By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Concerns about the coronavirus will keep lawmakers out of the State House another week, their planned resumption of the legislative session now May 4, as reported first by Inside Alabama Politics.
The session has been on hold since mid-March and lawmakers had hoped to be back next Tuesday.
“Our goal for the remainder of the session is to conduct the people’s business that is required by the Constitution and position Alabama to repair the economic damage that has been done by the unavoidable public health quarantine,” Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said in a statement today. “We remain confident that Alabama’s best days remain ahead of us, and we are eager to begin the work that will get us there.”
State law limits the number of days in a regular session and this one has to end on or before May 18. Because of shortened time frame, passage of the education and General Fund budgets will be lawmakers’ priority.
Bare bones budgets that reflect the drop in income and sales taxes as businesses have closed in response to COVID-19 are expected.
“It is imperative that we continue to meet and finish out the session as we move to reopen Alabama,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said in a statement. “The people elected us to lead and send us to Montgomery to pass budgets and keep the state moving forward.”
McCutcheon said local legislation that has been advertised by cities, towns, and counties will also be included on the work agenda.
“The Senate and House leadership have firmly agreed that state budgets and local bills will be the only matters discussed, debated, and voted upon in the remainder of the session,” McCutcheon said. “The governor always has the option of calling us into a special session later in the year to address other issues of importance.”
It’s still unclear what a socially distance session could look like. Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, told Alabama Daily News this week that State House staff is working on the best ways to safely conduct the remainder of the session in the eight-story building where hallways often get crowded with lobbyists, the public and state agency representatives.
Reed said the passage process needs to be “open and transparent” for members and the public.
When lawmakers briefly returned to the State House on March 31, the building was not open to the public. Reed said the Legislature would take recommendations from the Alabama Department of Health about how best to handle public interaction during the session. Live-streaming is one option.