Goat Hill Report- Week Ending January 28, 2022

 The 2022 legislative session was on hiatus for a second week pending the conclusion of the special session to allocate federal COVID relief funds. The special session wrapped up on Thursday, and the regular session is expected to resume on Tuesday, February 1. Details of the 2022 special session are provided below.  

American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Plan Approved  

On Thursday, Alabama lawmakers gave final approval to a plan to use $772 million in federal pandemic relief funds on a mix of broadband, water and sewer projects and healthcare reimbursements. In the legislature’s final step in the process, the Alabama House of Representatives passed the bill 100-0 – and Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to sign the legislation. Gov. Ivey called lawmakers into special session on how to spend the $580 million remaining from the state’s first $1.1 billion installment, as well as $191 million allocated through the America Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund. The state’s ARPA spending plan allocates almost 36% of the money, about $276 million, on broadband expansion. It would also spend about $225 million on water and sewer projects and provide $146 million to health care providers, including hospitals and nursing homes. Although the state’s plan approved last fall to utilize an initial $400 million of the ARPA funds for prison construction received considerable criticism from Democrats, the proposal for the remaining funds approved in this special session enjoyed bi-partisan support. Alabama will receive an additional $1 billion installment of ARPA funds – anticipated later this year – but the Governor and legislative leaders have agreed to wait on allocating those additional funds until they are received.  

Candidate Qualifying Ended Friday, January 28  

As backdrop to the legislative session, all state and county candidates for the 2022 elections must have qualified by the close of business on Friday, January 28. The state offices include all 140 members of the legislature (35 senators, 105 House members) and executive branch officers, including Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor, Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries, two of three Public Service Commissioners, and four of eight State Board of Education members. As for federal offices, candidate qualifying also ended Friday for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R), however qualifying for Congressional candidates has been delayed due to a pending federal court case (see below).  

Federal Court Rejects Alabama’s Congressional District Map

On Monday, a federal three-judge panel issued a preliminary injunction that cast doubt on the validity of Alabama’s plan to redraw Congressional districts. The ruling was an initial win for the plaintiffs, who argued the state’s new Congressional map – which maintains one majority-minority district out of seven total – violates the Voting Rights Act. The judges extended the deadline for congressional candidates to qualify to Feb. 11, in order to give the legislature time to redraw those Congressional maps without disrupting election timing for the May primary and November general election. The extension of the qualifying deadline created uncertainty about the looming end-of-the-week candidate qualifying deadline for all other offices, but on Wednesday the federal court clarified that the Monday injunction extended the qualifying deadline only for congressional candidates. In order to meet the court’s Feb. 11 extended deadline, speculation has emerged as to whether the legislature will address a fix for the Congressional maps during the regular session, or if they will pause the regular session for yet another special session. Legislative leaders could decide to forego a re-write of the maps and instead coordinate with Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) to appeal the court ruling and uphold the existing maps.  

The legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, February 1st to continue the Regular Session.

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