By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter.
On Thursday the Alabama House passed HB603 in an attempt to remedy problems with the Alabama PACT settlement.
In 2010 the state informed the parents that they would not be able to honor the contracts under the PACT program. Some parents then filed a class action lawsuit arguing that they had purchased “Prepaid Affordable College Tuition” not investors in some sort of failed mutual fund. The state settled with the PACT parents out of court; but in Mid-March the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the settlement.
Representatives Jay Love (R-Montgomery) and Mary Sue McClurkin (R-Indian Springs) then introduced a bill in an attempt to change Alabama law so that the PACT class action settlement could by reinstated.
Love who serves as Chair of the House Ways and Means Education committee told the House members on Thursday that the substitute bill would address the concerns of the Supreme Court and allow the settlement to go forward.
One of the main contentions was that the original appropriations said it would, “…Make the PACT plan 100 percent funded.”
Love’s bill was countered by Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden). Ford who sponsored the 2010 bill that authorized the original settlement said he did not agree with any settlement that did not full fund the PACT program as it was promised to the people who brought it.
“Clear and simple, mine [2010 bill] fully funds it and lives up to the obligation the state made to pay for these children’s contracts, said Ford. “The one presented by Representative Love does not. It goes on 2010 tuition rates which I think will get overturned by Section 4, Article 95 of the Constitution.”
Ford said he believed that within two years the Legislature will once again have to address the PACT problem again because Love’s solution will not hold up in court.
Love countered Ford by saying, “In the bill that we passed in 2010, it states that the Legislative intent is for the PACT Program to be 100 percent fully funded. That settlement was in conflict with the law. We are removing that language from the 2010 act and also giving the PACT Board the authority to negotiate a settlement.”
Ford then proceed to ask for time to implement a fix that would full fund the program by forming a partnership with the states college to allow the PACT money to become apart of their student endowment investment programs.
The idea was eventually shot down, to which Ford said, “ I don’t understand it. I think it is just because a democrat proposed it.”
The bill passed out of the House and will now be heard in the State Senate.