Goat Hill Report Week Ending March 11, 2016

General Fund Budget in Limbo over Medicaid

As the Alabama Legislature approaches the midpoint of its 2016 session, funding for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, which pays for medical and long-term care services for more than 20 percent of Alabama’s population, has become the primary topic of conversation.

The House left town early Thursday, because some wanted to talk about rewriting the General Fund budget and its Medicaid appropriation before the legislation had even made it to the House floor. The House is expected to debate a $1.85 billion General Fund budget (SB125) Tuesday. The current version of the budget funds Medicaid at $85 million less than what the agency and the governor say is needed to serve the more than 1 million Medicaid recipients. Consequently, the governor said this week he would call lawmakers back into special session if Medicaid is not adequately funded in whatever budget the Legislature approves.

Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar told lawmakers the $700 million allotted for Medicaid in the current budget proposal would not be enough to sustain the agency’s transition to managed care and jeopardizes the $747 million in federal funds pledged to help with that transformation.

Concrete Truck Weight Bill Clears House

The association sponsored legislation (House Bill 88 – Barry Moore) to increase allowable loads on concrete trucks cleared the House on Tuesday with a vote of 101 – 0. The legislation now moves to the Senate where it is schedule to appear before the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee Thursday. The Senate companion bill, (Senate Bill 77 – Gerald Dial) cleared the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee on Thursday. Once the House bill is approved by the Senate T&E committee, the bill will be ready for final approval by the Senate and onto the Governor for signing. The 2016 session will have 14 legislative days remaining after Thursday. The industries top priority for 2016 is in a good position for approval.

Prison Construction Legislation Receives Resistance

Senate Bill 287 – Trip Pittman which would borrow $800 million to build 4 mega prisons was discussed in a rare second public hearing on Wednesday. The legislation was also discussed the previous week in committee. The legislation is receiving strong push back by architects and engineers who oppose the design build element of the legislation. The two groups argue in state designers could design the new facilities, while the legislation calls for partnering with specialty contractors who build prisons around the county. Proponents of the bill argue in state designers do not have the expertise to design and construct the facilities in a timely manner. Failure to construct the facilities in an expedited manner would leave the Department of Corrections with large bond payments and no ability to receive reimbursement for prisoners being housed in the new facility. The other stick point for the legislation is how to pay for the facilities. Proponents argue the savings recognized by closing the old prisons will pay the debt; however, many opponents argue the numbers do not add up.

Gas Tax Legislation on the Way

Legislation to increase gas and diesel tax is likely to be introduced this week. The legislation is still fluid, but we will most likely see a proposed increase in the range of $.06 per gallon. We will keep you abreast of the latest happenings on any proposed increase.

The Alabama Legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. It will be the 15th day of the 30th day session.

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