Lawmakers hit midway point of 2016 session

Published 10:56 pm Saturday, March 12, 2016

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama lawmakers will hit the midpoint of the 2016 legislative session next week with major votes on state budgets and other issues ahead of them.

Gambling legislation has not gotten a floor vote with lawmakers unable to reach a consensus.

While lawmakers started the session with some Republicans more open to the idea of gambling as a revenue source, disagreements over what a lottery should look like — and a push to include casinos — have kept the bills bogged down.

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“As of today the numbers are not there,” said Sen. Jim McClendon, the sponsor of one of the lottery bills.

McClendon and Rep. Alan Harper introduced bills that would have Alabamians vote on whether to create a lottery. Lawmakers said they are looking at adding more specifics in the hopes of getting the bills to the floor.

Harper said he wants to alter the bill, to specify a revenue split with 61.5 percent going to the General Fund and the rest to the education budget.

McClendon also said he is discussing possible tweaks to the bill with the hopes to get it out of committee in the second half of the session.

“The budget crisis remains in place,” McClendon, R-Springville, said. “This is one option that legislators could look at to solve that problem.”

Alabama is one of six states — along with Mississippi, Utah, Nevada, Hawaii and Alaska — that does not have a state lottery.

The House will vote Tuesday on a General Fund budget that Gov. Robert Bentley has already threatened to veto over Medicaid funding.

The spending bill would provide an additional $15 million to Medicaid instead of the $100 million, agency officials said is needed to avoid service cuts and continue a shift to managed care next year.

“There is no appetite for taxes. There is no appetite to take money from education so I don’t see where the money is going to come from,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said. The House Legislative Black Caucus plans to filibuster the budget vote Tuesday.

The session must end by May 16. Here’s a look at where other major issues stand:


The governor’s proposed $800 million bond issue for prison construction could see a key committee vote next week.

Bentley is seeking to build four new large prisons — three for men and one for women — and shutter most existing facilities, including Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the new facilities will help solve the crowding and safety concerns in current facilities.


A Senate committee voted out a bill that would make changes to tenure and teacher evaluations, but it faces an uncertain outlook in the second half of the session.

Marsh’s bill would extend the time to obtain tenure from three to five years. It would also create an evaluation system in which 25 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation score would come from measures of student achievement growth using ACT Aspire or other test scores.

The Alabama Education Association spoke out against the bill saying it was unfair to link test scores to evaluations.


Alabama lawmakers are debating proposed restrictions on the payday loan industry.

The Alabama Senate delayed a vote on a bill to give people at least six months to pay back the loan instead of just a few weeks. The bill would also require that people be allowed to make installment payments.

A separate House bill that is pending in committee would limit the fees charged by the short term lenders.


The House has approved a 4 percent raise for teachers and school employees making less than $75,000 annually.