Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey will deliver her State of the State Address on Tuesday to kick off the opening of the 2021 Legislative Session.
In the just under 30-minute address at 6:30 p.m. CT, the governor is expected to cover some of her priority bills, as well as major issues and her agenda items moving forward. The Alabama Political Reporter will cover the speech in its entirety as well as provide analysis.
The governor will release her budget proposals for both the Educations Trust Fund budget and the state General Fund budget.
The state Legislature will meet on Tuesday to swear in new members who were elected in special elections since the Legislature last recessed in the spring of 2020. They will also read hundreds of bills for the first time.
The only constitutional responsibility that the Legislature has to do is to pass the SGF and ETF budgets, but legislators like to legislate. There are already 241 bills that have been pre-filed by members of the Alabama House of Representatives and 131 bills that were pre-filed in the Alabama Senate.
COVID-19 effectively blew up the 2020 Legislative Session and the specter of the global pandemic hangs over the 2021 Alabama Legislative Session like nothing in living memory. The Legislature is taking a number of precautions to prevent a COVID outbreak leaving one or both chambers of the Legislature unable to function because they can’t reach a quorum due to members out with the coronavirus or quarantining because of exposure to the virus.
There will be no citizens or lobbyists allowed in the galleries viewing the proceedings or packing committee rooms or lobbying legislators in the hallways or their offices. Instead, communications will be limited to phone or email. Due to social distancing requirements, the 105 members of the Alabama House of Representatives will sit in their chambers, the spectators’ gallery, as well as two overflow rooms up on the sixth floor of the Alabama Statehouse.
Voting will be done on iPads. Committee chairmen will get the plum seats on the House floor, but all members who wish to speak on a bill will get an opportunity to do so by signaling to the speaker of the House on his iPad that he or she wants to speak. The speaker will get the request on his iPad and the member will get to approach the microphone nearest to them to make their remarks.
If a citizen or lobbyist desires a face-to-face meeting with a legislator, the citizen will have to ask for an appointment. The legislator will then meet with that citizen at a room in the first or second-floor room of the Statehouse that is assigned for meetings. Masks must be worn and social distancing guidelines followed. Persons will be required to submit to a temperature check before entering the Statehouse.
Persons with a temperature of 101 degrees F or more will be denied entry as will persons who refuse to wear a mask. Persons who wish to speak about a bill in committee must contact the committee in advance and ask for a public hearing and to be put on the agenda as a speaker then follow the instructions for addressing that committee.
The first bills to be considered in the first days of the session are expected to be:
- Legislation making the various federal COVID-19 stimulus checks tax-free for the Alabama state income tax.
- Legislation giving businesses, churches, schools and other organizations limited immunity from COVID-19 liabilities. If a business was following all of the recommended social distancing and mask requirements and employees or customers still got COVID there, they can’t be sued. A business that operated recklessly and was lax in its safety provisions could still be sued.
- Legislation dealing with tax credits to grow the economy to recover from the COVID-19 recession. Several existing tax credits need to be renewed as a part of that.
The Legislature is not expected to deal with the budgets in the first three weeks of the session, but due to COVID fears, they will not wait until the last week of the session to finalize the budgets this year, as has become their custom.