Today’s blog will cover actions in the final days of the 2nd Special Session for 2015. We will pick up the action on Tuesday morning. If you recall, the legislature had worked into the night on Monday attempting to come to an agreement with two House bills that moved money from the Education Trust Fund (ETF) and the Education Trust Fund’s Rolling Reserve to the General Fund (GF). If you need to catch up, you may read more on that from Monday’s blog here. The House passed version of HB30 included moving $50M of revenue from the ETF to the GF. The Senate version doubled that to $100M. I did not support this vote as discussed in Monday's blog linked above. It is important to note that the Education Community/Associations in Montgomery – from the State School Superintendent, the State School Board Association and the Superintendents Association – all opposed moving the $100M and quite frankly were ready to descend on the Senate with pitch forks after this vote was taken. I was happy to be on their side of this vote Monday night! But by mid-morning on Tuesday their position had changed. The Education Community/Associations in Montgomery suddenly came out supporting the compromised bill that moved “only” $80M instead of $100M...what a difference $20M makes! I’ll let them explain their “flip” in position – as the State Superintendent does here – but remained convinced that this move did nothing to reform our budgeting process and actually does what I’ve been against from the start; we dug a hole in the Education Budget to support the General Fund Budget. That’s certainly not the type of reform I support as the vote sheet reflects. The compromise bill passed the Senate in a vote of 21-11.As I had heard from teachers when the $100M transfer was voted on the night before, I was most interested in how the classroom teachers felt about this development. I received some very interesting responses to this tweet, mostly outside of social media. I also remained opposed to HB29, the other bill allowing the use of funds in the Rolling Reserve, a reserve we created just a few short years ago. I recognize that the fund is just now beginning to grow at the sacrifice of what could be spent in the classroom and on a raise for teachers. This fund was specifically intended be used as a means to prevent the Education Trust Fund from going into pro-ration in the future. As I’ve stated before, raiding this fund is akin to your family saving money for a specific event/item and then just when it grows to a sizeable amount a family member decides they need it for something else. The only thing I supported in this bill was adjustments made to the floor/ceiling used for calculations of how much money would be set aside. These numbers were initially set too high, as we had limited data to base a decision on. I support adjusting them to something more realistic now that we have some real-time data to base those numbers on. In the long run this will result in additional funding for education, a good thing. I did not support accessing those funds for anything other than what they were designated for as the vote sheet reflects. The other votes that came up were for the increase in cigarette taxes, increase in fees for nursing home beds and increase in fees for prescription and prescription refills. The cigarette tax increase will be paid for by consumers. I’m told that the nursing home bed and prescription fee increases are “provider taxes” meaning the nursing homes and pharmacies will pay those fees, not the consumer. But I’m not buying that; economics simply does not work that way. While these fee increases may be paid for by the businesses, we all know the true cost will be spread over to the consumers. I opposed each of these tax increases as the respective vote sheets reflect: Cigarette Tax increase (passed 21-13), Nursing Home Bed increase (passed 20-11), Prescription increase (passed 19 - 13).Interesting to note that while I opposed the cigarette tax, I had some people tell me they were okay with it as they do not smoke. I maintain that this is not about the cigarette tax. Even if you don't smoke you should ask yourself - what are they going to tax next? This was a classic "gateway" tax and as difficult as this one was to pass the next tax proposed will be easier. I know some people support increased taxes but we also need to consider that government will grow and consume as much as we are willing to feed it - the next tax may come after you!The final $1.7B General Fund Budget for FY16 level funds Mental Health, Medicaid, Corrections, Human Resources, the courts and funds the prison reform legislation passed during the General Session. Other state agencies will make cuts ranging from 1%-5.5%.
The Legislature will return to Montgomery for the 2016 Regular Session in about 5 months and while I remain optimistic I’m fairly certain we will face yet another budget crisis with proposed tax increases. I remain committed to fundamental budget reform and will oppose taxes until after we’ve done the hard work of reforming the budgeting process and passing state government efficiency measures such as getting the state out of the alcohol business by closing the ABC Stores. I plan to resume the monthly newsletter in October and – unless something interesting occurs – will not resume the blog until the Legislature returns to session in February of next year. I am honored to be your voice in Montgomery and will continue to vote my conscience rather than political whim. I look forward to visiting with you in the days and months ahead. Now that the legislative sessions are over I look forward to returning to a routine of working across the district, visiting classrooms, senior centers, local businesses and other places like street fairs and festivals where I can interact with the people I represent. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of any assistance. Semper Fi - Bill
Today’s Blog post covers activities from last Friday and today, the 4th and 5th Legislative Days respectively. I purposely delayed posting an update on Friday, deciding to respect the day, September 11th. On Saturday I was honored to have been invited to speak at the 9-11 Hero's Run held in Athens Alabama. I had already planned to participate in the event as I'm an avid runner and proceeds supported the Athens Veteran's Museum. The weather and turnout was equally amazing for this race. The crowds along the course made the event very special. Also duly noted were the fireman who RAN the course in full turnouts! Semper Fi Gentlemen!
Friday, the 4th Legislative Day of the 2015 Special Session: Highlights of Friday’s activities in the State House were focused on the Senate General Fund Committee where the battery of House tax and fee increases was debated. We roll-call voted each bill (as opposed to voice voting which I have been critical of some committees for doing) and by my count I was the only Republican present who voted against these tax/fee increases. The bills that passed committee included a $400 per bed fee increase for each bed in a nursing home, a $0.15 fee on each prescription filled or refilled at a pharmacy, and a $0.25 tax increase per pack of cigarette...take that in, fifteen cents per prescription and twenty-five cents per pack of cigarettes! In other votes taken on Friday, SB24 a bill I’m sponsoring and I reported in an earlier blog passed the Senate in a 24 – 4 Vote. SB24 establishes an administrative procedure requiring state departments or agencies that plan to close a local/regional office or facility such as a park to follow the Administrative Procedure Act. This bill accomplishes a couple of things in addressing the posturing of some agencies, threatening to close state parks or driver’s license offices should their agency’s budget be cut. First, it ensures the representatives of the people are involved in the decision making process proposing the closure of an office or facility. Secondly, it places in full light the debate of which offices or facilities are being proposed and will ensure the people most affected by a proposed closure have representation in the process. In short, passage of this bill prevents the threatened overnight closing of any state office or state park. It is interesting to note that a rally was held at Several State Parks over the weekend and apparently a representative from State Parks specifically mentioned SB24 as a bill that lays out how to close state parks. I’m left wondering if the speaker was misinformed or was the intent to mislead the people at the rally. Could it be that the department doesn’t want to discuss their decisions in the full light of public debate? I want to thank those who contacted me via email/phone in a professional manner and asked for clarification on this matter. I encourage you to read SB24 for yourself. Monday, the 5th Legislative Day of the 2015 Special Session: The Senate went into session today at 2 PM. Throughout the day there was much planning, negotiating and deal making in an effort to cobble together some budget solution that not only the House and Senate could support but also the factions within each body. The “no new taxes” crowd is pitted against the “raid the Education Trust Fund” crowd and both are pitted against the “budget reform” group. Certainly an interesting day. By 8 PM two bills had passed the Senate, HB29 and HB30. Both of these bills move funds in some form or fashion from the Education Trust Fund or the Rolling Reserve. As I’ve stated before, I do not support moving funds from the Education Trust Fund without some designated backfill. I am not going to dig a hole in one budget to fill another. Similarly, I will not support raiding of the Rolling Reserve, a reserve we created just a few short years ago and is now beginning to grow in funding at the sacrifice of what could be spent on education. This fund was specifically intended to grow to a certain amount and be used as a means to prevent the Education Trust Fund from going into pro-ration in the future. Raiding this fund is akin to your family saving money for a specific event/item and then just when it grows to a sizeable amount a family member decides they need it for something else. Do we need to make adjustments in the Rolling Reserve? Yes, the floor/ceiling used for calculations initially was set too high. I support adjusting those to something more realistic now that we have some real-time data to base those numbers from. I will not support using those funds for anything other than what they were designated for. Both HB29 and HB30 have passed the Senate with amendments. The House has non-concurred on the amendments and the bills are now in a Conference Committee where hopefully some measure of an agreement can be met. The Senate remains in session but is in recess until 10PM. I will update the blog throughout the rest of the evening.Edited @ 10:30. The Conference Committee was unable to come to an agreement and the House and Senate have adjourned until tomorrow.Semper Fi - Bill
Activities on the 3rd Legislative Day of the 2nd Special Session for 2015 were once again focused on the House of Representatives. As background, and to remind readers that our State Constitution requires revenue/tax increase bills to start in the House of Representatives, after passing a total of $130M in tax increases out of committee yesterday these bills were up for debate and passage in the full House today.
The tax increases passed today include a cigarette tax, nursing home bed tax, pharmacy tax and an increase in the fee for titling a new car. As of this writing, the business privilege tax was carried over – it’s not dead but the votes were not there to support it...today. Interesting to note that several of the tax votes were very close; the title fee increase was a 51-49 vote and the cigarette tax increase fell along a 52-46 vote. These taxes now move to the Senate.
The Senate was in session as well and debated a hand full of bills relating to efficiency and streamlining our state government. A key bill that I’m sponsoring, SB24, passed the Senate today. This bill requires any state agency, including state parks, to file notice with the Legislature through the Legislative Council 45 days prior to closing a facility. This allows for the Legislative Council to hold a public hearing, ensuring the public is fully aware of the process by which a particular office or park was selected to be closed.
The Senate Republican Caucus will meet tomorrow morning and discuss the way forward, gauging support for the taxes passed by the House, plans to transfer funds from the Education Trust Fund or the Rolling Reserve Fund and how they impact proposed budget solutions.
Semper Fi - Bill
The talk in the halls of the State House today focused on the $130M in new taxes that a House Committee passed in a meeting this morning. I encourage you to read the full news report here but provide a snapshot of the taxes raised below. These bills will now move to the full House for a vote as early as tomorrow. It has been reported that all but one Democrat voted against these tax increases in committee today – go figure. Nursing Homes; add a $400 per bed fee generating an estimated $8 million a year for Medicaid. Prescription Fee for Pharmacies; add a tax of 15-cents per prescription, generating an estimated $8 million a year for Medicaid. Business Privilege Tax; raise the maximum business privilege tax from $15,000 to $30,000; exempts businesses with net worth less than $10,000 from paying the minimum, generating an estimated $22 million a year. Cigarette Tax; raise by 25 cents a pack, from 42.5 cents to 67.5 cents, generating an estimated $66 million a year. Car Title Fee; increase the fee from $15 to $28, generating an estimated $19 million a year. Car Rental Tax; increase from 1.5 percent to 2 percent, generating an estimated $6 million a year. The Senate General Fund Committee met today to debate and eventually passed several bills out of committee. These bills could be debated by the full Senate as early as tomorrow. Bills of note include: SB1 – the Alabama Recurring Revenue Fund which essentially places all state revenue in a single pot and then splits the funds 78% to the Education Trust Fund and 22% to the General Fund. While this is a great step in the right direction toward fundamental budget reform, I did not support the bill because – as currently written – it would take funds from the Education Budget Stabilization Act, aka the Rolling Reserve, which we established several years ago. The intent then was to smooth the ups and downs of education budgeting in off years, forcing the state to set aside funding from good years to rely on in bad years. The fund has only begun to accumulate savings and to support moving those funds goes against everything we said we wouldn’t do when the Rolling Reserve was established. A bill I’m sponsoring, SB24, establishes an administrative procedure requiring state departments or agencies that plan to close a local/regional office or facility such as a park to follow the Administrative Procedure Act. This bill accomplishes a couple of things in addressing the posturing of some agencies, threatening to close state parks or driver’s license offices should their agency’s budget be cut. First, it ensures the representatives of the people are involved in the decision making process proposing the closure of an office or facility. Secondly, it places in full light the debate of which offices or facilities are being proposed and will ensure the people most affected by a proposed closure have representation in the process. In short, passage of this bill prevents the threatened overnight closing of any state office or state park. This bill passed committee 13-0 and could be debated on the Senate Floor for passage as early as tomorrow. It is somewhat ironic that I’ll chair the monthly Legislative Contract Review Committee as the legislature continues to work to find a balanced budget solution for the new fiscal year which starts on October 1st. The irony? The committee will review over $71 million dollars of contracts that go into effect AFTER the start of the new fiscal year. The committee was scheduled to meet earlier in the month but was rescheduled to when the legislature would be in special session as a cost savings measure. You may review the agenda at this link. Semper Fi - Bill
The Second Special Session of 2015 has started. As a reminder, the state constitution limits special sessions to 12 Legislative Days within a 30 day calendar...probably important to note that the 2015 Fiscal Year Budget ends on October the 1st; in other words, we don’t have 30 calendar days and today counts as one of the 12 Legislative Days. So, if anyone is counting, we are down to 11 Legislative Days and 22 calendar days.
I arrived in Montgomery for a caucus meeting at 2 PM this afternoon and by 6:30 had been briefed on no less than four plans as possible solution to our state’s budget situation...four.
I remain optimistic – because that’s my nature – that we will pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year for this is our Constitutional duty as legislators. I also remain a realist. To that end I introduced a 5th option; I filed a budget bill today, a somewhat unusual action for a non-budget chairman. The budget I filed today is the exact same budget that the Senate passed during the First Special Session. I filed this budget – and plan to move it along the legislative process as best I can as a fail-safe to what may become another budget stalemate between the House, Senate and the Governor.
It is important to note the history of the version of the budget that I filed today. This is the same budget that passed 19 – 15 in the First Special Session. This budget is also nearly identical to the budget the House passed (61 – 39) and the Senate passed (20 – 13) which the Governor vetoed AND the House voted to override the Governor’s veto by a vote of 75 – 21; all during the regular session that ended about three months ago.
There are a few other things going on that I’ll write about tomorrow. Committee meetings start in the morning and bills that pass committee hearings could be voted on by the full House and Senate as early as Thursday. I’ll continue to provide updates in the days ahead.
Semper Fi - Bill
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