It appears likely now that a special session is coming for Alabama lawmakers to hash out the gas tax.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle told APR on Monday that they expect Gov. Kay Ivey to call the special session — a rare special that would be conducted simultaneously with the just-started regular session — either during her State of the State address on Tuesday night or shortly after.
Work during the regular session would be paused as lawmakers deal solely with the gas tax plan and work towards a deal. The special session, several sources told APR, is expected to last 10 calendar days. Lawmakers would work those consecutive days, including weekends, until a bill is approved and sent to Ivey to sign, or until the 10 days expire without a bill.
It’s unclear what Ivey’s intentions are if the special session expires without a deal.
The gas tax has resulted in an interesting split among lawmakers, with several Republicans joining several Democrats in their opposition to it. On the other hand, a few Democrats appear willing to work with Republicans on a deal.
The Republicans who are opposed to the tax appear to be gearing up for fight, and they’ve rallied county Republican Party groups against the bill.
Meanwhile, Democrats appear to be more flexible about the tax, and even those publicly opposed have expressed an interest to negotiate with Republicans on a potential deal. However, any deal would likely include steep prices, such as a rollback of some sales taxes — such as the tax on groceries — or an agreement to expand Medicaid in Alabama.
There also is an expectation that the final gas tax bill could include numbers significantly lower than the 10-cent increase Ivey has proposed, with the difference to be made up by revenue from gambling. A gaming bill that goes beyond implementing a lottery has already been drafted by Republicans and floated to several lawmakers.
“This has the makings of a wild few days,” one lawmaker told APR.
It will be less wild in a special session, however, because the public won’t be involved. Raucous public hearings that have upended or pushed through other controversial legislation, such as the recent prison construction bills or the autism coverage bill, won’t be a part of the negotiations over the gas tax during a special session. All discussions among lawmakers will occur on the floor of the House and Senate.