Session ends, but Alabama House returns to Montgomery

Published 9:13 pm Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Members of the Alabama House of Representatives are returning to Montgomery for what the speaker’s office is calling a legislative workday Thursday, despite the session having ended and lawmakers being unable to take any official action.

The legislative session ended last week when the Senate voted to end a day early after approving a general fund budget that was later vetoed by Gov. Robert Bentley.

The adjournment ended the session on the 29th legislative day instead of meeting for the 30 days allowed by law.

“The citizens of Alabama elect us to work for them, and we owe the taxpayers 30 legislative days of hard work,” House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said in a statement.

Selma Rep. Darrio Melton said the workday is an excuse for the Republican party.

“This is a poor excuse to bill a payday as a workday. The republicans in Montgomery quit before the job was done, adjourning session without approval of a general fund budget,” Melton said.

“Now they’re trying to pull the wool over the taxpayers’ eyes and say they’re working a full 30 days when there’s nothing legislatively left to be accomplished. The taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for the leaderships’ mistakes.”

Representatives plan to convene at 10 a.m. The General Fund Budget Committee and several budget-related task forces plan to meet in the afternoon. However, House members cannot take any official legislative action.

House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said paying lawmakers to travel to Montgomery when the session has ended is wasteful. Lawmakers can seek payment when they travel for official legislative business.

“It’s wrong. It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars. … They created a payday for a play day,” Ford said.

The session ended on a budget stalemate after Republican legislators, who hold a majority in both chambers, could not agree how to handle a projected budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins Oct 1. Bentley vetoed a spending plan that would have cut $200 million from Medicaid, prisons, the Department of Mental Health and other state agencies.

Bentley is expected to call lawmakers into special session later this summer.

“It’s not that they are divided two ways; they are divided five ways,” Ford said.

House members last week voted to return on Thursday before the Senate vote ended the session. Representatives don’t have to come back, but they are anyway.

“We have a great deal to accomplish in a few short months, and I hope that the Democrats in the House will choose to come to the table and work with us on these important issues,” Hubbard said.

The Associated Press’s Kim Chandler and The Selma Times-Journal’s Blake Deshazo contributed to this report.