Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh

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.

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.

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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.

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 Bentley contemplates calling a special session that could include a lottery bill.

A lockdown has been lifted at one Alabama prison where inmates had been refusing to work. At another facility, the strike is still on.

Alabama Department of Corrections officials say they’ve taken Elmore Correctional Facility off lockdown. Spokesman Bob Horton says about 80 percent of the 300 inmates who were striking at that facility have begun reporting to their assigned jobs again.

State Senate Looks at Education Budget

Apr 12, 2016

Alabama is looking to increase teacher’s salaries. APR’s Student Reporter Josh Hoppenstein has more on how this might happen…

The Alabama Senate Finance and Taxation Committee are debating whether or not a new budget will give most public school teachers more money.

The Senate will be voting on the budget this Wednesday. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said he would like the full Senate to vote on the issue.

If the proposed budget is passed then teachers as well as other employees’ salaries will increase by about four percent.

A solar panel park large enough to power 50 homes a day is being built in Alabama. APR’s Stan Ingold reports it is being built by a private company that will sell the electricity generated at the site to Tennessee Valley Authority.

Spokesman Steven Pitts for contractor ACE LLC Solar tells The Decatur Daily that the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based PJ Kraft Enterprises is developing the $690,000 solar energy-producing system. They are using nearly an acre of land in Elkmont, Ala. PJ Kraft is a company that invests in renewable energy projects.

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.

The Tennessee Riverkeeper has announced its intention to sue several entities including chemical manufacturer 3M over pollution in the Wheeler Reservoir.

The riverkeeper plans to sue 3M as well as BFI Waste Systems of Alabama, Decatur Utilities and the City of Decatur. They allege those groups are responsible for contaminating the waterway with perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs. PFCs tend to accumulate in the bodies of humans and animals, and exposure has been linked to diseases like cancer, thyroid disease and ulcerative colitis.

Alabama State House
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Alabama Senators will continue budget talks today after a late-night meeting yesterday failed to end in agreement.

A conference committee will meet again this morning to keep discussing a proposal to shift education funds to the cash-strapped general fund budget.

The committee met for over an hour last night but couldn’t reach an agreement. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh described the talks as productive, but fragile.

Senators want to shift $100 million from education funds. House members voted to move half of that.

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Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh will not propose his bill to allow a statewide vote on a lottery and casinos during the second special session.

Another Republican senator, Paul Sanford of Huntsville, says he plans to introduce his own lottery proposal.

The bill Marsh championed throughout the general assembly and first special session was a constitutional amendment to allow a lottery and casinos at the state's four dog tracks.

The Alabama Senate narrowly passed a budget that slashes millions of dollars from Medicaid, mental health, law enforcement and nearly all other state agencies.

Senators voted 19-15 for the cut-filled budget yesterday after lawmakers failed to agree on how to fix a $200 million budget shortfall during the special session. The new budget is identical to the one passed at the end of the regular session and then vetoed by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley says he will not back down as he battles with members of his own party over tax increases.

The governor says the cuts currently proposed to state services will cause a tremendous amount of pain to the citizens if lawmakers fail to plug a revenue hole.

The Alabama Senate will vote later today on a budget that slashes $200 million from Alabama’s state agency funding. Governor Bentley calls that budget unworkable and unacceptable. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says Republican senators remain largely opposed to any tax increases.

Gulf Coast officials are worried that their communities won't get their fair share of Alabama's $2.3 billion portion of the BP oil spill settlement.

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft says members of the Gulf Coast Recovery Council have some unanswered questions about the settlement.

The plan would give the council control over $599 million, but about half of that spending would still require federal approval.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is calling legislators into a special session Monday to hammer out a General Fund Budget, but legislators may have other plans.

An e-mail sent from House Speaker Mike Hubbard to members of the House of Representatives hints at plans to circumvent the session. The e-mail describes a plan put forth by Speaker Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh to convene the legislature as asked on Monday, then immediately adjourn until August 3rd.

The Anniston City Council recently voted to give the historic Victoria Inn to Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, free of charge.

The city council voted to transfer the downtown hotel to Senator Marsh's company, Marsh Properties. The agreement stipulates that Marsh Properties must spend at least $1.5 million to renovate the 19th century building, and that it must continue operations as a hotel for at least 15 years.

The push to expand legalized gambling in Alabama is gaining some prominent new supporters.

Former Auburn University football coach Pat Dye and former Alabama Power Company CEO Charles McCrary say they will lead a foundation to legalize a state lottery and allow casinos at the state's four dog tracks.

The two attended a news conference in Montgomery yesterday to announce the formation of the new Alabama Jobs Foundation.

The group says a gambling expansion could create as many as 11,000 jobs and add $400 million to the state’s coffers.

Alabama legislators are desperate to end a legislative session marked by frustration and disagreements over how to handle a gaping hole in the state's General Fund budget.

The Alabama Senate will vote today on a General Fund budget expected to include significant cuts after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on new taxes or moving revenue from the state's education budget.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says a special session to try and patch some of those budget holes is looming.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says lawmakers will pass a General Fund budget, and did not rule out adjourning the session early after the budget is passed.

Marsh says lawmakers will concentrate their final meeting days on bills that could save money or generate some funds for the cash-strapped General Fund budget.

However, the Republican Senate leader cautioned the bills weren't enough to make a "big change" in the budget that faces a $200 million shortfall next fiscal year.

Time has run out on a bill to legalize gambling and a state lottery in Alabama, and efforts to avoid deep state budget cuts may be too little too late as well.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s gambling bill didn't get a floor vote on the Senate yesterday, and legislative rules make it extremely difficult to pass controversial Senate bills in the final four days of the 30-day session.

Senators also adjourned yesterday before voting on a bill to transfer $100 million from the Education Trust Fund to the cash-strapped General Fund.

Alabama State House
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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.

Supporters and critics of legalized gambling and an Alabama state lottery are scheduled to meet in Montgomery today.

If approved by voters, the measure would allow casino gambling at four state dog tracks along with lotto drawings. Critics of lotteries claim they’re a tax on the poor and a study by the non-partisan John Locke Foundation in North Carolina appears to support that idea.

Foundation spokesman Mitch Kokai says they examined who bought tickets during the first year of North Carolina’s lottery in 2007.

Republican lawmakers seem to be turning toward gambling to shore up Alabama’s General Fund Budget, but Gov. Robert Bentley says that won’t provide enough money to stave off deep cuts to law enforcement and other state agencies.

Bentley spoke to the Associated Press yesterday in Dothan. He says the drafts of lottery and casino legislation proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh would bring Las Vegas-style gambling to the state of Alabama, which he says is not the budget solution the state needs.

Alabama Republican lawmakers are getting ready for a major push for the establishment of charter schools.

A charter school bill will be a top priority for the GOP when the legislative session kicks off next week.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that operate outside the rules and regulations of regular public schools.

The bill, if passed, would allow up to 10 new charter schools to be established in Alabama each year. It would also allow school systems to convert an unlimited number of existing schools to charter status.

With more budget problems likely ahead for the state, some legislative leaders say they're open to the idea of a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The tribe currently offers bingo games, which resemble slot machines, but would need an agreement with the state to add table games or another location.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says he's not aware of any ongoing discussions but that everything is on the table as the state seeks long-term budget solutions.

Alabama Education Association

The main funding source for one of the largest and best financed organizations in the state, the Alabama Education Association, has ended.

The organization is no longer able to use payroll deductions to collect dues to support its activities. AEA had a court-approved deadline of Monday to comply with a newly enforced state law on limiting payroll deductions.

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A Huntsville legislator says he's working on changes to his bill allowing an extract from marijuana to be used to treat children's seizures from epilepsy.

Republican Sen. Paul Sanford says he will join other advocates to announce the changes Tuesday and he hopes it will improve the bill's chance of passing.

Sanford's bill was on the Senate's work agenda Thursday, but the Senate broke for the weekend without getting to it. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says he expects it to be back on the work agenda on Tuesday.

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Retired state employees might get their first pension bonus since 2008.

The Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee approved a bill Wednesday to provide a one-time bonus, but the bill's sponsor, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, says the amount and affordability of the bonus still must be determined.

Marsh's bill would provide $2 for each month of a retiree's state service. A retiree who worked 25 years would get $600.

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Gov. Robert Bentley says the Alabama Accountability Act is designed to help students in all public schools.

The governor spoke out Monday after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal court suit seeking to block the law. The suit says some impoverished students can't access part of the law providing tax credits for families that move their children from failing public schools to private schools.

Bentley says another portion of the law gives those failing schools the flexibility to make changes and improve.

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So far, 36 private schools have signed up to participate in Alabama's new private school tax credit program with less than two weeks to go before most schools start classes.

The state Revenue Department says the 36 schools range from Pope John Paul II Catholic High School in Huntsville to McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile.

Alabama's new Accountability Act provides state tax credits to parents who move their children from failing public schools to participating private schools.

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