By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Bill HB36 was sponsored by Representative Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) and carried in the Senate by Senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile). Senator Arthur Orr (R-Madison) offered a substitute, that after hours of debate, passed the Senate on a vote of 21-9.
Originally, the bill passed by the Alabama House of Representatives called the “BP bill,” is designed to pay back money borrowed from the Rainy Day Account and the Alabama Trust Fund, with funds from the BP Settlement. It would also close the $75 million gap in Medicaid funding.
Substitute after substitute was offered, and most failed during the discussion on Tuesday. Tempers flared when senators squared off against each other at the microphone. During the discussion, there were threats of bills being voted down, accusations of “kicking the [Medicaid] can down the road,” amendments aimed directed from one county toward another and to making a motion to sine die.
The bulk of the disagreement: How much of the debt should be paid down, what, if any, money would go to Baldwin/Mobile Counties and how much to allocate to Medicaid.
Senator Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville) offered a substitute that paid $161 to the Rainy Day Fund. It would reduce the payment to the Alabama Trust Fund to $90 million, shifting the bulk of the remaining funds to pay for Medicaid in 2017 and 2018. The first year would see $85 million go to Medicaid. For fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the bill would fund the agency at $135 million and $150 million, respectively.
Sanford’s substitute would distribute the remaining funds, approximately $75 million, to road projects in Baldwin and/or Mobile Counties. The amount could fluctuate based on the outcome of the bond sales.
Ultimately, however, it would be Orr’s substitute that passed. Orr said his substitute was similar to Sanford’s, but cut all money going to South Alabama road projects. His substitute proposes paying down $320 of the debt.
A substitute by Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham), restoring physician payments by Medicaid pay back up to where they were before Aug 1 cuts took effect. It also provides a $4 million allocation for dialysis. It was adopted by a 28-1 vote.
Orr’s substitute was adopted by a vote of 21-9, as was final passage of the bill by the Senate.
Marsh said he did not see the Orr bill coming back intact from conference committee. “If it comes back to a filibuster, I am ready to sine die.”
Around 8:30 pm, the House gaveled in, Clouse explained the changes to the bill, and they immediately voted 100-0 to non-concur and go to conference committee on Wednesday morning.
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) appointed conferees to be Representatives Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), John Knight (D-Montgomery), and Steve Clouse (R-Ozark).
Nearing 8:45 pm, the Senate gaveled in and voted 24-1 for the to send conferees to to conference committee.
Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) appointed the conferees to be Senators Trip Pittman (R-Daphne), Arthur Orr (R-Madison), and Clyde Chabliss (R-Montgomery).
Before the Senate adjourned, Smitherman came to the microphone to point out that there were no minority members appointed to the committee. Marsh apologized saying it was an oversight.
Conference committee is scheduled to meet at 9:00 am. House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene at 10:00 am.