowing casinos at four state dog tracks.

Marsh says gambling should be on the table as Republican lawmakers scramble to find acceptable sources of new revenue. The Senate Tourism Committee approved the legislation, but the bill has not gotten a floor vote in the Senate yet.

Legislative rules make it difficult to pass controversial Senate bills in the final four days of the 30-day session. After the 26th legislative day, which is today, it will require a unanimous vote to send a Senate bill down to the House for debate.

Twenty Montgomery County school students are about to start an experiment in education.

The county is about to select youngsters to take part in a pilot program using the internet. These students will study at home on computers instead of working in a traditional classroom. The only time they’ll visit their schools is to take tests.

Technology coordinator Steve Blair says the cyber school program is geared to help students who have difficulty in attending school.

“This is beneficial for students who may have medical issues, social issues, or things that do not allow them to be successful in regular classrooms.’

Montgomery County studied similar programs in Pike and Baldwin Counties before designing their own system. The students will be selected by lottery to join the cyber class.

Forecasters are saying more storms are likely in Alabama today after a round of rough weather yesterday that included flooding and a tornado scare.

The National Weather Service says storms with heavy rains and gusty winds are possible from the Tennessee Valley to the Gulf Coast.

The worst threat of severe weather is during the afternoon hours, with storms diminishing after nightfall.

Parts of the state endured a round of bad weather yesterday afternoon. Strong storms caused flooding in northwest Alabama, leaving cars submerged in parking lots in Russellville and some roads covered with water.

The weather service also issued a tornado warning in northeast Alabama as the storms moved through Jackson County, but no damage is being reported. Forecasters say radar had indicated a possible tornado in the area.