Tag: Alabama Legislature

State Budget Leaders Watching Rising Inflation, Possible Effects

Like Alabama families watching the rising costs for groceries, gasoline and other goods, state officials are monitoring inflation increases that could hurt government budgets and buying power.

“It’s certainly going to affect (state spending); there’s no question about it,” said Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, chairman of the House General Fund budget committee. “Just through the everyday cost of running agencies, transportation cost, it is going to filter down to the state level and we’ll have to compensate for that.”

The U.S. Department of Labor this month reported inflation at the wholesale level rose 8.6% in September compared to a year ago, the largest advance since the 12-month change was first calculated in 2010.

Meanwhile, inflation at the retail level rose 0.4% in September with its consumer price index up 5.4% over the past 12 months, matching the fastest pace since 2008.

Kirk Fulford, deputy director of the Legislative Services Agency, said there was increased demand for goods and services this year, which, coupled with the huge amount of stimulus funds provided to citizens, will cause prices to rise.

“Everything will cost more, from gas to groceries to inputs to production, which will put increased pressure on wages and salaries to keep up with costs,” Fulford said. “This is even heightened when the labor market is tight. You can see this now in many work environments.” Read more.

Low Math, Reading Scores Have State Leaders Looking for Options

MONTGOMERY — A north Alabama lawmaker says he plans on introducing a bill for next year’s regular session that would seriously address the state’s drastically low math scores.

Only 24% of Alabama’s public school fourth graders were labeled as proficient or better on a springtime math assessment taken this year.

For eighth graders, it was even worse: just 14%.

Those are significant, but not unexpected, drops from previous statewide assessments, according to an analysis released this week from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. Read more.

As Vaccine Bills Threaten Lawsuits, Business Groups Line Up in Opposition

A north Alabama lawmaker wants to prohibit Alabama businesses and agencies from requiring their employees or patrons to be immunized.

House Bill 31 also says that anyone fired or discriminated against because of their immunization status — it doesn’t specifically mention COVID-19 — can sue the business or entity, which range in the bill from amusement parks to zoos.

“I feel like it’s my body, my choice,” Rep. Ritchie Whorton, a two-term Republican from Owens Cross Roads, told Alabama Daily News on Monday. “No one is going to tell me I have to put something in my body. It’s not right.”

The bill isn’t yet available on the Legislature’s website, but copies are floating around Montgomery — and drawing opposition from some of Alabama’s most influential organizations.

“(The Business Council of Alabama) is opposed to HB 31 and any similar legislation that opens Alabama businesses up to frivolous lawsuits,” BCA Vice President Susan Carothers told ADN.

“Very few, if any, laws have been introduced in the Alabama Legislature with more onerous provisions against business than HB 31,” the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee said in a letter opposing the bill. Read more.

Reapportionment Special Session Oct. 28, Maps May Not Be Released Until Next Week

Lawmakers will be back in Montgomery starting Oct. 28 to decide new congressional, state Senate and House and state school board district boundaries in a special session.

The proposed maps, still being drafted, aren’t likely to be made public until late next week, raising some concerns about how much community reaction could be heard in a fast-paced special session. Read more.

Committee Recompiling State Constitution Close to Final Vote

The commission deciding what changes should be made to Alabama’s constitution is close to a final vote, with most members agreeing Wednesday about alterations to three sections containing racist language.

The group decided to take another week to review all of the final suggested revisions before taking a final vote, most likely during the special session on reapportionment, which could happen as soon as the last week of October.

“I just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page because at the end of the day, I’m going to take this document back to the Legislature, and I want to say that this is a document that was bipartisan,” said Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, who chairs the commission. Read more.

Who’s Running? 2022 Alabama House Races Update

There are about 20 open Alabama House seats ahead of the 2022 election cycle and several incumbents have announced primary challengers. Here’s an update on who is and isn’t running. Candidates have until Jan. 28 to qualify. Meanwhile, legislative districts could change, some likely significantly, when lawmakers later this month or early next month redraw lines with new census data.

GOP Rematch in HD73?

Recently elected Rep. Kenneth Paschal, R-Pelham, may again face Republican Leigh Hulsey of Helena for House District 73 seat in Shelby County. Read more.

COVID-19 Federal Funds in Alabama Total $46B, Contribute to Big 2021 Tax Revenues

About $46.8 billion. Billion with a B.

That’s how much federal COVID-19 relief money has gone to Alabama residents, businesses and government agencies since the pandemic began.

About $30.3 billion of that has been given directly to individuals and businesses to assist them, Kirk Fulford, deputy director of the Legislative Services Agency, told state lawmakers recently. About $6.3 billion was in the Paycheck Protection Program, forgivable loans to help businesses weather the economic drought caused by COVID-related shutdowns.

And nearly twice that much, $12.6 billion, has gone directly to individuals in stimulus checks.

The money had a big impact on the state’s record tax receipts for fiscal 2021, which ended last week, Fulford said. That’s especially true in the Education Trust Fund, where sales and income tax are the main contributors. Read more.

Melson: Proposed Changes Coming to Medical Marijuana Law

MONTGOMERY— Proposed changes to Alabama’s medical cannabis law will be coming soon.

Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, the sponsor of the cannabis bill that became law earlier this year, said he will file legislation to make technical changes to some of the wording around timing and deadlines in the law, including starting the licensing process for growers earlier. Read more.

Prison Plan Passes: How It Happened and What’s Next

Construction will start early next year on the two 4,000-bed men’s prisons the Alabama Legislature approved after a rapid-fire, five-day special session last week.

The package of bills Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law late Friday includes the borrowing of up to $785 million for the two prisons and the use of $400 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act for the mega-prisons in central and south Alabama. A second phase of construction allows for a new women’s prison and renovations to three existing men’s prisons.

Prison proposals have floated around the State House for years, dying when they couldn’t overcome turf wars and pricetags.

So, what changed the attitudes of legislators this year?

“There was a recognition of need that I don’t think we’ve seen before,” Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, told Alabama Daily News. Read more.