Alabama lawmakers reached agreement Wednesday on a plan for spending BP settlement money that will give $120 million to Medicaid over the next two years, $120 million to road projects near the coast and $400 million to pay back state debt.
Legislators adjourned their special session after reaching that agreement and will return to Montgomery in February. During the brief session called mainly to consider ways to fund Medicaid, 98 bills were introduced, most of which died for lack of action.
Status of select bills follows. For more information about the bills, see the state’s legislative site.
Bills That Won Approval
HB36, HB35, HB34, SB2, SB4, SB13, SB36
Sponsors: Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark; Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur; Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur; Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville; Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper
Details: HB36 was passed by legislators after being amended several times. The compromise plan approves issuing about $640 million in bonds, to be repaid with payments from the state’s $1 billion long-term BP settlement. Medicaid is given $120 million over two years in the plan; $120 million is set aside for road work in Mobile and Baldwin counties; and the remainder will be used to repay the state’s General Fund Rainy Day Account and the Alabama Trust Fund for money borrowed in the past few years. The other BP settlement bills died when the Legislature adjourned.
Ratifying Local Legislation
Sponsor: Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster
Details: The proposed constitutional amendment would ratify any local law previously approved by the Legislature as long as the vote on the bill was conducted in accordance with legislative rules that applied at that time. The change is being proposed because a judge struck down a Jefferson County sales tax law, saying the House had been conducting budget isolation resolution votes improperly. A BIR vote is needed to take up a bill before the budget has passed. The constitution requires a vote of “three-fifths of a quorum present.” The House for years had required a vote of three-fifths of members present and voting. Although the judge struck down just one law, there is concern that the ruling could nullify up to 600 local laws passed under the old voting system. The amendment will be on the ballot Nov. 8.
No Age Limits for Elected Officials
Sponsor: Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile
Details: The proposed constitutional amendment would ban the Legislature from adopting age limits for elected or appointed officials and repeal any age limits currently in force. The amendment would not apply to judges. Under Alabama law, judges may not be appointed or elected when they are over the age of 70. The amendment will be on the ballot Nov. 8.
Bills That Failed
Governor’s Lottery Plan
Sponsors: Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, and Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville
Details: The constitutional amendment, backed by Bentley, originally was a simple lottery plan with money going to the General Fund. But first senators and then House members amended it heavily. With the changes, the lottery would have set aside 10 percent of proceeds for education and the first $100 million for Medicaid. A fragile coalition to pass the lottery fell apart over language allowing only paper lottery tickets, with no electronic lottery machines allowed at gambling venues.
Lottery and Gambling
Sponsors: Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, et al
Details: The constitutional amendment would have established a state lottery and allow lottery machines at the existing racetracks and bingo locations. It would have divided proceeds between the state General Fund, Medicaid and several education purposes.
Other Lottery and Gaming Bills
HB6, HB7, HB8, HB12, HB13, HB28, HB29, HB43, HB54; SB14, SB26, SB34.
Details: A variety of other gambling-related bills were introduced, most of which would have allocated funds from a state lottery in different ways. Proposals were introduced to allocate proceeds to college scholarships or split the money between the General Fund and Education Trust Fund in varying ratios. Some of those bills also would have allowed electronic bingo or casino games in the state. One of the bills would have required the governor to negotiate a gambling compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
Sponsor: Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile
Details: The constitutional amendment would have levied a 5 mil state property tax, with the revenue going to fund Medicaid.
Gifts to Teachers
Sponsors: Rep. Jim Patterson, R-Meridianville, et al
Details: The bill would have allowed teachers and other school personnel to accept gifts from students and parents, so long as the gift was not in exchange for an official action. Now, education employees, along with all state employees and officials, are barred from accepting gifts valued at more than $25, except from family and close friends.
Sponsor: Allen Treadaway, R-Morris; Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville
Details: This bill would have automatically suspended members of the Legislature from any leadership position they held if they are indicted on a felony charge, but it would have allowed the member to continue to serve in the Legislature itself.
City Pay Raises
Sponsor: Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook; Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills
Details: HB30 would have required city councils to give 30 days notification to the public before approving pay raises for council members. As originally introduced, it would have nullified a 233 percent pay raise the Birmingham City Council passed for itself last year. But the bill was amended in the House so that it applied to raises approved after the bill becomes law. Another bill specific to the Birmingham City Council also died. Under SB16, Birmingham council members’ salaries would have been set every four years at the same amount as the median household income for the city.
Felons as Lobbyists
Sponsor: Isaac Whorton, R-Valley, et al
Details: The bill would have barred convicted felons from registering as lobbyists in Alabama.
Sponsor: Sen. Lee “Trip” Pittman, R-Daphne
Details: The constitutional amendment would have limited legislators to serving three terms in office.
Sponsor: Rep. Jimmy Martin, R-Clanton
Details: The bill would have increased state gasoline taxes by up to 6 cents per gallon. The amount would be set based on the average gas tax in the four states bordering Alabama.