The Alabama Legislature went into regular session on Tuesday to begin the 2021 Legislative Session. The Alabama House of Representatives has already had one member test positive for the coronavirus.
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said that this is the 134th Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature. The Legislature met every two years until 1976 when annual sessions began.
“We have got budgets to address. We have got the business of the state to address,” McCutcheon said.
Fear of the COVID-19 global pandemic shortened the 2020 Legislative Session, and on the first day of the 2021 Legislative Session, the novel strain of the coronavirus directly impacted the Legislature itself. McCutcheon announced during the opening prayer of the session that a member of the Legislature had tested positive for the coronavirus.
That member has gone home as well as a member of the staff that had contact with that legislator. McCutcheon did not reveal the identity of the legislator who tested positive for the coronavirus, but a source said that it was a Republican.
State Rep. Russell Bedsole, R-Alabaster, was sworn in during the session on Tuesday.
“I am thankful for my family and am thankful for this opportunity,” Bedsole said after taking the oath of office. “I look forward to serving the citizens of this state.”
Bedsole represents parts of Shelby, Bibb and Chilton Counties. April Weaver vacated the House District 49 seat last year to accept an appointed position with the Trump administration. Bedsole won a special election for the vacant seat.
The building was eerily quiet without the lobbyists, visiting citizens, tours of students, the legislators’ families, interns and the normal trappings of a legislative session.
“We are going to have limited access with the public,” McCutcheon said.
“You have made a sacrifice to be here, not only you but your families are involved in this, as you will go home to them, keep that in mind,” McCutcheon told the members that came to the first day of session. “Many of us have health risks.”
At least 92 of the 105 members did attend the first day of the session. Hundreds of bills were read for the first time, but by law, the Legislature can not pass bills until after they are read for the first time officially so that the public and the members get a chance to review them.
The House of Representatives will meet at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. The first item of business on Wednesday will be to consider rule changes allowing remote voting. Under current rules, members have to be in the chamber to vote.
Members received training on their new iPads on Tuesday. Security asked that members of the press and non-essential staff leave the area during the training for security purposes.
House Bill 192 renewing tax credits is expected to be addressed by the House early in this session. Other issues that the Legislature is prioritizing include an effort to limit COVID-19 liability and making the federal coronavirus stimulus checks tax free from the Alabama state income tax.