Tag: Alabama Legislature
MONTGOMERY – A bill to allow Alabamians to donate some of their income tax return to the construction of a wall on the U.S. southern border by checking a box on their tax return documents could get a vote in the Alabama Senate this week.
Eight GOP members on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee voted in favor of the legislation from Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, on Tuesday. Two democrats, Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D- Birmingham, and Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier, D-Selma, voted against it. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Democrats hope their support of Gov. Kay Ivey’s gas tax increase got them further on possible Medicaid expansion, but legislative leaders last week said expansion can’t happen without new money.
“There is no plan to feasibly make it work,” Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, said Friday. He’s chairman of the Senate General Fund committee.
Ivey met with many Democrats in the past two weeks as she drummed up support for the 10-cents-a-gallon gas tax increase that takes effect this fall. Democrats used those conversations to again push expansion, as they’ve done since 2012. This year, the calls for expansion seem louder, in part driven by the Alabama Hospital Association. Alabama is one of 14 states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Thirteen Alabama hospitals, including seven rural ones, have closed since 2011. Another closure was announced last month. Read more.
Alabama’s more than 400 cities and towns currently share about $22 million a year from the statewide gas tax. They would get an additional $26 million a year under a proposed 10-cent-a-gallon increase.
Alabama’s counties now receive a combined $176.5 million; if House Bill 2 becomes law, they would receive an additional $80 million.
“It’s enormous,” said Greg Cochran, deputy director of the Alabama League of Municipalities, about the potential impact of the gas tax. Read more.
Under House Bill 2, the gas tax increase bill, municipalities would receive an additional $26 million a year, bringing their total to $48.7 million. Counties would receive an additional $80 million, bringing their total to $256.4 million a year.
Jefferson Co.: $6.53 million St. Clair Co.: $1.32 million
Shelby Co.: $2.41 million Walker Co.: $1.13 million
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.
A gasoline tax increase to fund road improvements is expected to be a major topic of the 2019 Alabama legislative session.
“I’ve heard the governor say that’s her No. 1 priority,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said recently. “That means it will be a priority for the Legislature.”
Gov. Kay Ivey hasn’t yet announced all of her legislative goals for the session that begins March 5, but prison reform and funding, General Fund demands and education initiatives are expected to have lawmakers’ attention during the 15-week session. A proposal for a statewide lottery also will return in 2019.
Proponents aren’t referring to it as a gas tax, but a road infrastructure improvement plan.
“We’ve not done anything related to infrastructure in 26 years,” Reed said about the last statewide gas tax increase. “We’ve got bridges and highways that are in disrepair across our state.”
The Alabama Statehouse got a little more red Tuesday, with the GOP picking up one seat in the Senate and likely five in the House, according to unofficial results and media reports.
The number of white Democrats in the Alabama House dropped from six to one — newly elected Neil Rafferty of Birmingham. In the Senate, the number of white Democrats held steady at one.
Republicans have had a supermajority in the Statehouse since 2010, but the additional seats may give the party more confidence to take on potentially controversial issues.
“They already could shut down debate, they could move bills,” retired Athens State University political science professor Jess Brown said Wednesday. “Democrats could make a little noise on the fringes, but Republicans ruled the roost. That will remain the same.”
Now, Brown said, they have “a little breathing room from public opinion” and more leeway to take up a statewide gas tax increase — something Republicans have flirted with for several years — and possibly a lottery. Read more.
Incumbent Alabama lawmakers prevailed in primary voting in Jefferson and Shelby counties Tuesday, with five Democratic lawmakers essentially winning re-election because they have no opposition in November.
Local Republican incumbents won their party’s primaries, but all face Democratic challengers in the Nov. 6 general election.
The area’s only open seat, House District 54, is the only local legislative contest headed for a runoff and the only one with an independent challenger in the general election. Read more.
Results in the legislative races for the Jefferson-Shelby counties area.
Legislators did what they had to do last week and then went home, finishing the annual regular session a couple of weeks early so they could shift their attention to the 2018 election season.
They adopted the $2 billion General Fund budget and the $6.6 billion Education Trust Fund budget. Both are the largest budgets passed in a decade, and both include pay raises for employees.
They also passed a controversial bill that exempts economic development professionals from lobbying registration requirements.
Arguments over a racial profiling bill threatened to derail the Legislature’s planned departure, but ultimately it failed. Other highly touted bills also died with the end of the session, including a package of bills introduced in reaction to the school shooting in Florida and a substantial rewrite of the ethics law. Read more.