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Legislative oversight, Literacy Act delay bills die today unless Ivey signs

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

A few of the more controversial bills of the 2021 legislative session will die at 11:59 tonight if Gov. Kay Ivey doesn’t sign them. 

Among those still awaiting Ivey’s approval are bills to give more legislative oversight of state spending, including her office’s, and delaying until 2024 a requirement that third-grade students not reading proficiently be held back. Legislation to change teachers’ benefits also still needs Ivey’s signature. 

The legislative session ended last week so lawmakers have no recourse on what’s known as a pocket veto. A bill dies if not signed by the governor within 10 days of the end of session.

Rep. Mike Jones’ House Bill 392 would give a legislative panel a chance to examine state agency or department spending of more than $10 million or 5% of their annual appropriation from the General Fund, whichever is less. The bill, which had 40 GOP co-sponsors, originally would have let lawmakers approve such spending, but that language was stripped in the Senate. House leadership previously said the bill would give the Legislature more oversight of spending like the prison leases Ivey signed early this year.

Ivey’s office has opposed the bill

The final Legislature-approved version of the bill gave spending oversight to the existing Legislative Contract Review Committee. It also removed the Legislature’s ability to delay contracts until the next legislative session. The Contract Review Committee currently can delay state contracts for 45 days, but it can’t kill them.

Another bill still in limbo would let newer teachers in the state rollover each year their sick leave and get paid for unused days when they retire. Current Tier II teachers lose unused days each year. 

Sponsor Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, has said his goal with House Bill 93 was to erase some of the “disparity” between Tier I and Tier II benefit recipients.  As originally written this year and approved in the House, Baker’s bill would have let Tier II teachers collect retirement after 30 years instead of at age 62 as is now law. That portion was struck.  

The bill also increases teachers’ contributions to their retirement from 6% to 6.2%. Tier II retirement benefits went into effect for new teachers in 2013 in an effort to save the state money on retirement costs. Teachers already in the classroom at that time got to stay in the more generous Tier I.

Baker on Wednesday said he expected Ivey to sign the bill and he hadn’t gotten any indication from her office of any issues with it.

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