Today’s blog will round out actions in the State House from the last two days of the First Special Session of 2015. Rumors abound when the Governor will call us back for the Second Special Session – some think as early as this week, others think closer to the middle of September, pushing us up against the end of the fiscal year.

To recap recent legislative action – recall that the House passed (53 - 43) an unconscionable General Fund Budget pushing all of the cuts onto Medicaid by some $150M – effectively shuttering the program thousands depend upon in our state. The Senate General Fund Budget Committee replaced the House version by resurrecting a version of the General Fund Budget passed by both bodies in the General Session back in June. Important to note – this near identical budget was pass by the House (61 – 39) and the Senate (20 – 13) AND the House voted to override the Governor’s veto by a vote of 75 – 21; all during the regular session that ended about two months ago. (Click here for insight as to what happened in the final days of the Regular Session). 

And yet after the Senate passed a similar budget in the Special Session on Monday in a 19 – 15 vote, the House voted 92 – 2 to non-concur with the Senate changes which replaced the shameful $150M cut to Medicaid with a balanced budget spreading cuts across state agencies (impacting Medicaid by modest 4% cut and fully funding the prison reforms).

And so the First Special Session will come to an end with no budget for our state. Fingers are being pointed in all directions – from the Governor called us back too early to the House and Senate leadership couldn’t develop/garner support for a cohesive unified plan of combined taxes, cuts and moving funds from the Education budget to, now – the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.  

The dysfunction across our State Government is in full display in Montgomery. As recent as yesterday afternoon we were briefed that the House had agreed to concur with changes made by the Senate and yet last night the House voted to non-concur with those changes, instead voting to keep the version they passed severely cutting Medicaid by $150M.  Would the Governor have vetoed the Senate version of General Fund Budget again? Perhaps but we’ll never know now as the House killed any chance of passing a budget during the Special Session.  As early as Monday the Governor stated there wasn’t enough time left in the session for us to send him a budget he could support. Remember, the Governor is looking for nothing less than $300M in tax increases and even the “best” (worse?) plan proposed a combined taxes, cuts and transfers from the Education Budget yielding $200M.

The House went back into session last night and began to carry over numerous Senate bills in apparent retaliation to the Senate carrying over House bills in committee last week. Disregarding the fact that the Senate passed numerous House bills during the day on Monday and legitimate concerns were evident in the House bills carried over in committee, i.e. an un-earmarking bill that did not go into effect until the 2017 budget likely impacted Federal funding. Today the Senate went into session and then recessed to “wait and see how the House would treat Senate bills throughout the day” before we took up any of their bills. Yup, it’s the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s in the Alabama Legislature.

From whispers in the halls of the State House, it appears more tax raising talk as the only alternative is in our future; cigarettes, soda, federal income tax deductions; who knows what else.  While constituents in some House and Senate Districts across the state are apparently flush with excess cash and eager to have their taxes raised, I continue to hear from folks in the Senate District I represent that raising taxes is not an option they want me to support.  Rest assured I’m hearing from people calling for the legislature to “fully fund” the program they are championing – State Parks, Mental Health, etc.  I also receive some emails and phone calls supporting increasing taxes on cigarettes or sodas but that’s because – they freely share - they don’t smoke or drink soda! And some folks have shared that a property tax is the way out of the crisis – but not their property; raise the property tax on someone else, like business or industry – they can “absorb it”. I’ll remind readers that a property tax requires a vote of the people; and rightfully so.  Recent property tax votes earlier this year have gone down in flames; Baldwin County defeated 60 – 30, and Lawrence County defeated 80 – 20 to name a few.

Yes, the budget challenge remains before us. While not a perfect solution (but when has such a solution existed?) I maintain that the Senate has now passed two balanced budgets. Again, neither is perfect but both were executable and with proper management could get us into the 2016 Fiscal Year. Agencies could pull from Second Quarter funds when/where justified and with proper oversight from the Executive Branch.  The legislature will be back in Regular Session in February of 2016 to then address any lingering budget concerns with much more clarity on specifics within the budget.  There was no need for the First Special Session, let alone a second.    

The Senate adjourned just before 1:30, Sine Die on the 30th Calendar Day of the First Special Session.  I’ll resume the blog when we return. Semper Fi - Bill



 
 
Today’s blog post covers actions on Thursday and Friday of the First Special Session in 2015.  As I’ve alluded to all week, at this point I’m certain there will be a Second Special Session in 2015.

There have been several plans (or combination of plans) on the table that can resolve our General Fund Budget situation including raising taxes, moving funds from the Education Trust Fund, gambling/lottery, and holding the line on the budget passed during the regular session that provided equitable cuts across state government forcing us to live within our means.

Why don’t we ram something through?  I hear from some people that we have a Republican super-duper majority – why don’t we ram something through to fix the budget? And therein lies the problem with a super-duper majority; splinter factions spin off (good or bad) and the majority becomes weakened and unable to control the situation. Groups supporting moving funds from the Education Trust Fund or those opposing new taxes are examples of this.   Everyone wants to resolve the situation but there are certain elements of the budget process that they are unwilling to concede.

Do Your Job? I’ve also heard some people say that we’ve failed to do our jobs in passing a budget. I submit to them that we passed a workable balanced budget in the Regular Session; not a perfect budget but an executable budget. The Governor immediately vetoed the budget.

Proving my point - looking back to January, when the original budget shortfall was claimed to be $700M, which fell to a claimed $540M when the Regular Session started in March, to a claimed $310M this month in the Special Session (the budget chairman maintain the shortfall is between $150M and $200M). Aren’t you glad I didn’t support the $700M tax increases?

What happened at the end of the Regular Session?  As recent as today I was asked what happened to the Senate in the last day of the Regular Session. Why did we adjourn a day early while the House remained in session?  I thought this story was well known but have found out otherwise. So here goes -

Insight on the closing days of the Regular Session – As the House was unable to pass any of the Governor’s proposed tax increases, and eventually passed the General Fund Budget to the Senate on the 22nd Legislative Day, the Senate was left with just 8 Legislative Days to work towards a budget solution. About two days before the end of the session, Senate leadership briefed us on “the plan”. The Senate would pass an amended House General Fund Budget and immediately adjourn from the session. The House would vote to accept the budget as amended – foregoing a conference committee – send the budget to the Governor and promptly adjourn, preventing the Governor from vetoing and sending the budget back. The plan worked EXCEPT, for unknown reasons, the House didn’t adjourn. The Governor recognized that the House was still in session and immediately vetoed the budget, sending it back to the House (following the AL Constitution, vetoed legislation is returned to the body of origin). The House took up the vetoed budget, overode the veto, and passed it to the Senate but without the Senate in session the budget didn’t pass nor did it die. Hence, we are in a special session.

Insight on the First Special Session - and just so folks know the facts; following is insight on the First Special Session. In early July the Governor unexpectedly called the Legislature into a Special Session. It was widely known a Special Session would be called this summer but as both the House and Senate were working in small focus groups to determine solutions to resolve the budget it was assumed (agreed upon?) the call for a Special Session would come later in August...but the Governor made the call for a Special Session in July, presumably to get ahead of the pro-gambling lobby that was ramping up activity.  Both the House and Senate met for the Special Session on the day called by the Governor and immediately recessed to continue working towards a joint resolution solving the budget shortfall. After a three week break the study groups were to have developed an agreed upon path forward for both the House and Senate.  Both bodies re-adjourned for the Special Session on Monday – with 11 Legislative Days remaining (the Constitution limits a Special Session to 12 Legislative Days in a 30 day calendar). Once in session it didn’t take long to realize that the plan(s) had limited support and no single plan introduced had broad support. Almost from the start, the Special Session was doomed and as recent as this morning the Governor has said there is not a budget that we can pass that he will sign.

Today’s Action - Earlier in the week the House passed an embarrassing unrealistic, scare tactic budget targeting Medicaid with a $150M cut. The Senate General Fund Budget Committee met today and promptly substituted that budget with the budget both bodies passed in June...that the Governor vetoed. This budget will be voted on in the Senate on Monday and, assuming everyone sticks to “the plan” will be passed to the House where leadership has informed us they will concur and again pass to the Governor on Monday or Tuesday. Tuesday is the final day of the Special Session as it is the 30th calendar day since the call.

Once again we will have passed an executable budget – not perfect by any means – but workable. Just as the many families that I represent must make their family budget work to live within their means, the state must live within its means.  

Semper Fi - Bill

 
 
The First Special Session continued today - note that I’ve started referring to the current special session as “the first” in that we will likely have a “second” Special Session.  There have been several plans introduced to solve the budget problems ranging from increase taxes, gaming/lottery (which is a long term fix and will not address our current situation) to holding the line on the budget we passed back in June that the Governor vetoed. The problem is none of the proposed solutions have broad based support.

This is the third special session that I’ve participated in. The first was called by Governor Riley shortly after we were elected in 2010 for what we refer to as the Ethic’s Special Session. The second was called by Governor Bentley in 2012 for redistricting.  The pace of a Special Session is decidedly slower than a Regular Session in that we are focused – for the most part – on legislation that addresses the budget.

The Senate went into session this afternoon and worked through an agenda of bills that you may review here.

The Senate is closely watching the House and the House is closely watching the Senate and the Governor is working angles in both bodies yet a solution to our current situation seems to be slipping further and further away. 

The House passed a General Fund budget later this afternoon, after considerable wrangling on the floor resulting in cuts to Medicaid by some $150M; obviously not a workable solution as rather than balance cuts across several agencies like they did with the budget back in June, they pushed the cuts onto a single agency. It is not lost on me that pushing these cuts singularly onto Medicaid and the thousands of Alabamians who rely on this program, only increases the public outcry to raise your taxes. 

At this point my greatest concern is our ability to remain focused on the reason we are in a special session – to fix the budget.  There are a host of bills that have made it out of committees and are ready to be debated on the Senate floor. Unfortunately a majority of these bills have nothing to do with solving the budget. The Senate returns for day 5 at noon tomorrow.

Semper Fi - Bill

 
 
There was a lot of action at the State House today, in committee rooms and on the floor of the senate.  I’ve linked to several good reports below that accurately detail the action but the high points are:

On the Senate floor, accusations that the end game is to leave us with gambling as the only viable option out of the budget crisis.

In the House, the proposed tax increase on cigarettes failed to a very close vote in committee resulting in a proposed reduction of $150M to the Medicaid budget.   

You can read a good “Play-by-Play” of the day here.

I’ll just share that my outlook for a successful Special Session is decidedly cloudier after today.  

A bill introduced in the General Fund Committee today (SB30) proposed to move $225M in use taxes from the Education budget to the General Fund budget – hence the title of today's blog - Go with the devil you know, or the devil you don’t know?

The devil I know is the hole in the General Fund budget – the exact size of the hole is debatable – down to approximately $275M ~ $300M from a claimed $700M when this all started back in January.  

The devil I don’t know? If we move funds from the Education budget to plug the General Fund we are creating a hole – size again is debatable – in the Education budget.  

I subscribe to the thought that while moving the funds now would solve our current problem, it creates a potentially huge problem in the future; possibly resulting in pro-ration. In reality we are shifting the “we must raise revenue” (aka, taxes) mantra to another day. I cannot support this option without a defined backfill, one that does not rely on projected funds, but rather dedicated actual funds that exist today to fill the hole we create.

Semper Fi – Bill

 
 
The Senate reconvened from recess a little after 5 PM this evening. There was little activity that could take place today in the legislative process as bills that had been introduced on the first day of the Special Session were in committee today.  Bills with favorable reports were accepted from committee today – receiving their second reading – and will be available to be placed on the calendar for debate and possible third reading as early as tomorrow. As of today there was no plan to take up any bills until Wednesday. 

As a recap – On 9 July the Governor announced that he would call the legislature into a special session to commence on 13 July. The Alabama Constitution limits a Special Session to 12 Legislative Days within 30 calendar days. A legislative day is counted any time we are on the floor for a vote. We’ve used 2 of the 12 days so far, one on 13 July to formally convene the Special Session, and today, bringing us out of recess and allowing those bills in committee to report out. However, we have to wrap everything up by the 30th calendar day which is 11 August.

92 Bills Introduced – at last count, 47 bills have been introduced in the House and 45 bills have been introduced in the Senate.  I encourage readers to follow the links above and review the scope of the bills that have been introduced, on this the 2nd legislative day.

NOTE: If a list of Bills do not appear after clicking on the links above, click “Bills” on the left menu bar then click on the gray “House and Senate” box. Next click on the “Had First Reading” bar under Select a Status.

Every legislator has the right to introduce legislation during the session but it is my hope that we will focus on the budget items first. The Governor and I may disagree somewhat on how to overcome the state’s perennial budget challenge but we agree that the purpose of this Special Session is to singularly focus on the budget. And I hope we can come up with long term solution and resist kicking the can down the road for another budget year.

The Special Session should not be viewed as a “do-over” opportunity for bills that did not pass during the regular session. Controversial or not, these bills will consume precious time and energy that should be directed to solving the budget woes. I fully support debate on bills outside of the Governor’s call for the special session – bills having nothing to do with solving the budget – after a budget solution has passed and is signed by the Governor.  

I’ll continue to update the blog on the special session as more details become available in the days ahead.

Semper Fi - Bill




 
 
On Thursday, 9 July the Governor announced that he would call the legislature into a special session to commence on 13 July at 4 PM.  This was somewhat of a surprise – although looking back, we really shouldn’t be surprised by what is going on in Montgomery these days. As the regular session drew to a close back in June, it became apparent that we would need a special session to resolve the budget challenges. Leadership shared with us that the Governor had agreed to wait until mid-August to call the special session.  So yes, leadership was surprised when they received a call less than 30 minutes before the Governor’s press conference last Thursday announcing the special session.

Several committees and sub-committees in both the House and Senate have been meeting since the end of the regular session to study various options – taxes, cuts, un-earmarking, gambling/lottery as well as a couple of other items that may prove interesting in the days ahead.  These committees were meeting on a timeline to complete their work by early August, hopefully deriving at some consensus between the House and Senate membership on a path forward and be ready for a supposed mid-August call for a special session by the Governor.

The Alabama Constitution limits a special session to 12 legislative days within a 30 day calendar. Therefore, once the Governor called the special session to begin on Monday, 13 July, both the House and Senate agreed to recess until Monday 3 August so that committee work could continue. In short, we’ve burned one of the 12 legislative days but have until 11 August (30 calendar days from 13 July) to complete the session. What the actual schedule will look like in August – Monday through Friday or Monday through Sunday – remains to be seen.  An important note to consider – the minimum days required for a bill to become law is 5 days; assuming of course that the majority has agreement to move legislation that quickly.

Why The Rush?

I’ve been asked why the Governor called the special session early. Reading the tea-leaves - the best answer I can give is he wanted to cut short the mounting pressure from lobbyist and special interest groups that are pro-gambling/lottery. I’ll agree the pressure is there as I continue to hear from all sides of the gambling/lottery argument but I disagree that the pressure will get any worse. What I don’t want to do is rush into a session and debate legislation to fix our budget woes based on incomplete studies on some of the options that will be presented. 

What’s In The Call?

When a Governor makes a call for a special session he limits what bills can be introduced during the special session. I linked to the entire Proclamation for the call in last week’s blog and provide a bulleted overview of what tax increases the Governor included in the call below:

Business Privilege Tax: End if a business net worth is less than $10k; increase maximum tax and rates for larger businesses = $38 mil

FICA Income Tax Deduction, the amount you pay to the Federal Government for Social Security and Medicare is currently deductable from your state taxes: Remove deduction for individual state tax returns = $182mil

Tobacco Tax increase $0.25/pack, proportional on other products including e-cigs (note, e-cigs are currently only subject to normal sales tax) = $70mil

Soda Tax: $0.05/12oz can (sodas are currently only subject to normal sales tax) = $182mil

Revenue Un-earmarking/Use Tax Transfer: Allow funds from FICA and withholding bills to go to General Fund Budget instead of Education Trust Fund Budget = $225mil

Un-earmarking: Agencies with earmarks and General Fund appropriations would have funds un-earmarked = $400mil total

What’s Not In The Call?

The Governor attempted to limit the introduction and passage of gambling and lottery legislation with this clause in the proclamation for a special session:

“All legislation regarding gambling or games of chance commonly played at casinos or gambling facilities is expressly excluded from this call and shall require a two-thirds vote for consideration throughout the duration of this extraordinary session of the Legislature.”

Read carefully, this certainly impacts legislation for what I call casino style gambling but does not limit a lottery – you don’t normally purchase lottery tickets at a casino. However, gambling or a lottery would require a Constitutional Amendment and therefore must receive more than a simple majority vote to be sent to the Governor. I explain this further below.

May Other Bills Be Introduced?

Yes, legislation outside of what the Governor has called a special session for may be introduced and numerous already have been – you can review bills introduced in the Senate here. No bills have been introduced in the House for the special session as of today's blog post. These bills can be assigned to committees and will work their way through the process but will need more than a simple majority to pass should they make it to a floor vote. Anything in the Governor’s call only requires a simple majority vote. Any legislation introduced outside of the Governor’s call requires a 2/3rds vote to pass. If legislation results in a Constitutional Amendment, such as for gambling or a lottery, it requires a 3/5ths vote.

I will continue to update the blog in the days and weeks ahead. As always I welcome your comments and feedback. Feel free to email me here. 

Semper Fi - Bill

 
 

Governor Bentley has called a Special Session of the Legislature to convene on Monday, 13 July.  Below is the Governor's proclamation and what he has included in "The Call" for a Special Session.  I will update the blog throughout the coming days.

Semper Fi

Bill

____________________________________________________________________________

WHEREAS, there exists an extraordinary occasion in the State of Alabama, which demands the convening of the Legislature of Alabama, in extraordinary session, as prescribed by Article V, Section 122 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901.
 

            NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert Bentley, as Governor of the State of Alabama, do hereby proclaim and direct that the Legislature of the State of Alabama shall convene in extraordinary session at the seat of government, Alabama State House, in Montgomery, Alabama, at 4:00 p.m. on July 13, 2015, and do hereby designate the following subjects and matters, for the adequate support of the operations of state government and to fundamentally change the way Alabama state government undertakes budgeting, which I, as Governor, deem necessary to be considered and acted upon by said Legislature, in extraordinary session assembled:
 

1.               Legislation providing appropriations from the General Fund for fiscal year 2016, as required by § 70 of Article IV of the Constitution of Alabama and by the Budget Management Act under Chapter 19 of Title 41 of the Code of Alabama.
 

2.               All legislation regarding gambling or games of chance commonly played at casinos or gambling facilities is expressly excluded from this call and shall require a two-thirds vote for consideration throughout the duration of this extraordinary session of the Legislature.
 

Budget Reform:
 

3.               Legislation shifting the distribution of use taxes levied under Chapter 23 of Title 40 of the Code of Alabama to the General Fund from the Education Trust Fund.
 

4.               Legislation to unearmark certain state taxes, levied under various statutes.

 5.               Legislation to provide for the distribution of payments allocated to the state for economic damages resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster.
 

6.               Legislation to amend the Education Trust Fund Rolling Reserve Act under Chapter 9 of Title 29 of the Code of Alabama.
 

Increase in Growth Revenue:
 

7.               Legislation to amend the business privilege tax levied under Article 2 of Chapter 14A of Title 40 of the Code of Alabama.
 

8.               Legislation to increase the tax levied on tobacco products under Chapter 25 of Title 40 of the Code of Alabama and to create a tax to be levied upon consumable vapor products and/or e-cigarette products.


9.               Legislation to amend the individual income tax deduction for taxes paid under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) allowed under Chapter 18 of Title 40 of the Code of Alabama.
 

10.             Legislation to impose a tax on certain beverages and beverage products, including soft drinks and soft drink products, as an alternative to the amendment of the individual income tax deduction for taxes paid under FICA.
 

11.              Legislation to repeal the withholding tax exemption for employers upon receipt from an employee of a withholding exemption certificate under Chapter 18 of Title 40 of the Code of Alabama.
 
Economic Development:
 
12.             Legislation to create an authority for financing improvements at the Gulf State Park and to authorize the Authority to issue bonds not to exceed fifty million dollars ($50,000,000) for the Gulf State Park Project.  

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand as Governor of the State of Alabama and caused this Proclamation to be attested by the Secretary of State at the State Capitol, in the City of Montgomery, on this the ____ day of _________, 2015.
 

                                                      _____

Robert Bentley  

Governor
 
 
PictureDirect TV Consumer Alert Email

What’s next, right? Over the past few weeks there has been talk in Montgomery of taxing everyday items such as sodas and now watching TV. This morning Direct TV (of which my family is a subscriber) sent out a consumer alert email concerning a possible tax increase for watching TV and encouraged consumers to contact their legislator. I’ve received over 100 emails this morning; great job folks!

As usual, I will use my blog to provide some background – inside baseball if you will – on this issue.

The problem is this; with little fanfare, a bill passed during the 2015 Legislative session that willfully gave away the ability of the legislature to fully control rate and fee increases by agencies in state government. You read that right – willfully gave away control. The bill is SB216 and you can read about the bill and sponsors here. The argument for the bill was that rather than have these agencies apply through the legislature each time a fee increase may be warranted, that we should just trust the government to do the right thing and that they would only pass such fees that are truly warranted so that the agency could continue to serve the people of the state.

I didn't buy that and vehemently opposed this bill along with a small group of other legislators but unfortunately the bill passed both legislative bodies – you can review the votes yourself; Senate (passed 21 – 8) and House (passed 61 – 38) for SB216.

I maintain that we supplant the representative function of the legislature when we allow agencies to raise fees without or even with limited oversight from those elected by the people to represent the people. I am concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg with respect to future fee increases – aka tax increases – which we will see in the months ahead.

The emails that should be going out to legislators is a movement to repeal SB216 and return what was willfully given up, back to the representatives of the people.

Semper Fi

Bill




 
 
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Today’s blog post covers activity from last week (25th and 26th Legislative Days) through this week (27, 28 and 29th Legislative Days) and closes out the 2015 Legislative Session.

The Senate slowed to a crawl last week, entering a deadlock of wills as opposing views on how to solve the perennial budget crisis spilled over and impacted other pending legislation – collateral damage if you will. That posture continued into this week and the Senate adjourned Sine Die today after passing the General Fund Budget. By all accounts the Governor will call the legislature back for a special session later this year – at a cost of approximately $24,000 a day – to once again take up the 2016 budget.

While I support continuing to work through the budget issues I’m left pondering what will change in the weeks ahead? Are we going to see an unexpected windfall from somewhere that will solve the budget problem? Are we going to see widespread support for tax increases? Hopefully we will finally address the foundational problems of our state budgets.

This was a challenging session - the most challenging I've been a part of in 5 years serving in the Senate. We made difficult decisions and will face more in the days ahead. I reaffirm; I answer to the people that sent me to Montgomery, not the people in Montgomery. 

In closing out the blog – for those that have inquired about the pictures accompanying each day’s blog – early on this year I decided to not repeat a tie during this year’s session. I’ve been blessed by my wife and daughters with quite an assortment of ties for birthdays, father’s day, etc over the years and featured a tie in each day’s blog...a way to break the monotony of the daily blog. Assuming I’ve not lost readers to this point in today’s blog, I must admit one tie was repeated by accident!

I look forward to returning home and working for the people I represent across the Senate District that I am honored to represent in the days and weeks ahead.

*Edited on 6/5/15 to add the following;

As I drove the 3 hours home last night I pondered the budget and realized the silver lining in the dark clouds that hung over this year’s entire session – we didn’t kick the can down the road for another year. Yes, we passed an austere budget – the legislature believed it was workable but the Governor saw different and followed through with his threat to veto the budget – but the silver lining is we must still address the budget shortfall. By passing a stripped down budget and not coming up with some 11th hour fix (of which we’ve done in years past) we are forced to address the foundational problems in our budgets. Readers should understand the budget in question doesn’t go into effect until October of this year – we still have time to come back together, focus singularly on the budgets and find some common ground – working together from the Governor’s office, the House and the Senate - and that’s what I’m looking for from leadership across the board.

Semper Fi – Bill



 
 
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I arrived in Montgomery for this week’s session a little after noon today and held a few brief meetings in my office prior to the General Fund Committee meeting at 1 PM. We debated and passed several bills at the meeting. I opposed two bills on the General Fund agenda; SB216 with allows state agencies to increase fees and SB502, a Constitutional Amendment that would combine the two state budgets and unearmark funds in the budget. To some readers it may seem odd that I opposed these bills as they accomplish some things I support, but often in Montgomery – things are not as they appear!   

SB216, allowing state agencies to raise fees on the public has some built in backstops preventing a state agency from running away with fee increases however I maintain that we supplant the representative function of the legislature when we allow agencies to raise fees without or even with limited oversight from those elected by the people to represent the people.

SB502, a constitutional amendment, calling for a vote of the people to unearmark funds in the budget and combining the two budgets. While I certainly support a vote of the people, the language of the amendment is troubling and questionable; quoted in full context below, italicized emphasis added:

“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to become effective January 1, 2017, to disallow any limitation on the appropriation or spending of state revenues and to allow for a unified appropriations bill.”

The Senate went into session at 2PM this afternoon and after some procedural action took up an 11 bill Special Order Calendar. A few bills were carried over for additional work but most of the bills were passed with little debate/objection. The Senate adjourned a little after 6PM for the day.

The Senate General Fund committee will meet in the morning and begin to debate the budget passed by the House.

Semper Fi - Bill