For the week ending February 10, 2017
The 2017 Legislative Session began Tuesday with the body facing several challenging tasks including prison construction, redistricting, and the yearly budget shortfall for Medicaid. The session kicked off with Governor Bentley’s State of the State address Tuesday night where he highlighted the importance of building four mega prisons to reduce the state’s overcrowding. The federal government has long threated to take over the prison system unless the state reduces overcrowding. Governor Bentley proposed the legislation last session but the bill ultimately died on the final day. Expect a contentious fight again this session as many groups have concerns about the legislation. Senator Cam Ward has introduced the legislation in the Senate SB59 – The ACIA is supporting the prison legislation.
After two meeting days, there have been over 350 bills introduced between the House and Senate. The ACIA will monitor the legislation to ensure the concrete industry is protected. Listed below is an overview of the biggest issues likely to be debated this session. If you have any questions about this report, please contact our office.
Redistricting: The Legislature must approve new legislative district maps. A federal court ruled in January that lawmakers improperly used race as the predominant factor in three Senate districts and nine House districts in the plan approved in 2012. The districts must be redrawn before the 2018 elections. The court upheld the makeup of 24 other districts that were challenged in court.
General Fund: The Alabama Medicaid Agency, the biggest spender from the General Fund, is getting a $105 million one-year supplement from a BP settlement next year. But Medicaid, which serves about one million Alabamians, says it needs a $44 million increase on top of that. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is seeking a $60 million increase, partly to address a shortage of state troopers. Those are just two examples of requested increases. General Fund budget chairmen say there’s not enough money to cover the requests for 2018 and that 2019 could be bleak because Medicaid won’t have the BP supplement.
Education Budget: Lawmakers expect to have more money to spend on public schools and colleges next year but not enough to meet all the requests. The Department of Education plans to seek $151 million more for K-12 schools. The request does not include pay raises for teachers who got a raise this year.
Gasoline Tax Increase: The Business Council of Alabama, Alabama Association of County Commissions and other organizations advocate raising the gasoline tax to fund maintenance and improvements for roads and bridges. The last increase in the state gasoline tax was 5 cents a gallon in 1992. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon sponsored a gasoline tax bill before becoming speaker last year and said he is encouraging proposals on the issue this year.