Today was committee day in the State House. In addition to various committee meetings, I had several meetings in my office with lobbyist and special interest groups regarding legislation in a range of status, moving through the legislative process.
As discussed in yesterday’s blog, time is running short for the session – 9 legislative days left – and a sense of urgency of sorts is emerging as members in both the House and Senate prioritize efforts to pass legislation.
I’m hearing through the halls of the State House that the House Budget Committee may finally bring the House General Fund Budget to a committee vote tomorrow, positioning it for a full House vote on Tuesday of next week – note that’s the 23rd legislative day....leaving just 7 days for the Senate to pass the budgets on to the Governor. I’ve encouraged leadership and members to move the budgets so that we can pass the budgets during this regular session. Some of my colleagues have already accepted that we will be unable to pass the budgets during the regular session and will need to go into a special session later this year to address the budgets.
I’m simply not ready to surrender to that notion.
The Senate will go into session at 10AM tomorrow.
Semper Fi - Bill
I started the morning chairing the Legislative Contract Review Committee. The committee agenda included a total of 51 contracts totaling almost $25M. After discussion with committee members we decided to carry all of the contracts over until our next meeting in June due to growing uncertainty with the budgets. Hopefully by our next meeting we will have a better understanding of the budget situation. The Contract Review Committee is unique in that we see how the budgets are actually obligated.
The Senate went into session at 10AM and after some procedural matters began work on an 11 bill Special Order Calendar. The House passed the Prison Reform Bill but only after have the 100 pages plus bill read at length; a tactic used by members to further delay the work before the body.
I was engaged in a lengthy debate in the Senate regarding one of my bills, SB256 which would require organizations that have been legislatively granted an exemption for state, county and local sales and use taxes to annually file a report with the State Dept. of Revenue. The intent of this legislation is to determine the amount of exemptions that have been granted. My research shows that some exemptions have been granted over 40 years ago. I describe this bill as a way to determine just how big the iceberg is. As I work to prevent tax increases I think it is only sensible that we determine the magnitude of tax exemptions that have been granted as we are truly all in this together. The bill had some opposition – for some reason a few Senators (including republicans!) are afraid to look under the waterline to determine the size of the iceberg....just how big are the exemptions? The bill was carried over at the call of the chair and we will continue our work on the bill.
The Senate adjourned a little after 6PM and will reconvene on Tuesday at 2PM.
I was honored to have Dr. Tommy Gray, a pastor from Asbury United Methodist Church where my family and I worship, deliver the opening prayer for today’s session.
This weekend I plan to enjoy time with my family and I hope everyone remembers Sunday is Mother’s Day!
Semper Fi - Bill
Today was committee day at the State House. I started the morning with the Senate General Fund Committee meeting where we debated and passed four bills. We continue to work through consolidation measures, alleviating some pressure on the budget.
At 11:30 the Banking and Insurance Committee met. We debated a handful of bills, most notably one dealing with Pay-Day Lending. This bill increased the minimum amount borrowed from $500 to $1000 per loan. There was some discussion with this bill regarding the interest rate that could be charged for loans currently and the bill was carried over to allow these questions to be addressed.
I had two meetings at 3PM this afternoon; a Senate Committee meeting and a House Committee meeting with bills in both committees....creating a dilemma of sorts for me! Thankfully the House Committee members moved my bill regarding a Veteran’s Preference for State Government without me being present as I was hung up in the Senate Committee debating a bill that would allow – better put; clarify laws allowing rewards programs that provide a price discount on gasoline when combined with other purchases. I’ve sponsored this bill in years past and many examples exist where rewards programs are currently operating. The rub comes in with some “big box” grocery stores not offering these types of rewards programs in Alabama due to conflicting view of how the law reads. After some debate the bill passed the Senate committee.
I’ll start tomorrow morning chairing the monthly Contract Review Committee meeting; we’ll review 51 contracts totaling $24.8M in state and federal spending....great way to start the day! The Senate will go into session at 10AM.
Semper Fi - Bill