Category: Alabama Legislature
MONTGOMERY – Gov. Kay Ivey is proposing a redistribution of some tax revenue — including more than $30 million from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund — to help sell her initiative to raise more revenue for building roads and bridges. Read more.
MONTGOMERY – Gov. Kay Ivey’s first legislative session since winning a term in her own right will feature a laundry list of contentious issues when it begins Tuesday.
On the top of that list is Ivey’s proposal to raise the state’s gas tax to pay for improving roads and bridges, which could be one of the first votes the GOP-led Alabama Legislature will be asked to take.
Ivey’s infrastructure plan will be the predominant issue of the 15-week session. Advocates for the first statewide gas tax increase since 1992 say bad roads are dangerous, cause costly congestion and hinder economic development. But passage of the legislation is not a sure thing in the 140-member Legislature where 41 members are new this year.
Other potential high-profile bills include a proposal for a statewide lottery, a likely teacher pay raise request and continued attempts to address the state’s understaffed and aging prisons.
In a recent interview with Alabama Daily News, Ivey said she knew that confronting difficult issues was going to be necessary when she decided to run.
“When I was trying to wrestle with the idea of even making a race for governor, I had to face the fact that our state has some very difficult challenges and needs,” Ivey said.
“Because they’ve been, with the prisons and the infrastructure, neglected for years and years and decades. I knew if I was successful in running for governor, I was going to have to deal with those. And you don’t look forward to dealing with difficult things, but that was one of the soul-searching questions that I had to answer for myself. Was I willing, if I was going to run for governor, would I be willing to take on the high priority needs that the state has because of neglect by others through the years?
“And it was a hard decision for me to make because we have some heavy lifts.” Read more.
Alabamians’ median household income increased in 2017, which means Alabama lawmakers received a corresponding 4.03 percent pay increase this year.
Their annual salary is now $48,123. This is the third raise for lawmakers since 2014, when their pay was tied to household incomes through a voter-approved constitutional amendment.
“If legislators want a raise, we need to get the median household income up, and if we can get that up, we’ll deserve a raise,” said state Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison. He sponsored the legislation that led to the constitutional amendment in 2012. The amendment went into effect after the 2014 election with lawmakers earning $42,849.
The latest raise, $1,866, went into effect Jan.1, according to the Alabama Personnel Department memo, which cites 2017 Census data. Read more.
Gov. Kay Ivey is a proponent of a statewide gas tax increase, despite previous signed pledges to oppose “any and all” tax hike efforts.
Ivey is one of dozens of current and former Alabama politicians — most of them Republicans — who at some point signed an anti-tax pledge from the group Americans for Tax Reform. Ivey’s not the first or only to later back away from it.
Americans for Tax Reform is led by lobbyist Grover Norquist, who recently asked state leaders to reject a proposed gas tax hike.
An infrastructure improvement plan and gas tax increase are expected to be a major part of the 2019 legislative session, and Ivey has signaled to lawmakers it’s her No. 1 priority. Read more.
Alabama county and municipal leaders will push the Alabama Legislature this year to approve a statewide gasoline tax increase to fund road improvements, but they disagree about how any new money should be split among local governments.
The distribution of funds is one of several possible sticking points for the gas tax legislation that is expected to be a major issue of the 2019 legislative session.
While many lawmakers recognize the need for the first gas-tax increase since 1992, some also want more “skin in the game” from the majority of counties that haven’t enacted their own gas taxes to fund their local road needs.
Meanwhile, there is the issue of the transfer of existing money from the gas tax to other state agencies. More than $63 million of existing money from the tax is pulled from the Alabama Department of Transportation each year and transferred to other agencies.
The founder of a nationwide chain of diabetes clinics pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to conspiring to bribe an Alabama legislator.
Sacramento, California, lawyer G. Ford Gilbert used the clinics, including one in San Diego, to offer insulin infusion treatments that he claimed could reverse diabetes complications. Inewsource.org investigated the clinics for months, and experts it interviewed called the procedure a fraud and a scam. Medicare and some private insurance companies also refused to cover the treatments.
Gilbert was indicted in April on charges stemming from a $2,000 payment he made in 2016 to then-Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Ray Hammon, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montgomery. In exchange for the money, Hammon tried to win support for legislation that would have forced health insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama to pay for Trina Health treatments.
The insurance company had refused to pay for the insulin infusions at Trina’s three Alabama clinics. Read more.
When newly elected Neil Rafferty takes his place in the Alabama House of Representatives next year, he will be the only white Democrat in the 105-seat chamber
With one other white Democrat in the Senate, the Alabama Legislature’s two parties are almost entirely divided by race. An all-white GOP has a supermajority.
“You can’t deny the optics at times,” Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said about the party and racial split. He’s been a lawmaker since 2006 and has seen the racial polarization increase as the white Democrats dwindled in numbers.
Less than 10 years ago, in the 2006-2010 term, there were 62 Democrats in the House. More than half of them were white, said House public information officer Clay Redden. Now, there are 28 Democrats total. Republicans picked up five more seats in last week’s election.
In all, more than 75 percent of the members of the Legislature were white less than a decade ago, and more than 60 percent were Democrats, according to an analysis done at the time by The Birmingham News.
Being the minority race in the minority party isn’t something Rafferty, D-Birmingham, said he’s thought too much about.
“I’m going to go down there with humility and an eagerness and willingness to work with my colleagues, all of my colleagues, for the betterment of the state and House District 54,” he said last week.
But race has been an issue in the Statehouse in recent years.
England is concerned that, without diversity among parties, all issues begin to be viewed in a racial context.
“Racial issues are important, they are, but not everything is racial,” he said. “You don’t want everything to be painted with a broad brush because of the messenger and lose the message.” Read more.
Incumbent Alabama lawmakers serving Jefferson County all won re-election in Tuesday’s general election voting, and two new members who ran for open seats, will join the Jefferson County delegation.
Republican Senate candidate Dan Roberts and Democratic House candidate Neil Rafferty will be a part of a large freshman group in the 2019 Alabama Legislature after 22 House members and 10 senators retired in 2018 or resigned to seek other offices or positions.
The addition of Roberts and Rafferty, a Republican and a Democrat, does not change the political party makeup of the county delegation since they replaced a Republican and a Democrat. Read more.