Tag: Alabama Legislature

Lawmakers Begin Special Session

MONTGOMERY — As the gavels sounded to bring the Alabama Legislature into special session Thursday, many lawmakers were getting a first detailed look at how their districts would be redrawn following the 2020 census.

Some are happy with the changes so far, some are not, and many are not seeking reelection to begin with. Ready or not, the new maps for State House and Senate, Congress and state school board have now been introduced to begin their journey through the legislative process. Read more.

Legislature Meets Thursday for Redistricting Special Session

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature convenes Thursday for the start of a special session to approve new voting district maps and appropriate another $80 million of federal pandemic relief funds.

Both chambers will gavel into order at 4 p.m. as called by Gov. Kay Ivey. Committee meetings will begin Friday. Read more.

COVID-19, Federal Requirement Increases Alabama Medicaid Enrollment

Alabama’s Medicaid enrollment has continued record growth because of the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing federal requirement that people can’t be removed from the rolls.

But the state also got extra money from the federal government and, for now, the program is costing the state less than it did before. However, at least one lawmaker is concerned costs could begin to rise, and the state is working now on projections for next year’s budget. Read more.

Redistricting Committee Passes New Maps Along Party Lines

MONTGOMERY — The legislative committee redrawing Alabama’s congressional, state board of education and state legislative district maps approved drafts along party lines on Tuesday, two days before the full Legislature meets to consider them.

The maps continue to include a single minority-heavy congressional district and leaves majority-minority areas split into multiple Senate districts in Jefferson County.

The nearly two-hour meeting was a likely preview of the special session on reapportionment that starts Thursday, with the Republican majority largely quiet in the debate while Democrats raised questions about minority representation and the speed at which the COVID-19-altered process is happening.

Committee member Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said the process was flawed in part because committee members only saw the maps in their entirety for the first time on Monday.

“I think this is doing a disservice to the process and the people we represent,” England said.

Committee co-chair Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, said he only saw whole maps Monday, too.

“That makes me feel worse,” England replied. Read more.

Community Leaders Call for ‘Fair Maps’ Ahead of Special Session on Reapportionment

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.