Thursday, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, spoke to reporters about the prospects of reconsidering controversial lottery legislation.
“There are not the votes,” McCutcheon told reporters. “It would be a waste of money and time to bring back the lottery.”
This was in response to Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s, R-Anniston, comment that “The lottery is a priority of the Senate” (which passed it easily) and that he expected it to return this session.
McCutcheon said that the House would pass the education budget next week and then both budgets would be in conference committees.
Marijuana legislation is another issue that the House will address. McCutcheon said that there are three parts to that. The first is renewing Carly’s law so that the research study that UAB is doing on cannabidiol oil as a treatment to prevent severe epileptic seizures. Leni’s law also needs to be extended. The third part of the new marijuana policy would be establishing a commission to research the issue.
House sponsor State Representative Mike Ball, R-Madison, told the Alabama Political Reporter that the study commission will meet and make recommendations to the legislature for next year’s session.
“I think it is going to pass,” Ball said.
McCutcheon said that a number of members had expressed concerns about the bill as it had passed the Senate.
Senator Tim Melson, R-Florence, is the sponsor of the medical marijuana bill that passed the Senate.
The bill listed a number of conditions that a doctor could prescribe medical marijuana for.
APR asked Ball if that would have opened the legislature to future debates on the floor as whether a medical condition should be added or taken away from the medical marijuana list and if the Alabama legislature had the necessary expertise to make those kinds of decisions.
Ball acknowledged that that was a concern, “We are not doctors.”
Speaker McCutcheon said that the two educations bill: the bill to eliminate the elected school board and the bill to end elected county school superintendents would be priorities of the legislature next week along with the budgets.
Reporters asked McCutcheon if he was going to act on Representative Arnold Mooney’s, R-Indian Springs, complaint against State Representative John Rogers, D-Birmingham.
McCutcheon said that the complaint was made in the form of a letter to him, not in the form of a resolution as the rules require; so they could not take action against Rogers based on that letter.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked the Speaker: the House Minority Leader said at his press conference that all of the promises that were made to pass the gas tax increase have not been met. Do you know what he is talking about?
“There was no agreement,” the Speaker said. “We listened to their views.”
McCutcheon said that he can’t speak for the governor’s office or the Senate leadership.
Democrats have been campaigning on expanding Medicaid and the Alabama Hospital Association has been putting pressure on legislators to accept the expansion.
The lottery failed largely because Democrats did not want all the money going unearmarked to the state general fund, where the Republican Supermajority could use the money to finance new prison construction in order to settle concerns by the U.S. Justice Department that the state does not provide humane care for its inmates.
It is looking increasingly like the Ivey administration is going to prioritize: infrastructure improvement, education reform, and improving the Alabama prisons as the priorities of this quadrennium, and it seems increasingly unlikely that there will not be any funds available in the state general fund to even consider Medicaid expansion before 2023, if then.
McCutcheon said that he does not know if there will be a special session later in the year to address the prison system or not, “But that is not up to me.”
Reporters asked McCutcheon if this coming week would be the last of the regular session.
“It is a possibility,” McCutcheon acknowledged. “Saturday will be the 28th day of the session.”
Under the Alabama Constitution, a regular session is a maximum of 30 legislative days, though the legislature often does not use all of them.
At the start of the legislative day on Thursday, McCutcheon chastised members for some of the over the top behavior that occurred on Wednesday.
“The well of this chamber is not a professional wrestling ring and the microphones are not to be used for grandstanding, personal promotion, or blindsided attacks on other members,” McCutcheon said. The speaker vowed to be quicker to gavel members down and microphones will be cut off in the future.
The leadership of both parties joined the Speaker on the floor in making this announcement. While Wednesday night was largely a disaster, Thursday was the most productive day of the session with dozens of bills passing in a relatively compressed period of time.
Afterwards, McCutcheon told the legislators that he was proud of them for how hard they had worked on Thursday.