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Senate leader says body will be focusing on House bills this week

Reed said the Senate has already dealt with major topics like medical marijuana, gun bills and gaming.

Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said that the Senate will be “diligently” working on House bills this week, the last full working week of the 2021 Legislative Session. On Thursday, the Senate passed the largest state General Fund budget in state history.

“The strength of Alabama’s budgets goes to a very conservative approach,” Reed told reporters. “Something that we been very diligent about.”

“While states around the country are having to cut budgets due to economic hardships resulting from this pandemic, Alabama has passed the largest General Fund Budget in state history,” Reed said. “This is a direct result of the conservative budgeting approach that our state has taken over the past several years and the resilience of Alabamians and our economy.

Reed credited the increase in the federal Medicaid match rate with some of the ease with which the state prepared this budget.

“It definitely helped with the budget,” Reed told reporters. “Alabama Medicaid had a reduction in their funding request for the first time I remember. That is $50 million in savings.”

The state General Fund budget is now in a conference committee. The Education Trust Fund budget was sent to the governor following Senate concurrence with House changes on Thursday.

“I think there is a lot of discussions about funding for healthcare,” Reed said. “You also have new funds coming from the federal government. How are we going to use those resources?”

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Alabama Democrats are requesting that a second congressional majority-minority district be created when the state is redistricted.

“I do not know where we would be on that,” Reed said.

Reed said that they are still waiting on all of the local data to come in from the census bureau.

“Most areas are losing population,” Reed said. “Where are we really?”

Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, said: “The blackbelt continues to lose people. Dallas county has lost 6400 in ten years. That is over a 20 percent loss.”

“We dodged a bullet,” Scofield said of the Census results that narrowly allowed Alabama to keep all seven congressional districts. “We were 140,000 people higher than we thought.”

Scofield said that the state needs to understand why the majority-minority districts continue to hemorrhage population.

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Scofield said that it is possible that we “will lose the majority-minority districts we have now.”

Scofield said that Huntsville and Baldwin County have a lot of growth

Reed was asked about the gambling legislation that appears to have stalled in the House.

“I had a meeting just today,” Reed said. “We are working together to try to find ways to move the legislation forward. It is one of the most complicated issues we have ever addressed.”

Reed was optimistic though.

“I think we are in a better place to deal with it,” Reed said.

“We are going to still be working diligently on House bills this week,” Reed said. “The paramount topics that we have already dealt with in the Senate are medical marijuana, gun bills, and certainly gaming.”

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The medical marijuana and firearm protection act have cleared committee and are waiting for the House Rules Committee to place them on the House special order calendar. The gambling constitutional amendment is awaiting a hearing in a House committee.

Scofield was asked about the status of Gov. Kay Ivey’s privately built mega-prisons.

“That I don’t know,” Scofield said. “Whatever happens, happens. We in the legislature stands ready to solve it if called upon.”

Tuesday will be day 28 of the 2021 Legislative Session. The Alabama Constitution of 1901 allows a maximum of 30 days in a regular session over a 105 calendar day period. May 17 will be the final day.

There will almost certainly be a special session in late fall or early winter to deal with redistricting. The governor could also call a special session to deal with the prison crisis and/or her gambling proposal if it fails to pass the Legislature in these last three days of the session.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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