Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, told reporters that he is working on an infrastructure bill.
“The work that is being done is between myself, the pro-tem (Del Marsh) and the governor (Kay Ivey).
Gov. Kay Ivey promised roads that would be “the envy of the nation” in her inauguration speech.
The regular session begins in March. McCutcheon said that there is not a deal yet, but is hopeful that all of the parties will come to an agreement soon so that a bill can be passed early in the legislative session so that they can move on to other priorities.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked: According to the U.S. Census Bureau between 2010 and 2017 this state only grew by 90,000 people (from 4.785 million to 4.875 million just .26 percent annual growth). 55 of the 67 counties are in decline or have zero growth and the population of Alabama is getting older. There is a real need for roads in Madison, Baldwin, Limestone, Lee, and Shelby Counties but most counties aren’t really experiencing any growth at all. Why is this suddenly such a priority?
“It is a priority on many fronts,” McCutcheon answered. The roads are all connected. People in Madison County where the growth is want to go to the beach and have to go through the other counties to get there, they spend money there, and that produces revenues for our state. “We have a lot of people traveling through our state to our beaches.” There are people who go through our state to go to Florida. “Our roads are being congested to the point that people can’t move.” I get phone calls all the time from constituents who are stuck in traffic for one or two hours on 1-65 in Shelby County. Roads are a problem everywhere whether it is the Wiregrass or the Black Belt.
McCutcheon said that they would like to recruit jobs to poor counties like the Black Belt where unemployment is high; “but the problem is that it is hard to recruit companies to where you don’t have good roads; because they need roads to get a product in and out.”
Sources have told the Alabama Political Reporter that a fuel tax increase of 26 cents a gallon (or perhaps more) as well as a tax on electric cars is going to be introduced early in the regular legislative session.
McCutcheon said that, “Electric vehicles are contributing to the wear and tear put on our highways.”
“I will be contacting every legislator about the needs in their districts,” McCutcheon said. “I brought this up for four years. It has been an education process. It came up on the campaign trail. Many things need to be in the plan including oversight.”
A reporter asked McCutcheon if he had met with the Governor yet on the budget.
“All the meetings we have had have been on the infrastructure plan.” McCutcheon said that last year he worked closely with the Governor on the budgets. “It was very productive to sit around the table with the governor and her staff so that when we got around to the budget there will be no surprises.”
“We are working with the Ethics Commission on reforms,” McCutcheon said. “We are not trying to reform the ethics law. We have a good law and it is working. What we are doing is bringing some common sense.”
“I hope that transportation would be item number one, then ethics, and then corrections.” McCutcheon predicted that there would be an increase for the Alabama Department of Corrections, “But how much more?”
“There will be some discussion about rural hospitals,” McCutcheon acknowledged. “We have got to continue to look at that, Medicaid expansion. We need to “make technology available to the rural areas of our state to bring better healthcare.”
“We will see a lottery bill,” McCutcheon stated. “The leadership is not promoting a lottery bill. There is an interest in both houses in a lottery bill.”
“Public safety for our schools is going to be an issue,” McCutcheon added. “Pre-K has proven itself and is working.”
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels criticized new House rules that limited filibustering the special order calendar to just one hour.
“Anthony is a good man. He is doing a good job in his leadership role,” McCutcheon said. “As Speaker, I enjoy a healthy debate on an issue; but I am not much for filibustering. When every special order that is brought up is debated for two hours, I am thinking that we are wasting time that could be spent on legislation. Because of that I was trying to find a compromise so that we can get some things done. I have been clotured before. I am not a big fan of cloture. If we can find ways to keep the process moving, that is what I am for.”
Reporters asked McCutcheon how he thought the organizational session went.
“I think it went well,” the Speaker answered. “We had a little issue with the rules; but that is normal. The rules ended up being adopted and everybody ended up being upbeat.”
“I love the legislative process,” the Speaker said. “When you look at the people who you are representing, and you think that you are helping those representatives it is emotional for me. At the end of the day it is all about serving and I am very honored to be serving the members as Speaker. I am a little more excited about serving this session than when I first took over.”