Time is ticking until the Alabama legislature wraps up the 2017 session. With only a couple of days left before the House and Senate adjourn for the year, a number of key bills are still in need of passage.
Here are the critical bills we’re watching this week:
The Education Budget
The state Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget will be a top priority for lawmakers in the next few days. The latest version of the ETF authorizes $6.4 billion in education spending for the upcoming fiscal year, which will pay for hiring 150 new teachers across the state. However, the House and Senate versions are slightly different, so today it will be debated by a Conference Committee where House and Senate members will likely resolve the differences and pass this legislation to fund Alabama’s education system.
Permitless Carry Bill
SB 24 would eliminate the requirement to obtain a permit in order to lawfully carry and it passed the Alabama Senate by a vote of 25-6 last month. However, the bill is languishing in a House Committee and our sources inside the legislature are not optimistic about this bill’s passage during this session.
Back in 2012, the Alabama legislature reconfigured its districts but the federal courts said nine House and three Senate districts must be redrawn before next year’s election. A new bill was proposed to address those concerns but Democrats still say it isn’t fair and have been using stall tactics to delay its passage. Nevertheless, it finally passed the House last week and moves to the Senate this week, where lawmakers believe it will ultimately be passed.
Prison Reform Measure
Work on the prison reform bill to update the state’s aging correctional facilities dominated much of the legislature’s debate in the early part of the session. The reform bill has passed the Senate and our sources in the legislature say the House is likely to consider it tomorrow, so we’ll have to stand for the result.
Scholarships for Veterans
Republican lawmakers are also working to save the Alabama G.I. Dependent’s Scholarship Program, which has been called “unsustainable” considering increasing costs of higher education. Currently, the scholarship assists dependents of disabled veterans with tuition, books, and fees at state-supported colleges and technical schools. House and Senate legislators are faced with the challenge of stabilizing the program while protecting the needs of veterans and the 16,595 dependents that have enrolled.
Common Core Repeal
Another bill that has garnered considerable attention is a measure to repeal Common Core and protect local control by preventing state officials from adopting other national standards in the future. Sponsored by Rep. Barry Moore (R- Enterprise), the legislation is currently stalled in the House Education Committee.