But today I decided to attempt again – something is better than nothing – right? I’ll just stick to the facts and occasionally link to media articles where applicable that I felt best capture the details.
Overview - We are nearing the final days of the 2016 Legislative Session; this week marked the 25th – 27th Legislative Days. We will return next week with only two days remaining. Both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund have been signed by the Governor. The ETF remains in great shape while the GF continues to limp along for yet another year. I’m disappointed that with all of the talk of reform and zero-based budgeting, un-earmarking and lengthy budget hearings (which I attended, appreciated and fully supported!) we essentially followed the same process as every year.
Education Budget – The Senate passed the ETF but with changes to the House version requiring a Conference Committee to meet last week. The final $6.3 billion Education budget included a 4% pay raise for educators making under $75K annually, 2% for those making over that amount. It also included a similar raise for Principals and Assistant Principals. This is the largest ETF budget since 2008 and reflects the health of the various forms of income supporting education in our state.
PREP Act – Readers may recall that the PREP Act started life earlier this year as the RAISE Act. I appreciate everyone who patiently followed this legislation and shared their personal insight on the proposed legislation. The bill sponsor has determined that not enough support exists to pass the legislation in its current form. The $1.6M dollars that was set aside in the Education Budget was reallocated in final passage of the budget, effectively removing any chance of the PREP Act to advance.
Gas Tax – the proposed tax increase on gasoline is hanging on but with little chance of survival as we near the end of the session. A grand coalition of some sort (as reported here) seemed to have been formed over the past weekend but apparently didn’t survive this week in session.
Prison Construction – The $800M bond issue for new prison construction is the center-point of Governor Bentley’s legislative package for 2016. As reported in an earlier blog, I was able to place an amendment on the bill to protect funding for Veterans and DHR that was pledged for repayment – making it better should it pass. I voted against the bill along with a handful of Senators as it passed the Senate several weeks ago. When the Senate adjourned at 4 PM today (Thursday, 28 April) the bill continued to be debated in the House with several amendments pending. Of note, a car title fee tax increase passed the House in a separate bill as a means to help pay for the initiative. I continue to oppose for reasons discussed in previous blog posts.
In other news, yes I received an invitation (aka subpoena) to the trial in Lee County later next month.
A great conversation piece – as they say!
Semper Fi - Bill