Monday will be the 30th legislative day of the 2021 Legislative Session. According to the Alabama Constitution of 1901, the Legislature can meet a maximum of 30 days in any regular session.
Any bill that has not passed both houses of the Legislature in the same form by the time both houses gavel out or the clock strikes midnight is dead for this session, and the sponsors will have to reintroduce it next year during the 2022 Legislative Session. It will have to go through all of the legislative processes with a new bill number.
The House Rules Committee met on Sunday to set the special order calendar for the House on Monday’s legislative day. Bills that did not make this calendar are effectively dead unless a new special order calendar is added at some point during the day, a possibility that Rules Committee Chairman Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, acknowledged to the members of the committee.
“We are coming up on the last day so things tend to flex during the day,” Jones said. “Be watching your cell phones. We are leaving the (Rules Committee) room set up, so if we do meet, we will meet in here.”
The biggest priority of the legislature is passing the state General Fund budget. Both houses of the Legislature have passed their own versions of the General Fund, but it was referred to a conference committee. Each House needs to pass the conference committee version of the budget for it to pass and be sent to the governor. The 2022 state General Fund budget is the largest in state history.
“Excuse me, but when in the day are we going to address the General Fund budget,” said Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, asked.
“I leave that response to the Speaker,” Jones said. “We will, but that is not for the Rules Committee Chairman to decide. I defer to the Speaker on that.”
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, was not in attendance at Sunday’s meeting even though the speaker has a ranking position on the Rules Committee.
The proposed House special order calendar that was adopted by the Rules Committee on Sunday contained 18 bills.
Jones was asked if this was really the special order calendar that the Legislature will address on the last day of the session.
“I do not see any reason why we would not,” Jones said. ‘This is a solid list of bills. It is a good list of bills.”
Notably absent from the special order calendar is Senate Bill 319, by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston. The controversial gambling bill being promoted by Marsh would create a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to allow full casinos at their three electronic bingo casinos, authorize the four dog tracks to have casinos as well as the old Country Crossings facility in Dothan, and a casino to be built near Chattanooga in either Jackson or Dekalb Counties.
The bill would also legalize sports betting across Alabama and create a state lottery. Negotiations on the gambling bill broke down on the 29th legislative day. Many conservatives are asking their legislators to vote no on SB319 if it is brought to the floor. Conservative legislators have vowed to filibuster the gambling bill. Democrats said on May 6 that they would not support the bill without Medicaid expansion, Blacks getting ownership of at least 25 percent of the casino businesses, and allowing as many as 18 currently illegal gambling businesses not included in the Marsh bill to be allowed to remain open for a period of two to five years following the passage of the bill.
Also notably absent is the Alabama Firearms Protection Act, which would have prohibited state and local officials from helping federal authorities to enforce federal anti-gun laws. McCutcheon has previously told reporters that this was a priority bill for the House GOP.
The Alabama Vulnerable Child Protection Act, like the gun bill, was on the proposed special order calendar for Thursday, but never came to the floor after the gambling debate torpedoed the second half of that session. The bill, which has been supported by social conservatives, would prohibit doctors from performing gender-altering procedures on minors and prohibit pharmacists from filling orders for puberty blockers. The LGBTQ community opposes the legislation and has threatened litigation if it were to pass.
None of this is set in stone Jones explained to the members.
“There is constant communication between the House and the Senate going on especially in the last couple of days,” Jones said. “Please be looking at your phones, I would not be surprised if we have to come in for a new calendar.”
The Senate has not released publicly a special order calendar for anyone to know what they are working on.
The bills that are on the House special order calendar are:
- SB267 banning vaccine passports,
- SB361 allowing Pardons and Paroles to spend more funds to train and recruit more parole officers,
- SB143 revises the ADPH lead removal program,
- SB141 makes the Victims of Crime and Leniency Inc. exempt from all sales and use taxes, * SB210 civil asset forfeiture reform,
- SB231 sets the deduction to $5000 for people who make contributions to their Alabama Achieving a Better Life Expectancy savings account,
- SB258 allows the Horizontal gaze nystagmus test to be used as evidence of impairment in DUI cases,
- SB298 allows ADECA to issue Alabama Innovation Act grants.
- SB97 gives oversight over Public Health Officer orders during a pandemic,
- SB374 revises the code for revenue and tax collectors,
- SB221 creates the study commission on the rehabilitation and reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals, It also creates two new administrative positions at ADOC and Bureau of Pardons and Paroles,
- SB302 creates a new impaired practitioner program for occupational therapists,
- SB322 deals with alcohol beverage manufacturers and retail sales,
- SB333 deals with the Athletic Commission and their authority to regulate martial arts contests,
- SB397 deals with alcoholic beverages and wineries in dry counties,
- SB204 deals with Bail Bond recovery,
- SB403 decreases the lodging tax in Cullman County if they pay off some debts, and finally
- SB94 would postpone implementation of the Alabama Literacy Act one year so third grades are not failed for doing poorly on standardized tests.
Many of these bills were amended by House Committees so will still have to go back to the Senate for them to concur. If Marsh’s casino gambling bill is introduced in a new special order calendar, because it will be a House substitute, it will have to go back to the Senate for concurrence.
McCutcheon told reporters on Thursday that if the House passes gambling on the last day, it will probably get to them so late, “that it (the House gambling bill) will be take it or leave it” in the Senate.