BY ALEXANDER WILLIS AND ANNA BARRETT
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – While redistricting was the only matter included in Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for this week’s special session, a handful of other bills are moving through the process and could have a chance to pass if they receive two thirds support on the House and Senate floor.
One such bill was Senate Bill 4, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, which would temporarily allow certain retired state police officers to act as a school resource officer or correctional officer without suspension to their retirement allowance. This would be an expansion of existing law that allows similar duties to be performed by retirees under the Employees’ Retirement System or Teachers’ Retirement System, according to the bill.
Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, raised a question about the effect of the expansion on state troopers’ retirement. Orr responded by saying there was no effect, and the bill ultimately received a favorable report from the Senate committee.
Another bill passed out of that same committee was Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, which asks for a $10 million supplemental from the State General Fund to go towards the Department of Mental Health. Allen said he wanted to focus more on the effects of mental health on adolescents. The bill passed unanimously.
In the House State Government Committee, Rep. Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Demopolis, carried House Bill 1, the House equivalent to Allen’s Senate Bill 7, though McCampbell said that $10 million should be directed toward Pickens County.
“My bill is very simple, I’m just asking for a supplemental appropriation of $10 million from the General Fund for the Pickens County Health Hospital,” McCampbell said. “That’s why I’m here today, to ask this committee to actually look at the fairness issue.”
Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Sells, R-Greenville, said he didn’t think “this is the right committee to appropriate $10 million out of the general fund,” but promised McCampbell that he would work with him on the proposal once the legislature returns next year.
Rep. Jim Carns, R-Birmingham, had a bill as well; House Bill 2, which would target a legislative procedure known as a budget isolation resolution.
According to the Alabama Constitution, the Legislature must approve state budgets before addressing any other piece of legislation. As budgets have grown larger and more complicated over the past decades, the Legislature introduced the BIR during Fob James’ governorship between 1978-1982 as a way around this constitutional requirement.
So long as lawmakers vote to approve a BIR, which is attached to every bill before budgets are passed, the Legislature may deliberate and pass non-budget related legislation. The process, however, has often slowed deliberation in the House and Senate chamber to a halt.
“The objective was to get the legislature to first and foremost take up the budgets; I think we know that has not been the case,” Carns said.
Carns’ bill would not do away with the BIR entirely, but rather, exempt local bills from the procedure. The bill passed unanimously.