By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, February 2, the Alabama Legislature began its 2016 legislative year.
Like last year, the State General Fund budget (SGF) looms large over the body.
Despite $80 million in budget cuts and tax increases on cigarettes, nursing home beds, and prescription drugs the state appears to be facing another shortfall in the 2017 SGF.
House General Fund Committee Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) estimated that the 2017 shortfall would be about $40 million. That money would have to be found either from new revenues or from more budget cuts.
Clouse told reporters that a lottery is likely to come up in this session and if it does he is going to push for it to go to the general fund.
The House gained a new member when Chris Blackshear was sworn in in District 80 to fill the vacancy created by the death of Rep. Leslie Vance (R-Ph0enix City).
Rep. Blackshear said in a statement, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve in the Alabama State House, and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and do my part to make Alabama a better place to live, work, and raise our children,” Blackshear said. “Our state faces many challenges in areas like education and economic development, but tough jobs and difficult assignments have never intimidated me. With determination and a cooperative spirit, Alabamians can overcome any obstacle in our path.”
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) said, “Congratulations Representative Blackshear. I speak for all the members of the House of Representatives in welcoming you.”
Speaker Hubbard announced that State Rep. Blackshear will hold seats on the House’s Financial Services, County and Municipal Government, and Insurance committees.
Hubbard said, “We always try to match committee assignments with the skills, strengths, and experience of our representatives, and Rep. Blackshear’s service as a city councilman and his business acumen make him perfectly suited for these panels. All of our House members are looking forward to working with him and welcoming him into the chamber.”
Blackshear was sworn into office on Friday to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Lesley Vance after the Democratic Party candidate dropped out of the race and the Party could not find a replacement.
Blackshear said, “Let’s work together to make Alabama better than it was the day before.” On replacing Leslie Vance who served in the House for 20 years, Blackshear said, “There is no way that I or anyone else can fill in his shoes but I hope to walk in his path.”
The Task force for the study of privatization of Alcohol presented a brochure to members, but are not yet making a recommendation at this time.
Rep. Alan Harper (R-Northport) said that the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission has presented our final report this morning. A beer bill, a wine bill and a spirits bill will be moving pretty quickly.
Rep. Tim Wadsworth (R-Winston County) said in a statement, “The Alabama Legislature begins the 2016 regular session today. We will be in session Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Governor Robert Bentley will give his State of State address to the State of Alabama. Citizens of Alabama generally don’t ask for much. However, they do want good government. They should expect nothing short of that.”