The special session of the Legislature ended with $772 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds going to expand high-speed internet, water and sewer projects and health care needs. But it could have just as easily ended with the Legislature holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.”
The five-day session’s grand finale came when both chambers (almost) unanimously passed identical bills, something that rarely happens. Yes, Hades froze over – everyone of both parties in both chambers agreed on something. Well, all right, one representative didn’t, but she’s just one of the 126 that voted. There were three abstentions.
The bipartisan plan approved in the special session allocates the following: $276 million (36%) for broadband expansion in underserved areas of the state; $225 million (29.2%) for water and sewer infrastructure; $80 million for hospitals and nursing homes; $79.5 million (10%) for our state’s unemployment compensation trust fund; $37 million for health care services for such entities as mental health, rehabilitative services and assisted living homes; $30 million for rural hospitals; $20 million for emergency medical responders, including $10 million for volunteer fire departments across the state; $11 million for county jails; $7.8 million for administrative costs for the funding (as nothing is free and accountability is everything); and $5 million for telemedicine.
If this seems overwhelming to us commoners who can’t even imagine that kind of money, there is a future round of $1.06 billion coming to our state in the form of American Rescue Plan Act funds as well.
The legislation passed in the special session is now in the hands of Gov. Kay Ivey to sign into law – a non-controversial bill and it’s an election year at the same time. (A true political win-win situation.)
Enjoy the non-controversial ambiance of the special session last week because this week the Legislature goes back into regular session and there probably won’t be any hand-holding or singing “Kumbaya” going on. With gambling lying in wait and school choice and permitless carry on the agenda, it is not likely there will be many non-controversial issues in the Legislature.
Stay tuned for more. There are “many more miles to go” before our legislative journey ends. Until then, enjoy the afterglow of a successful special session – a non-controversial special session at that.
Beth Chapman is Alabama’s former State Auditor and 51st Secretary of State. Her statewide column, Around the Capitol can be read in newspapers and blogs across the state. She now owns and operates Beth Chapman & Associates, LLC. She can be reached at Beth@bethchapman.com.