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Special session begins today

By MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Lawmakers today begin work on a special session focused on spending $772 million in American Rescue Plan Act Funds.

Gov. Ivey called the session on Tuesday, putting on hold lawmakers’ regular law-making session to focus on the massive federal influx of funds.

A spending bill hasn’t been made public, but a draft obtained by Alabama Daily News includes priority spending for broadband internet, assisting hospitals and nursing homes and building out water and sewer infrastructure in communities where service lacks.

House Speaker  Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said that both chambers and all four caucuses felt that a special session was “the best way to approach this.”

McCutcheon said there has been general agreement within the Legislature that health care and broadband are the most important items to consider when allocating this money.

He said that the $243 million that has been proposed for broadband spending is a “good place to start,” but still won’t be enough to get Alabama the broadband access it needs. Statewide broadband could cost $4 billion to $6 billion, officials have estimated, though providers would have to pay a portion of that cost.

There have been conversations about using some of these funds for the maintenance and renovation of state parks and historic sites, but McCutcheon said this is more likely to be considered with the next round of ARPA funds coming later this year.

The special session will convene at 11 a.m. today. A joint budget committee meetings is at 1 p.m. Bills will be moving consecutively through the House and Senate.“We want to make sure…that all members have the opportunity to have all the facts and get all their questions answered,” McCutcheon said.

Senate President Pro Tem Greed Reed, R-Jasper, said that he expects the bill on the Senate floor Thursday.

Final passage is planned for Jan. 27.

The regular legislative session would resume Feb. 1.

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