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Legislature

State Rep. Hill files bill to split session in two

Hill’s bill would shorten the spring session, then lawmakers would then reconvene in Montgomery in September.

The Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery.

Under current Alabama law, the Legislature has a 105-day window every spring to take up its regular business.

State Rep. Jim Hill, R-, is looking to change that structure though, pre-filing a bill that would separate the legislative session into two periods.

While the Legislature has 105 days from the start of session to fulfill its duties, it can only meet for 30 of those days. This has typically been accomplished by the Legislature meeting Tuesday through Thursday with occasional changes.

Hill’s bill would shorten the spring time frame to 75 days beginning in February, with the Legislature meeting up to 20 times. The lawmakers would then reconvene in Montgomery in September to fill out the final 10 days of the session, with a 30-day window to do so.

“The legislative branch of government is one third of our system,” Hill said. “Our branch meets 105 days a year, roughly three-and-a-half months. The others meet 12 months a year, they operate all year. I think things come up between the nine months we are out and it would be nice to be able to address those things without waiting months and months until next session.”

The only matters the Legislature is constitutionally obligated to pass are the state’s two budgets, and it technically is supposed to pass budgets before any other bills. But the burden of that requirement led to a workaround termed a “budget isolation resolution” that allows the body to pass other bills but requires a 60 percent vote.

Hill’s bill doesn’t change that process, but the bill would require the budget to be passed in the first portion of the session. If the Legislature doesn’t pass a budget in those first 20 legislative days, it would trigger an automatic special session purely to pass the budgets.

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Then in September, the Legislature would purely be focused on bills outside of the budgetary process. In addition to addressing current issues, the second period would allow the Legislature to address any vetoed bills.

Despite the long break, Hill said bills would hold their progress until end of session—if a bill has advanced out of the House in the first session, it can be taken up by the Senate in the second session—the process would not reset over the break.

“It would give us an opportunity to continue to have committee meetings during the break,” Hill said. “We would not lose anything, but we would gain the ability to continue that dialogue.”

When speaking to APR, Hill posited a situation in which a gaming bill passes the Senate and hits the House on the final week of session. In that scenario, he said there is no way the House could give it due consideration before the clock runs out. But if a thorny bill like that passed one chamber before the session break, it could give the other chamber time to vet it and actually pass something when the body reconvenes.

“I see a lot of positives and don’t see any negatives,” Hill said.

If passed in its current form, the change would not take effect until 2027.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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