Category: Alabama Legislature
MONTGOMERY — State lawmakers walked one by one into their respective chambers, each keeping a strict distance from one another and many wearing protective masks and gloves as the House and Senate met at the State House Tuesday.
The Legislature was forced to convene Tuesday to formally adopt a joint rule allowing for the postponement of a legislative session during a state of emergency. Fifty-eight of 105 House members were in attendance, each asked to sit with a seat between them in chairs specially marked by neon green sticky notes. Twenty-two of 35 senators were present in the much more spacious upper chamber, enough to conduct the limited business of the day: deciding when to reconvene the 2020 regular session amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Both the House and Senate agreed to meet again on April 28, hoping the worst of the outbreak will be over by then. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — Gov. Kay Ivey awarded 20 broadband expansion grants totaling more than $9.5 million to provide high-speed internet access to communities across Alabama.
The grants are part of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund and awarded to nine broadband providers to help fund multiple projects in their coverage areas.
Ivey said that high-speed Internet is always important to have but especially now as cases of COVID-19 have increased in the state and more people are asked to work and learn at home. Public schools are now closed and students are finishing the academic year in their houses. Read more.
Late April will bring financial pain for state and local governments as businesses in Alabama begin submitting lower taxes because of the coronavirus.
With most restaurants, hotels and retail businesses either shut down or seeing little customer traffic, government officials expect a sharp decrease April 20 when they receive March sales and lodging taxes. The notable exceptions are sales taxes from grocery stores and online merchants.
The situation has become so dire that the Alabama Department of Revenue is offering relief to hotels that are unable to make timely payments on their February, March and April lodging taxes. The department will waive late fees through June 1. The state is giving similar help for sales taxes on a case-by-case basis for merchants whose sales are affected by the virus.
UPDATED: MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature is on hold for now, and it’s unclear when legislators will return to Montgomery. The regular session ends May 18, and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said he’s not sure whether the House could reconvene before that, making a special session likely. On the Senate side, leaders are talking about returning to the State House on April 28. Budgets and other important legislation had not been passed when legislators left Montgomery to combat the spread of COVID-19. Read more.
UPDATED — Alabama lawmakers are expected to be back in Montgomery March 31, but how long they’ll be able to work and what they’ll be able to do in the middle of a public health emergency is in question.
“I can’t say in the present situation we can pass budgets,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, told Alabama Daily News on Monday. “The big question is, how long will this last? It’s one thing for a couple of weeks; It’s another if it lasts for months.”
As local and state governments try to stop the spread of the coronavirus and businesses slow or shutter temporarily, the impact on state revenue is expected to be significant. How bad that will be will depend on how long people are asked to stay home, state leaders said this week. Read more.
State lawmakers are expecting the coronavirus, and attempts to stop its spread, to affect Alabama’s tax revenues and the 2021 budgets they’re drafting.
“I think it could have a dramatic impact,” Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said Monday afternoon. He’s chairman of the House General Fund budget committee. He said it could be several weeks to a month before the financial toll of closures and social distancing are known. State and federal officials have said states will be reacting to the coronavirus for at least six to eight weeks.
“I think we’d need to wait as late as possible on the budgets to see how everything develops,” Clouse said.
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate after five hours of debate Thursday passed legislation to allow and regulate medical marijuana. Read more.
Alabama is one step closer to overturning a decades-old ban on yoga in public schools. This week, the Alabama House of Representatives voted in favor of democratic Representative Jeremy Gray’s bill – which would give school systems the option to teach yoga poses and stretches as long as they don’t chant, recite mantras or say “namaste.” Jimi Lee heads the non-profit Yoga & Love and volunteers with Alabama 4H. He tells WBHM’s Janae Pierre that, despite the ban, he’s led yoga at some schools; they just had to call the practice by another name. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — A number of criminal justice bills were approved in Alabama House and Senate committees Wednesday, marking progress for Gov. Kay Ivey’s endorsed prison reform proposals and others. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — A new version of a lottery bill has been filed in the Alabama House with enough co-sponsors to easily get it through that chamber, if it makes it to a vote.
A different lottery bill filed recently in the Senate also sets up a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to allow table games at its casinos, including two new sites in Jefferson County and north Alabama. Both bills are constitutional amendments requiring voter approval. Read more.