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.
The Alabama Senate will start debating some sweeping changes to the state's prison system today.
Republican Senator Cam Ward is bringing the bill to the Senate floor, which would change sentencing and probation standards to try and reduce prison overcrowding.
The proposed legislation is based on a year of study by the state prison reform task force. One of the main changes is the creation of a new Class D felony level, which will keep low-level, non-violent offenders out of prison entirely.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley says he's supportive of $250,000 added to the state General Fund budget for hiring a prison ombudsman in the governor's office.
Senate budget committee Chairman Arthur Orr added the money to the General Fund budget when his committee approved it on Wednesday. Orr says the ombudsman would start by focusing on complaints from inmates at Tutwiler Prison for women in Wetumpka. Some inmates at Tutwiler have complained about sexual abuse. Orr says the ombudsman would give the governor a direct line to what's going on in Tutwiler.
State employees may end up with a one-time pay bonus of $400 in the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
Senate budget committee Chairman Arthur Orr of Decatur announced he will propose the bonus when the Senate considers the state General Fund budget.
The Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee approved a General Fund budget for non-education agencies Wednesday that would spend $1.84 billion. That's $15 million more than the budget approved by the House.
The Alabama Senate is trying to give people a new way to raise money to start small businesses.
The Senate voted 31-0 Thursday for a "crowd funding" bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur.
The legislation is backed by the Alabama Securities Commission. It would allow someone trying to start a small business in Alabama to use social media and advertising to find small investors who live in the state. It is limited to raising $1 million, and it is restricted to Alabama businesses and investors because of federal regulations.
Alabamians trying to start small businesses in a tough credit market may soon have a new method that will allow them to raise small amounts of capital from many Alabama investors.
Republican state Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur says he will sponsor a bill in the upcoming legislative session to allow "crowd funding." It would cap investors at $5,000 each and would limit crowd funding to $1 million per business.
A state senator plans to introduce legislation that would require welfare applicants to have applied for at least three jobs.
Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur says he plans to pre-file the bill in the Senate before the 2014 session begins in January. Orr says his bill is similar to legislation and rule changes in other states.
The Alabama Legislature has voted to extend two taxes that support the state Medicaid program.
The assessments on nursing homes and hospitals were due to expire this year, but the Senate gave final approval Thursday to bills that extend the nursing home tax for two years and the hospital tax for three years. The bills passed the House earlier and now go to the governor to be signed into law.
Senate budget committee Chairman Arthur Orr of Decatur says the bills were critical to maintaining Medicaid services for low-income Alabamians.
Alabama state non-education employees would not get a cost-of-living raise or merit pay raises under a $1.74 billion General Fund budget approved Wednesday by the Senate Finance and Taxation-General Fund Committee.
The budget for 2013-14 is mostly level with the budget for the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. It is just a slight increase from the budget recommended by Gov. Robert Bentley. The chairman of the committee, Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur, said the economy is improving but there is still a shortage of tax revenue for the General Fund budget.
Some Alabama legislators are trying to start planning now for the state's bicentennial in 2019.
Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur got the Senate to pass a resolution Thursday setting up the Alabama Bicentennial Commission. The commission would plan and develop activities to celebrate Alabama becoming a state in 1819. Orr said the commission will have members representing state government, tourism and historic preservation. The members will only receive reimbursement for travel.