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House Speaker says that 2021 was a good session

Despite the House’s inability to pass a gambling bill, Speaker Mac McCutcheon said that the 2021 Legislative Session was a good one.

Former House Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

Monday was the last day of the 2021 Legislative Session. Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, also said that it was a good session with the Legislature passing a lot of good bills. But there were pieces of legislation that House leadership wanted to pass that they ran out of time on the last day.

“You have got two separate bodies that have to work together,” McCutcheon said. “You have to prioritize those bills based on their importance. Four or five agency bills were passed tonight.”

One of the bills that did not pass was the Vulnerable Child Protection and Compassion Act, which would have barred doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or hormone treatments for transgender children. It passed the Senate, but could not get traction to get on the floor of the House.

“That bill was an important bill, when it comes to political parties, but we were trying to get it on the floor but it ran out of time,” McCutcheon said. “It was a bill that members had different opinions on.”

“The medical profession versus trans rights versus the political climate that we are in,” McCutcheon said. “We did have the opportunity to address a House bill, but the sponsor got sick so we had to wait and then we got the Senate bill down here and we did not know which one to address. They were running close together. There was some amendments being worked on the bills. This was not one of those issues where we can say that everybody was on board. There were concerns on both sides of the aisle.”

McCutcheon said that the House has drafted a bill to pay for new prisons with a bond issue if the governor’s plan collapses.

“We have been very supportive of her plan, but time is running out;” McCutcheon said. “We are talking about very big dollar amounts.”

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“There is a possibility of a special session,” McCutcheon said. “Plan B a state bond issue.”

McCutcheon explained that under the House plan, the state itself was looking at going into the bond market itself rather than having private prison companies do it. McCutcheon said that the Legislature is looking at land that the state already owns rather than having to buy new sites for the new prisons under the governor’s plan.

“We are looking at the property that can be used by the state if the state owns the facility,” McCutcheon said. “The Legislature tried to do this before and failed.”

The governor’s complicated private lease build agreement appears to be unraveling after banks and underwriters have told the state that they don’t want to have any part of this deal.

“We will be with her all the way to June First,” McCutcheon said.

McCutcheon spoke at length on the gambling issue that failed to get enough support in the House to even be introduced.

The 2021 Legislative Session was a session like no other due to all of the stringent measures put in place to protect the members, as much as possible, from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Surprisingly enough it went better than expected,” McCutcheon said. “The negative thing was the limited public access.”

“Members and the public have learned to communicate in different ways” with the public barred from visiting members in their offices, McCutcheon said. “Members are checking their emails more, zoom meetings, they are taking phone calls.”

“Members depend on public opinion,” McCutcheon said. “It hasn’t been perfect.”

“When you look at other states, some have literally had to shut down their Legislature,” McCutcheon said.

McCutcheon said that the Legislature addressed important bills this session on workforce development, tax credits, agency bills and broadband.

“We have had some good pieces of legislation,” McCutcheon said. “I wish we would have come up with a proposal for the people to vote on gaming, either a clean lottery or a comprehensive gaming package.”

“Broadband is really moving forwards in a good direction, but we need to fund it,” McCutcheon said.

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‘When you look at medical marijuana, we spent 11 and a half hours on the floor debating that bill,” McCutcheon said. “I wish I had some of those hours back tonight.”

“It was different in some ways,” McCutcheon said of the 2021 Legislative Session. “You didn’t have public opinion like you would like to have or pressure from one area or another.”

McCutcheon was asked if not having the lobbyists and the public there making demands made it easier.

“I don’t think it was easier,” McCutcheon replied.

McCutcheon was asked why he did not just put a gambling bill on the floor of the House and let what happens happen.

“We didn’t have a full agreement,” McCutcheon said. “Criticism of the bill, it was coming from both sides of the aisle. You just didn’t know what to expect.”

The 2022 Legislative Session will begin in January 2022.

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

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