The Alabama Legislature on Wednesday killed gun legislation, passed a budget and contemplated the pay disparity between men and women.
In addition, a controversial proposal to exempt economic development officials from lobbying laws advanced. The passage of the general fund budget is a sign the 2018 session is gliding toward a close.
Here is a look at the major events in the state capital on Wednesday:
The big story: Gun control and school safety proposals are dead for 2018.
Noting that a bill to allow some teachers and administrators to carry guns on campus failed to come up for a vote Tuesday, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) on Wednesday blamed Democrats.
“Although the bill was in a position to be considered yesterday, the Democratic opponents of the legislation were prepared to lock down the chamber to prevent its approval,” he said in a statement. “There was also a great deal of misinformation being distributed to educators, school administrators, law enforcement agencies, and parents that needed to be corrected. I can offer a personal guarantee that this issue will be revisited when the Legislature convenes its next session.”
The bill would have allowed school employees who volunteered and passed training requirements to carry guns in schools. It drew intense opposition from education groups, as well as some teachers and parents.
State Rep. Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville), who sponsored the bill, expressed anger Wednesday. He said in a statement that he is confident the legislation had widespread support among the GOP majority.
“The pro-gun control filibuster efforts of House Democrats have put our children and teachers in danger and leave them helpless if an active shooter situation occurs,” he said in the statement. “Signs reading ‘Gun Free Zone’ are a magnet for those who wish to do harm, so we must allow teachers to defend themselves with something more lethal than a ruler and a No. 2 pencil.”
Meanwhile on Wednesday, most Republican members of a legislative committee forced adjournment for lack of a quorum by skipping a debate on a proposal to raise the age to buy semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15, according to the Associated Press.
Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham), who sponsored the bill to raise the age of purchase, criticized her no-show Republican colleagues.
“Vote it up or vote it down,” she said, according to the AP. “Don’t be cowards. … You can’t show up at the meeting to at least have a conversation?”
Budget passes: The Alabama Senate approved a general fund budget that gives more money to the state’s troubled prison system, the Medicaid program and allows for a raise for state workers, according to AL.com.
The vote accepted changes the state House of Representatives had made to the spending plan for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature is all that is needed for it to become law.
According to AL.com, the $2 billion budget tops the current year’s blueprint by some $167 million.
- $755 million for Medicaid. Although that is a $54 million increase over the current year, the agency actually will receive less overall because it benefited this year from a one-time $105 million cash infusion from
- the BP oil spill settlement.$472 million for the Department of Corrections, a $56 million h
- ike over this year. The prison system also is getting an additional $30
- million this year thanks to a separate supplemental bill that lawmakers passed.A 3 percent cost-of-living-adjustment from s
- tate employees, the first pay raise in a decade.$118 million for the Department of Mental Health, a $9 million increase.$52 million for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, a $3.2 million increase that will pay for 30 additional state troopers.
Equal pay? A proposal by Rep. Adline Clarke (D-Mobile) to address the gender wage gap got a hearing in Montgomery in Wednesday but has little chance of becoming law this year, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
Clarke’s bill would require men and women with the same experience be paid the same salary. Employers would have to demonstrate a difference in quality or performance to justify paying a female employee less, and companies would be prohibited from retaliating against employees who filed an action under the statute.
Beyond the question of how much support the proposal has in the Republican-dominated Legislature, there likely simply is enough time in the session to push a bill from start to finish before lawmakers go home for the year.
But Clarke is not giving up.
“I believe in miracles,” she told the Advertiser after the House State Government Committee adjourned. “I am hopeful this bill can pass.”
The newspaper reported that the National Partnership for Women and Families crunched census data and concluded that women in Alabama earn 76 cents on the dollar compared with what men make.
Ethics exemption: A Senate committee voted 10-2 in favor of a bill that would exempt economic developers from some rules governing lobbying, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
But the paper reported that the bill, which already has passed the House of Representatives, could face a major fight on the Senate floor.
Proponents argue that requiring employees engaged in economic development to register as lobbyists could harm negotiations with out-of-state businesses.
“This is an important bill for economic development,” Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told the Senate Financial Responsibility and Economic Development Committee.
Opponents argue that the definition of “economic development official” is far too broad.
Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Pike Road) told the Advertiser he would filibuster the bill on the floor “if that’s what it takes.”
No term limits: The Alabama Senate shot down a proposal to let voters decide whether legislators should be limited to three terms, according to the Associated Press.
The 15-9 procedural vote halted efforts to bring proposed constitutional amendment to a the floor.
State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) who is running for governor, told the AP that legislators should be held to the same limits that restrict the state’s top office.
Legislators “think we’re on some private island with special privileges,” he said.
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Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at LifeZette.com and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.