By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, July 10, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) doubled-down on his demands that the Alabama Legislature raise taxes on the people of Alabama in the Special Session that begins on Monday, July 13. Most legislators remain noncommittal on the Governor’s controversial proposals.
On Saturday, July 11, State Representative Jim Carnes (R-Vestavia) spoke to the Mid Alabama Republican Council (MARC) at the Vestavia Public Library. Rep. Carnes said, “This is the most unusual report I have ever given…On Thursday, I met with Sen. Jabo Waggoner from 10 to 11:30 about needs in the district. After lunch, I go to my office and found out that the Special Session begins on Monday, July 13. We had all agreed on August 17th. People had planned on meeting that week and we had set up various committees working toward having a solution by then…Nobody knows why the Governor did what he did but he did it.”
Rep. Carnes said that a Special Session is limited to either 30 calendar days or 12 actual meeting days. The Senate has said that they are going to recess and come back on August 3. That would only leave nine calendar days in the Special Session. Seldom does it happen that we get anything done in just nine calendar days. Any kind of opposition at all would kill the legislation. Carnes thought that there would have to be another special session after this special session.
Rep. Carnes said that the Governor has a list of taxes. “Senate President Del Marsh wants to bring Class III gambling. That would be blackjack and the dice tables – everything that they have in Vegas, and with that, a lottery. The Governor is pushing a tax package of $350 million. There is total confusion as to what we are doing.”
Rep. Carnes said, “We, in the House, do not have a plan to put forward yet.” Carnes thought there was a strong possibility that this first attempt would “blow up…I would go further, but there is not much more to go further on.”
State Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) said in a statement on Facebook, “Since the end of the General Session I have been one of the group of Senators that has been working as a team on proposals for the General Fund budget. I still hold to the premise that raising taxes is not the solution.”
Sen. Williams said, “Despite our ongoing discussions with the Governor’s office and assurances that we could work the issues with an eye toward an August Special Session we were all taken aback yesterday when we were given just four days notice that the Special Session will convene Monday….over a month ahead of schedule.”
Sen. Williams concluded, “I will not be rushed into raising taxes on my constituents, and I am concerned that this wholly unexpected rushed call to convene is likely to generate unnecessary friction between the Legislative and Executive branches…I support the plan to recess for a period of time and let there be a collective catching of our breath. This is a matter of great import to our State, for now, and for the future.”
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) released his own statement regarding Governor Robert Bentley calling the Alabama Legislature back for a Special Session on Monday:
“When the 2015 Regular Session ended Governor Bentley, Speaker Hubbard and I committed to working together and waiting until a consensus was reached on how to best solve the issues facing the General Fund. Though we have been working through the summer and I am confident we are close to a resolution, a consensus has not been reached in the Legislature. The Governor has decided to jump the gun, I will have no choice but to immediately call for a recess in the Senate until an agreement on the budgets can be reached.”
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) said, “I issued the following statement today in response to Governor Bentley’s unexpected call for a Special Session next week: Since the 2015 Regular Session adjourned, Members of the House and Senate have been working cooperatively to find a solution to our General Fund issues and the various taskforces we appointed have been meeting as well. In order for those groups to have time to devise a solution that everyone can support, Governor Bentley gave us his word that no Special Session would be called until sometime around mid-August. Given the fact that our committees are still working diligently using the timeline that the governor originally provided us, we will have to take all of those factors into consideration as the Legislature convenes in this unexpected session on Monday. I am confident that the House and Senate will continue to work in a collaborative manner and will successfully develop a solution.”
According to our sources, the Governor’s unexpected move to call this Special Session to put pressure on legislators to address the projected $198 million shortfall in the State General Fund (SGF), and approve a $50 million bond issue to build a beach front hotel on Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, has angered many legislators.