Alabama legislature approves Ivey executive amendment on CARES Act funds; 2020 regular session ends
MONTGOMERY — Both chambers of the Alabama legislature on Monday adjourned sine die after overwhelmingly approving Governor Kay Ivey’s proposed executive amendment to SB 161.
The Senate, as the originating body, first concurred with the amendment in a 30-1 vote. State Senator Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) was the lone “nay” vote and took to Twitter to explain his firm opposition.
The House then received the amendment and voted 73-1 to concur.
Rep. Rod Scott (D-Fairfield), the lone Democrat present in the House and the only recorded “nay” vote, reportedly meant to vote in the affirmative.
Ivey’s executive amendment deals with federal coronavirus relief funds allocated to the State via the CARES Act. She proposed the amendment on Thursday.
On Monday, Senate leaders from both parties lamented “the process” by which Ivey handled a dispute with the legislature over the relief funds, which ultimately resulted in the executive amendment. This included floor speeches by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham). Smitherman was pro tem of the chamber from February 2009 to November 2010. In remarks to the media afterward, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) also took issue with the process. He and Marsh both said “the institution” of the Senate has been damaged.
However, Marsh expressed the need to move forward for the people of Alabama. He outlined that the executive amendment itself contained some positive things, such as oversight from legislative leaders over how the governor’s finance department will spend the funds.
In a joint statement, Marsh and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said, “This is by no means a perfect compromise however we are pleased that the Governor has acknowledged that the Legislature has control of funding as per the Constitution. Ultimately, we gave our support to the Governor’s Executive Amendment as it is the best deal for the people of Alabama.”
“We understand that it is imperative to start getting CARES Act money as soon as possible to those who are most in need and sending this money back to the Federal government would not be in the best interest of Alabama,” they concluded. “At the end of the day this is a win for the Legislature, a win for the Constitution and a win for transparency when it comes to the distribution of funds.”
In a statement of her own, Ivey thanked the chambers for their respective votes on Monday.
“I commend the Alabama Legislature for their cooperation by supporting my Executive Amendment to SB161,” Ivey commented. “This friendly amendment ensures the CARES Act money will be immediately available to the people of Alabama and put to use under the intent of the U.S. Congress and President Trump. Our cities, counties and state, as well as places like our nursing homes, hospitals, schools and colleges have incurred many legitimate expenses because of COVID-19. I thank the members of the Alabama Legislature for supporting this amendment and for ensuring this money helps the people of Alabama who have been harmed by this disease. While no one could have predicted COVID-19, it is easy to conclude this pandemic has touched every aspect of our daily lives. I assure the people of Alabama that we will be with them at every step moving forward. Together, we will recover, and we will get Alabama back on her feet.”
In a statement, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) advised he supports the executive amendment approved by the legislature on Monday. He noted that nursing homes and small businesses especially need relief funds.
Ainsworth’s full statement as follows:
The $1.8 billion in federal CARES Act dollars that were sent to Alabama for combatting COVID-19 must be distributed in a manner that is public, transparent, and allows careful consideration for the most pressing needs.
The fact that all of these dollars must be allocated by the end of December adds another layer of urgency to an already difficult task.
For those reasons, I am pleased that both the House, the Senate, and the governor have been able to come together in agreement on a distribution process that is not only fair and open, but also meets the balance-of-power requirements of our state constitution.
It is my hope that nursing homes will be prioritized in receiving CARES Act dollars so that vulnerable seniors may be protected from COVID-19. Small businesses should also rank high on the priority list so that Alabamians may return to work, and our state’s economy can get back on the right track.
The governor on Monday also announced that he has officially signed the General Fund budget, Education Trust Fund budget and the PSCA bond issue bills as passed by the legislature earlier this month.
“I appreciate the hard work of the Legislature during an unprecedented Regular Session. While we have yet to know the full impact of COVID-19 on our state, these budgets will ensure continuity of government, while being fiscally responsible. There is more work to be done, and I look forward to working with the Legislature in the days ahead,” Ivey stated.
You can read a tweet thread from Monday’s legislative action here.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn