Alabama Legislature

Alabama's secretary of state says an error that forced nearly three million ballots to be reprinted cost the state over $450,000.

Secretary of State John Merrill announced the final cost for the reprint yesterday. He says the exact cost was $459,690.80.

Merrill says an employee made a transcription error in a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at protecting funding for Alabama's state park system.

A newly-created panel is trying to find ways to make it easier for nearly 2 million Alabamians to eat healthier food.

The Alabama Healthy Food Financing Initiative Study Commission met this week to address the problem of so-called "food deserts" in the state. State lawmakers created the commission earlier this year.

The group will consult with retailers and health experts to develop projects that could be sent to the state legislature as recommendations for action during the next legislative session beginning in February.

A federal judge is considering the state of Alabama’s request to dismiss a lawsuit over a new law that blocked a minimum wage increase in Birmingham.

District Judge R. David Proctor held a hearing yesterday afternoon on the motions to dismiss. Last year, the Birmingham City Council voted to raise the city's hourly minimum wage to $10.10. Just before that law took effect, the Alabama Legislature quickly passed legislation requiring a uniform minimum wage throughout the state.

The University of West Alabama is planning to launch a program that would give future teachers scholarships and other assistance if they pledge to teach in a Black Belt community for at least three years.

The Tuscaloosa News reports that the first round of scholarships for the Black Belt Teaching Corps will be awarded in the upcoming spring semester.

Dean Jan Miller says the Julia S. Tutwiler College of Education at the University of West Alabama will award 10 scholarships each year to education majors.

ribbon cutting
Alex AuBuchon / APR

State lawmakers and education officials gathered in Tuscaloosa yesterday to celebrate the expansion of public preschool in Alabama.

The dignitaries cut the ribbon on two new preschool classrooms at Verner Elementary School in Tuscaloosa. Those are two of 155 new preschool classrooms opening this year throughout the state, serving 2800 more of Alabama’s four-year-olds than last year. That’s thanks to a $16 million increase in funding from the Alabama Legislature.

An Alabama judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the state’s plans to build a beachfront hotel with BP settlement money stemming from the 2010 oil spill.

Yesterday, Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin ruled Jim Zeigler had no authority to bring the lawsuit against Governor Robert Bentley in Zeigler’s official capacity as State Auditor.

Alabama State House
AP

State lawmakers have decided how to spend Alabama’s incoming BP settlement money from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yesterday, state Senators voted 22-8 for a compromise plan to use the money for a mixture of paying down state debts, funding Medicaid and building roads in coastal Alabama counties.

The bill now moves to Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature. The plan, if signed into law by the governor, will steer $400 million to repay state debt, $120 million to road projects and $120 million to the state’s Medicaid program.

A legislative conference committee plans to make a last-ditch effort to break a deadlock on how to use Alabama's settlement money from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The committee will meet this morning to try and come up with an agreeable compromise between sharply divided lawmakers.

A state legislative committee looking into the possibility of impeaching Gov. Robert Bentley has denied the governor’s requests to suspend their investigation.

House Judiciary Chairman Mike Jones says the impeachment probe is moving forward despite Bentley’s repeated pleas to the contrary.

The governor and his lawyers asked the committee to halt their investigation until lawmakers clarify their concerns. The request was accompanied by an Aug. 25 letter from the House Judiciary Committee's special counsel saying their concerns with the Governor had been well-publicized.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

A lottery bill is heading to a critical vote in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Today’s vote could determine whether a proposed state lottery goes before Alabama voters later this year or if the bill dies in the special session.

House members will debate Gov. Robert Bentley's proposed state lottery. Bentley is seeking the first statewide referendum on the establishment of a lottery since voters rejected the idea in 1999.

Alabama Senators will be debating how to divvy up the state’s portion of oil spill settlement money amid a looming hole in the Medicaid budget.

The Alabama Senate is expected to take up the settlement bill today. A version of the legislation passed the House last week. Debate on the Senate floor could get contentious, though, as Senators can’t seem to agree on how much money should help Medicaid and how much should go toward road projects on the Alabama coast.

A legislative committee will hold a public hearing later today on a lottery bill that narrowly passed the state Senate last week.

The House of Representatives Economic Development and Tourism Committee will hold a hearing this afternoon on the proposal to amend the state’s constitution to establish a state lottery. Senators approved the bill Friday on a 21 to 12 vote.

Alabama Senators have once again failed to vote on a lottery proposal.

The Senate spent much of the day yesterday debating and revamping a lottery bill backed by Senator Jim McClendon that would establish a state lottery as well as electronic gambling machines in several Alabama locations. But Senators ultimately decided not to vote, after a test vote indicated the bill didn’t have enough support to pass.

Two dueling lottery bills both stalled in the state Senate yesterday amid deep disagreements over how to enact the proposal.

Alabama senators debated both bills for several hours before finally giving up and moving on to other legislation. One, backed by Governor Robert Bentley, would simply establish a state lottery and use the proceeds to shore up the state’s general fund. The other, backed by Senator Jim McClendon, would also allow for electronic slot machine-type games at the state’s four dog tracks.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

Alabama’s Senate and House of Representatives are back in Montgomery once again to try and find a solution to the state’s budget woes.

Governor Robert Bentley called the special session of the state’s legislature to find funding for Medicaid, infrastructure and state debt repayment. One of the most popular plans is to amend the state constitution to set up a lottery, with revenue directed into Alabama’s ailing General Fund.

The Alabama House and Senate are set to gather in special session today.

Governor Robert Bentley wants lawmakers to consider a constitutional amendment to create a state lottery. If the legislature says yes, then state voters will get to vote up or down on the idea in November. The Governor wants the money to go the general fund to help pay for Medicaid.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says lawmakers will have questions and suggestions.

Governor Robert Bentley is calling for a special session of the state legislature.  He wants to focus on Alabama's financial woes and says the focus of the session will be on passing legislation to allow Alabamians to vote on a state lottery. The Governor released the video below this morning...

Democratic National Convention
Wikimedia

Alabama lawmakers are currently being polled about support for lottery legislation as Governor Robert Bentley contemplates calling a special session on Medicaid funding.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says legislative leaders are gauging interest from state legislators. Marsh says the discussions come as Governor Bentley contemplates calling a special session that could include a lottery bill.

Hubbard trial
Todd J. Van Ernst / Opelika-Auburn News

As Mike Hubbard’s sentencing date approaches, prosecutors are recommending the former Alabama House Speaker should spend five years in a state prison for breaking the state ethics law.

Attorney General Luther Strange’s office filed a brief yesterday afternoon asking a judge to give Hubbard an 18-year split sentence. Hubbard would spend five years behind bars and the remaining 13 years under supervised probation.

MARTE
Alabama Astrobiotics

Alabama’s state preschool program has been named the best in the country for ten years running.

The National Institute for Early Education Research ranks pre-kindergarten programs across the country each year based on quality. For the tenth year in a row, the institute named Alabama’s state-funded First Class Pre-K program the nation’s best. Alabama met or exceeded all of the institute’s quality benchmarks examining things like student-to-teacher ratios and educator qualifications.

 State lawmakers ended the 2016 session with three big items of unfinished business: the oil spill settlement division; Medicaid funding and prison construction. 

Governor Robert Bentley recently said he's considering calling a special session later this year for another try.

The governor's $800 million prison construction plan was the centerpiece of his agenda, but didn't get approved by lawmakers.

Alabama State Capitol
Stan Ingold / APR

Alabama lawmakers are beginning the final two days of the legislative session with some major decisions before them.

Governor Robert Bentley's $800 million prison construction plan, proposed payday lending regulations and a division of oil spill settlement funds are among the top issues that will be decided. Lawmakers return to Montgomery Tuesday.   

 A proposed split of the oil spill settlement money is facing critical votes this week. The Senate will consider a House-passed plan to use the money to pay state debts and for road projects in coastal Alabama

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.

Pages