Category: Alabama Legislature

From Buses to Libraries, 2020 Education Has More for K-12 Schools

MONTGOMERY — An additional $318 million for K-12 schools is in Alabama’s 2020 education budget, and lawmakers and education leaders say that money will make tangible differences in local schools.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed the record-setting education budget into law Thursday.

“This budget represents significantly more resources for education,” Senate education budget committee chairman Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said.

Here’s what some of the new money will mean to K-12 schools.

There’s nearly $190 million more for the K-12 Foundation Program that supports schools’ basic functions. The 2020 total is $3.9 billion. There’s also an additional $27.8 million for transportation. Read more.

New Incentives Law Targets Rural and Struggling Urban Areas

MONTGOMERY — A recently-passed bill aimed to spur job growth in rural and urban areas of the state has been signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey.

Sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, House Bill 540, dubbed the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act, is a set of tax incentives designed to enhance development in counties that are experiencing slow economic conditions and to help bring new technology companies to the state. Proponents of the legislation say it enhances current incentives, encourages investments in designated opportunity zones and offers a capital gains tax cut for tech companies moving to Alabama. Read more.

Universities See Significant Increases; ‘Peer-Gap’ Formula to Continue

Alabama’s public four-year universities will receive funding increases of between about 6% and more than 12% under the 2020 education budget recently approved by lawmakers.

“I think all of higher education is happy with where we ended up,” Alabama Commission on Higher Education Executive Director Jim Purcell said Wednesday.

During the budgeting process, some university officials and lawmakers expressed frustration over this year’s proposed budget including additional money for a few institutions that had previously been underfunded. Purcell said ACHE was attempting to fix “egregious inequities in funding.” Read more.

Legislature Approves Sunday Alcohol Sales Bill, Says No to Home Delivery of Wine

MONTGOMERY — Alabamians won’t be able to get wine delivered to their homes anytime soon, but wet counties and municipalities can now have Sunday sales without going through the Legislature.

There were several alcohol-related bills in the 2019 legislative session that ended last month. See what passed and what didn’t.

‘Gut Check’ Session Ends, Here’s What They Did

MONTGOMERY – Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham, has been an Alabama lawmaker since 1966.

“I’ve been through more sessions that anybody here, and this is one of the toughest sessions ever,” Waggoner said Friday evening as legislators ended the annual law-making stint that began March 5.

“I mean, we’re talking lottery, gasoline tax, medical marijuana, abortion. It has been a gut check this year, it really has, as far as tough, impactful votes. But as far as high-profile issues, this session probably ranks No. 1 in my career.”

Read more.

Education Budget, Medical Marijuana Commission Pass on Legislators’ Last Day in Montgomery

MONTGOMERY — On the last day of the legislative session, lawmakers approved a record education budget, took a step toward medical marijuana legalization and sent to Alabama voters the decision of whether to scrap the elected state school board in favor of a governor-appointed commission.

After debates and a change, a bill to give new teachers in the state more generous benefits died in the House without a vote.

Legislators ended this year’s regular session Friday, although they are expecting to be called back in the fall for a special session on prisons.
Read about the biggest bills that passed and died on the last day.

‘Difficult’ Budget Negotiations Ongoing

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama General Fund will pay for a health insurance program for low-income children, Senate leaders said Wednesday. But there are still other details in the $2.1 billion budget to be worked out Thursday, which might be the last day of this legislative session.

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said Wednesday evening that the court system would not receive money from an Alabama Department of Transportation fund, a budget transfer that has happened for the past 10 years. Read more.

Lawmakers Boost Money for Prisons and Will Return in the Fall to Take on Pervasive Problems

As the Alabama Legislature winds down its regular session, state lawmakers are on track to boost the budget for the state’s prisons, they have approved a pay raise for correctional officers, and they expect to meet again in the fall to address other issues in a system that is still overcrowded, under-resourced and under the watchful eye of a federal judge and the U.S. Justice Department.

“There are lot of different issues, from mental health to overcrowding, the pay, to facilities,” said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.

Friday is likely to be the last day of the regular session. On Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that will give correctional officers “a one-time two-step salary increase,” and expand bonus opportunities for Department of Corrections employees. The measure takes effect Oct. 1, the first day of fiscal 2020.

Over the past few years, the Department of Corrections has seen its budgets increase by small amounts. For fiscal 2020, it expects to have a budget of $601 million. Most of that money would come from the state General Fund, which pays for most of state government’s non-educational functions.

The Legislature has approved and sent to the governor a General Fund budget that is slated to include money to cover the pay increase signed into law by Ivey, give money to hire and train 500 new corrections officers during fiscal 2020 and improve the prison system’s mental health services. Read more.

BirminghamWatch, in collaboration with B-Metro Magazine, documented the conditions under which correctional officers work for a story last year:

Guarded: Alabama Correctional Officers Work Long Hours in Dangerous Conditions for Low Pay – and There Aren’t Nearly Enough of Them.

Fantasy Sports Bill Passed by Legislators

MONTGOMERY – The Legislature gave final approval Tuesday to a bill that would allow Alabamians to wager on fantasy sports.

Sponsored by Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, House Bill 361 would allow adults to place bets on fantasy sports through sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings. The bill passed the House on May 8 by a vote of 74-22. But the Senate amended it to raise the tax rate on operators. The House approved that amendment Tuesday, and it now goes to the governor. Read more.