Alabama Legislature

Lawmakers will reconvene in Montgomery today for the final five days of the current legislative session, with a lot of work left to do.

Dozens of high-profile bills will be considered this week. One issue still in the air is Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s $800 million bond issue that would close most of the existing state prison facilities in favor of four new large prisons. The bill has cleared the Senate but still faces a floor vote in the House.

A bill in the Alabama Legislature that would have effectively banned abortion in the state has failed to make it to a vote during the current legislative session.

Bill sponsor Representative Ed Henry (R) says the bill is "essentially dead". House Democrats mounted an effective filibuster earlier this week, and the House of Representatives adjourned before voting on the bill.

Committees in Alabama’s House of Representatives passed two notable bills yesterday. One would prevent abortion clinics from being located near public schools, and another would take the state of Alabama out of the marriage process entirely.

Legislators say the abortion bill is aimed at protecting students from the chaos of protestors outside abortion clinics. It would close an existing abortion facility in Huntsville, which was forced to move to its current location near a public school after the state mandated new facility requirements in 2013.

Alabama may see the creation of new jobs abroad in the future if the governor approves a recent joint resolution from the state legislature.

The bill would lift the embargo between Cuba and the state of Alabama. This would clear the way for companies like Cleber LLC. That’s an Alabama tractor company aiming to be first U.S. business to build a factory in Cuba since 1959.

Addie Bryant is the chief of staff at Engage Cuba. She says if the resolution is passed, Alabama can expect to see some definite economic benefits.

Much of Alabama is under threat of severe weather this afternoon and evening. The National Weather Service is predicting damaging winds of up to 70 miles per hour this afternoon. The forecast also includes hail and the possibility of isolated tornadoes. Several school districts across north and central Alabama dismissed early or canceled after-school activities in anticipation of the storms. John de Block is the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham. He says the storm threat will continue well into the overnight hours.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

The next session for Alabama’s state legislature will convene at noon today.

State lawmakers are starting the 2016 session on Groundhog Day to some very familiar budget issues, but there will likely be some new debates as well.

Thousands of workers who had lost their retirement benefits in the wake of Walter Energy’s bankruptcy will soon be getting them back.

The Birmingham Business Journal reports that federal agency Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will be taking over paying benefits for more than 2700 current and future retirees of Hoover-based Walter Energy.

The agency is stepping in as Walter plans to sell the majority of its assets. The company has had a hard time finding buyers, and any potential buyers say they won’t take over the pension plan.

A push for casino gambling in Alabama has lost its highest profile advocate in the Alabama Legislature.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says he won't sponsor casino legislation in the upcoming session as he had originally planned.

Marsh says he did not think the votes were there for the casino legislation so he will move on in the upcoming session.

The Republican Senate leader said hoped that lawmakers would consider casinos because of the potential revenue for the state.

Alabamians will soon find out which of the state’s drivers' license offices, National Guard armories and state parks will shut down due to budget cuts.

The governor's office says state agencies will announce their plans for dealing with funding reductions later today.

Governor Robert Bentley says state agencies have to work with the amount of money appropriated to them by lawmakers for the new fiscal year beginning tomorrow.

The Alabama Legislature has approved a general fund budget and wrapped up their second special session.

Lawmakers gave final approval to a spending plan that will avoid cuts to critical state agencies such as Medicaid, prisons and mental health. Other state agencies will see cuts of around 5.5%. Gov. Robert Bentley says he expects to sign the budget into law after reviewing it this morning. He praised lawmakers for their hard work.

Wilson Lock
Dailynetworks / Wikimedia

Alabama lawmakers are getting closer to a budget agreement after lots of activity in both chambers yesterday.

The Alabama Senate made a few revisions to the 25 cent per pack cigarette tax increase proposal before passing it 21-13. The House voted 52-42 to accept those changes.

Lawmakers also struck a compromise on transferring money from the education budget to the general fund. The House had approved a $50 million transfer, while senators wanted to transfer twice that. A conference committee approved a measure that will shift $80 million between the two budgets.

Alabama lawmakers are returning to Montgomery today for their third attempt at balancing the state’s general fund budget.

The special session begins at 5 PM this afternoon.

So far, legislators haven’t been able to agree on how to handle a projected funding shortfall of at least $200 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

A Pelham man was convicted Friday on charges dating back to last November for openly carrying a loaded gun to a polling site during the 2014 general election.

59 year old Robert Kennedy, Jr. was convicted on misdemeanor charges of voting obstruction and unlawful possession of a firearm. Kennedy is a founding member of BamaCarry, an advocacy group defending gun rights in the state.

It’s been almost one week since the Legislature ended a special session without a general fund budget.

Governor Robert Bentley is expected to call another special session to deal with a projected $200 million shortfall in the state’s coffers.

As both chambers remain divided on the issue, the house did vote in favor of cutting $156 million from Medicaid before passing their version of the budget.

Huntsville Republican Representative Phil Williams says he was ashamed of that vote, but he believes the move sent a message throughout Montgomery.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

Alabama’s lawmakers are back in Montgomery for a special session to work on the budget.

Governor Robert Bentley is seeking a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. He also wants to raise the business privilege tax on larger businesses while giving smaller ones a tax cut. The governor has also suggested ending the ability of taxpayers to claim a state income tax deduction when they pay their federal Social Security taxes.

Tuscaloosa Representative Bill Poole says he is not optimistic the legislature will draft a budget in this special session.

    

Governor Robert Bentley is calling a special session next week on the general fund budget.

The governor says that he will call lawmakers back to Montgomery on July 13.

The 2015 regular session ended in a stalemate after lawmakers could not agree on tax increases. Bentley vetoed a spending plan that would have cut $200 million from state agencies.

Alabama lawmakers are still struggling to finalize the general fund budget. Governor Robert Bentley says he’ll call the state House and Senate into a special session next month to talk about raising revenue. The legislature didn’t finish the general fund spending plan, but they all did complete the six billion dollar education budget. If you’ve ever wondered why Alabama has two budgets, well—APR political commentator Steve Flowers tries to sort it all out…

An Alabama House budget committee has approved a bill that would let state agencies increase fees to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index.

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee today approved one of the few revenue ideas that has gotten traction this session.

The Senate-passed bill would let a state agency increase fees every five years. The change could not exceed an increase of two percent per year.

Time is running out for the Alabama Legislature to work out a general fund budget. 

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.

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.

The University of Alabama is teaming up with Washington to study the nation's water. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association just unveiled its newest national center on the Tuscaloosa campus.

The twenty four million dollar National Water Center is a collaboration between several federal agencies. It will become the U.S. center for water forecasting.

NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan says they plan to hit the ground running at the new center with a research project starting this summer.

House approves Education Budget, Lake Wedowee fishing

May 21, 2015

The Alabama House has unanimously approved a nearly $6 billion education budget for 2016.  All 105 votes from state representatives went towards approving the Education Trust Fund budget.  A number of House Democrats and Republicans commended education budget committee chairman Bill Poole on an unusually smooth spending plan.

House to vote on budget, small buisness tax tips

May 19, 2015

The Alabama House of Representatives will vote on a stripped-down budget that cuts more than $200 million from state agencies.

Representatives are expected to approve the budget today and send it up to the Alabama Senate. There, discussions will continue on how to handle a shortfall for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Governor Robert Bentley has criticized the proposed cuts as "irresponsible." The governor has vowed to veto a budget with deep funding cuts.

Alabama General Fund budget, Hobdy's Bridge

May 14, 2015

Alabama’s general fund budget is slowly taking shape. APR’s Pat Duggins reports on action in the State House…

The House Ways and Means Committee has approved a budget that makes deep cuts to state agencies. The budget would cut Medicaid, mental health and state prisons corrections by five percent. Other state agencies would be cut by nine percent.

    

This is national Small Business Week, which recognizes the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.  More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business.  Many military veterans use the skills learned during their service time when they return home and find jobs or start a business.  Jim Salmon is the head of business lending for Navy Federal Credit Union and he says there are plenty of ways veterans can get help starting a new business …

The Alabama Legislature is honoring two Huntsville police officers for extraordinary courage in the line of duty.

 Lawmakers bestowed the annual Alabama Legislative Medal of Honor for Law Enforcement to officers Jason Moore and Reynard Robinson on Thursday.

   A domestic-violence suspect opened fire on the two officers with a shotgun and rifle last year. Moore was shot in the face, neck, and shoulder and still has dozens of birdshot pellets in his face and body. He stayed on the scene despite his injuries.

Medical Marijuana Bill and Battle of Selma anniversary

Apr 23, 2015

Alabama’s Senate Judiciary Committee passed a comprehensive bill to legalize medical marijuana.

If enacted, the bill would allow patients suffering from any of 25 specified medical conditions to purchase a maximum of ten ounces of marijuana a month from a state-licensed dispensary. Sales would be taxed, with revenue going toward police and sheriff’s departments to combat drug trafficking.

Michelle Obama
Ben Baker / Redux

Gov. Robert Bentley is giving lawmakers what he calls an "unvarnished" view of the cuts to state government that will occur without new revenue.

The governor sent a memo to each member of the Alabama Legislature last night. That memo describes the emergency operation plans state agencies produced in response to a draft budget lawmakers have already reviewed.

The reductions on the table include the layoff of more than 1,000 state employees, including 600 court employees and 132 law enforcement officers.

Committee members throughout the Alabama Legislature have a busy day ahead of them.

The Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing this morning on a bill aiming to repeal the Common Core curriculum standards.

The House Ways and Means Education Committee will also consider changes to the Alabama Accountability Act, a state program that provides scholarships to help some families pay for private school.

State lawmakers consider cigarette tax increase

Apr 4, 2015

Gov. Robert Bentley has proposed a number of ways to raise revenue to heal Alabama's ailing budget.

One possible way is a higher cigarette tax. Alabama lawmakers are considering two proposals that would raise cigarette taxes to fill a major hole in the state's general fund.

Bentley's proposal would raise the tax on a pack from 42.5 cents to $1.25.

A second proposal would raise the tax rate by 32.5 cents per pack.

Experts say higher cigarette taxes can lead to smuggling.

  Governor Robert Bentley says there are no easy solutions to the state's budget and prison problems. Bentley, in his second inaugural address, said state leaders face tough decisions as they come into office for the next four years. However, Bentley said state leaders will not shrink away from the challenge.

     A budget shortfall and the state's severely overcrowded prisons are expected to be the biggest problems facing the Legislature when it convenes in March. The governor is expected to give his proposals when he gives his State of the State address in March.

     

Pages