Connect with us

House

House Committee passes General Fund budget

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

The House Ways and Means General Fund committee voted to give a favorable report to the state General Fund budget Wednesday.

Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said that he thought that the full House could be considering the budget as early as Tuesday.

Alabama has two separate budgets, with revenues earmarked for each one.

The Education Trust Fund deals with all matters of education.

The General Fund budget deals with public safety, the Department of Corrections, courts, Medicaid, mental health archives and other non-education state agencies.

This 2020 fiscal year General Fund budget, which begins Oct. 1, 2019, is one of the largest in state history after years of lean budgets following the Great Recession.

That good news, however, was perhaps overshadowed by bad news earlier in the day, when the U.S. Department of Justice delivered a scathing report blasting the conditions in Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed and aging collection of 13 men’s prisons.

Justice Department report documents horrific violence, sexual abuse in Alabama prisons

Advertisement

While the 2020 budget contains money to hire more corrections officers and improve mental health services for inmates, Wednesday’s report and the ongoing federal court case are likely to require the state to take even more drastic action.

Federal court rules Alabama treatment of prisoners in isolation unconstitutional

Clouse said that does not affect the 2020 budget, but would instead be addressed in the 2021 budget.

Also hanging over the 2021 budget is funding the Children Health Insurance Program.

The state is assuming 20 percent of the cost of CHIP after CHIP was reauthorized last year. Clouse said that that would cost the state approximately $120 million next year, split between the Alabama Department of Public Health and Alabama Medicaid.

Clouse said that there will also be additional costs for the upcoming 2020 Census and that redistricting invariably means lawsuits and defending those lawsuits costs money.

When asked whether he was saying that the state will need an additional $200 million minimum next year for the general fund, between the cost of fixing the prisons and funding CHIP, Clouse said, “not necessarily.”

“I have not read the report yet,” he said. “We may build the mega prisons sooner rather than later.”

The firm that has been hired to prepare a report on the prisons has not presented the state’s options yet.

“I am sure in the next few weeks or months we are going to have come up with some proposal,” Clouse said, “We are waiting on guidance from the governor’s office.”

It may be a bond issue, a lease agreement or it may be private prisons.

The state may be able to pay for it with savings from consolidation, Clouse said.

“It has become more apparent that we address this,” Clouse said.

It was brought up in the 2016 session and the problem is “not getting better with time.”

State Representative Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said that the legislature should not be passing bills that will result in the state paying legal fees, such as the abortion ban.

The pay raise for state general fund employees was being carried by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos.

After his death last week, the committee voted to rename that bill in his honor.  It also received a favorable report.

Advertisement

House

Alabama Legislature plans to return to work briefly March 31

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

The Alabama Senate is planning to get to only a few big, constitutionally mandated items before calling an end to the year’s legislative session amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but whether they’ll get those tasks accomplished remains to be seen. 

Senate leadership is advising lawmakers who fall into “at-risk” categories because of their age or pre-existing medical conditions to not attend the Senate’s meeting when it resumes.

Among the items legislators tentatively plan to tackle before gaveling the session closed sometime in the future are the passage of the Education Trust Fund budget and the General Fund budget, which is the Legislature’s only constitutionally mandated duty.

And “other bills deemed necessary.” 

The state Senate’s Plan of Action, obtained by APR Friday, states that the Senate will meet at 2 p.m. on March 31 for its 14th legislative day. 

“The intent for this legislative day is to advance only essential attendance items and then to adjourn to a date certain for the 15th Legislative Day. April 28 has been discussed with the House,” the plan reads. 

The State Senate’s plan: 

“As leaders, it is imperative that we demonstrate that the business of this state carries on in an orderly and systematic fashion while adhering to the recommendations of our public health officials.

Advertisement

The Alabama Senate will meet on Tuesday, March 31 at 2:00 pm at the Statehouse in the Senate Chamber as scheduled. This will be the 14th Legislative Day.

The intent for this legislative day is to advance only essential attendance items and then to adjourn to a date certain for the 15th Legislative Day. April 28 has been discussed with the House.

Below is a draft agenda for Tuesday, March 31.

  • Gavel In
  • Pledge and Prayer
  • Roll Call
  • Excuse all Senators
  • Points of Personal Privilege
  • President Pro Tem Marsh
  • Majority Leader Reed
  • Minority Leader Singleton
  • Adjourn to date certain for 15th Legislative Day.

“It is highly recommended that any Senator that falls into any of the at-risk categories stay away from the March 31 Legislative Day,” the plan advises. “However, each Senator’s personal wish will be accommodated.”

Any Senator or staff member that is ill, has been ill, or has been in the same room of anyone that has had any symptom of illness in the 72 hours preceding the March 31 Legislative Day must stay away from the March 31 Legislative Day, according to the Senate’s leadership.

A disinfecting station will be provided under the canopy of the second-floor rear entrance for each senator to disinfect hands and cell phones as they enter the State House and as they leave the Statehouse.

“We must ensure that we practice all Health Department recommendations while at the Statehouse,” the plan reads.

Social distancing will be accomplished by having senators report to their offices by 1:45 p.m. They will then walk into the chamber as the roll is called and then go back to their offices.

“As much separation as possible is required therefore greetings must be verbal only from a distance of 6 feet or greater,” the plan reads.

The remainder of the session will be held possibly Tuesday, April 28 through Monday, May 18.

This timeframe includes three weeks of the session plus the last day of May 18.

A specific plan for meeting more days than normal will be developed and provided prior to the next legislative meeting date.

Continue Reading

House

$200,000 in campaign finance penalties deposited into State General Fund

Staff

Published

on

By

Act 2015-495, which went into effect beginning with the 2018 Election Cycle, allows the Secretary of State’s Office to issue penalties to Political Action Committees (PACs) and Principal Campaign Committees (PCCs) that fail to timely file campaign finance reports.

As of today, the Office of the Secretary of State has collected $202,504.20 which has been deposited into the State General Fund to benefit the people of Alabama.

Conversations with the Senate and House General Fund Chairmen are currently underway to determine the best way to allocate these resources to counties.

Anyone who receives a campaign finance penalty is able to appeal their penalty to the Alabama Ethics Commission who has the authority to overturn a penalty.

“When I campaigned for this office in 2014, I made a promise to the people of Alabama that I would work to see that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat in this state. Since then, we have worked to make the electoral process more fair and transparent through requiring the honest reporting of all PACs and PCCs,” stated Secretary of State John H. Merrill.

Anyone who suspects an individual may be in violation of the Alabama Election Fairness Project is encouraged to report suspicious activity to StopVoterFraudNow.com.

 

Continue Reading

Economy

Daniels: We have to get help to those who need it most

Josh Moon

Published

on

There is not enough help coming fast enough to the people struggling the most. 

That was the message from Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, who was asked on the “Alabama Politics This Week” podcast about the efforts of Alabama’s state government to address the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“If you’ve never been poor, you don’t fully comprehend how things like this affect the poor and the unique problems the poor people face,” Daniels said. “I commend Gov. (Kay) Ivey and her staff for working to try and address this crisis the best they can, but I just think there’s a lack of understanding among all of us in some cases of how people need help.” 

To address those issues, at least in part, Daniels is writing a series of letters to different entities, including Ivey, to explain how they can best help the state’s most vulnerable. 

Daniels plans to ask the Alabama Supreme Court to order lower courts to halt foreclosure proceedings and evictions for those affected by coronavirus job losses and illnesses. He also will ask Ivey to intervene with banks on behalf of customers who are falling hopelessly behind on mortgage, car loans and other installment loans. And he will seek additional assistance from the state for borrowers with overwhelming student loan debt. 

“I want people to understand that I’m not criticizing what’s being done or trying to take control, I just hear from these folks on a daily basis and believe there are some better ways to help people,” Daniels said. “President Trump has addressed student loan debt by knocking the interest of those loans, but what does that really do for a person who just lost a job? Or someone who’s had hours and pay cut? We need to pause those payments and give people substantial forgiveness. 

“Otherwise, it’s going to be ugly.”

Democrats in the House also have been putting together potential legislation that could be passed to help the state’s poorest citizens and those who have been laid off from jobs. The specifics of those pieces of legislation weren’t available, but Daniels said they would have the same focus — providing real help for those who need it most. 

Advertisement

If those bills are anything like the measures taken during the last economic downturn, you can expect a relaxing of rules on social programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and unemployment assistance programs. 

One of the first moves could be overturning a measure passed during the last legislative session that cut the number of weeks of unemployment pay in the state from 26 to 14. State Sen. Arthur Orr sponsored that legislation, and critics argued at the time that a downturn, such as the one that occurred in 2008, could suddenly leave thousands in the state without jobs and job prospects. It passed anyway.

 

Continue Reading

House

Alabama House cancels March 25 committee meetings due to coronavirus

Jessa Reid Bolling

Published

on

The Alabama House of Representatives announced on Monday that committee meetings scheduled for Wednesday, March 25 will be cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The legislative day on March 26 has not technically been cancelled but the House is not expected to have a quorum for that day.

A “quorum” is the minimum number of House members that must be present at any meeting to make the proceedings of that meeting valid. If there are not enough members present, then the meeting cannot proceed and House rules state that the speaker of the House is allowed to set a new date for the meeting. 

The Legislature is currently on an annual spring break. The House and Senate are both expected to reconvene on March 31. According to the statement from the House, a joint decision will be made regarding the future legislative meeting days.

The full statement reads:

“The leadership of the Alabama House of Representatives has made several changes to the upcoming meeting calendar because of the coronavirus crisis in the state.

House committees that were scheduled to meet on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 have been cancelled.

The House is scheduled to meet on Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. but no quorum is expected that day.

Advertisement

Under House Rule 5(b), if there’s no quorum to conduct business during a state of emergency declared by the governor, the speaker of the House is allowed to set the date and time of the next meeting day. 

Both the House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 and at that time a joint decision will be made as to future legislative meeting days.”

 

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Authors

Advertisement

The V Podcast

Facebook

Trending

.