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Livingston: Ballot harvesting, school choice among 2024 legislative priorities

Last Monday, Alabama Senate Republicans chose State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) to be the new Senate Majority Leader.

On Friday, Leader Livingston spoke with Capital Journal’s Todd Stacy about the upcoming 2024 legislative session — including delivering on the conservative priorities identified at the beginning of the quadrennium. 

“There are going to be some issues that we did not get around to last year that we will get around to this year,” Livingston predicted. “School choice will be one.”

State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Sheffield) introduced a bill in 2023 that would have diverted as much as $700 million of the education trust fund (ETF) to education savings accounts that parents could use to pay for private school, charter schools, or home schooling.

Governor Kay Ivey has said she and her team are working on a comprehensive school choice bill for 2024.

RELATED: Steve Livingston elected Alabama Senate Majority Leader

While gambling was not considered in the 2023 session there were some contentious issues that failed in 2023 which Livingston predicted will return in 2024. 

“It appears that there is a couple of groups working on gaming,” Livingston said. “I think we will see something on that line.”

The Alabama Senate has passed gambling legislation in the past — but it failed to move in House.

“I think three times,” Livingston said of past years that the Senate has passed gambling bills. “I think there is a joint committee working trying to come together on some compromises some resolution to that.”

Since gambling is banned by the Alabama Constitution of 1901, only a constitutional amendment can institute gambling in the state.

Livingston also predicted that “ballot harvesting” legislation would be considered. The House passed legislation in the 2023 session that would have made it illegal for persons to be paid to help people fill out ballots. Secretary of State Wes Allen has made this a priority ahead of the 2024 election.

“We are going to talk about our legislative plan for next year,” Livingston said of a caucus meeting planned for later this month.

RELATED: Pro Tem shares wins from ‘great’ legislative session

Livingston chairs the Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment. In that role, Livingston made headlines this summer when the federal three-judge panel hearing Alabama’s congressional redistricting case rejected his Livingston 3 map that the Legislature adopted in a July special session.

“I thought we had drawn a pretty good map,” Livingston said. “We had changed District 2 from 28 or 29 percent Black to 40%.The court’s word was opportunity district and I thought it made an opportunity district. The court disagreed.”

“I think all of the guidelines we have been using for thirty years have been thrown to the sidelines,” Livingston said.

While Congressional redistricting appears to be over depending on whether or not the Supreme Court will hear Alabama’s appeal; redistricting is an issue that could return – this time affecting the Alabama Legislature itself.

RELATED: Legislature finalizes redrawn congressional map proposal

“There are a number of House seat and Senate seats that are being challenged,” Livingston said. That litigation, “Is scheduled to come up. The starting process will be scheduled for October 2024.”

If the federal courts order Alabama to do more redistricting it likely will not be Livingston who is tasked with leading those efforts.

“I suspect that it would not look good for the Senate Majority Leader to be in charge of redistricting,” Livingston said of his future as Chair of the committee.

Livingston was elected to serve as Majority Leader by the 26 Republican members of the Alabama Senate.

“There’s 27 of us and we have a really good group of guys,” Livingston said. “I have a good relationship with all of the guys.”

Livingston was chosen over two other Senators.

“State Sens. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) and Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) also had their names in the hat,” Livingston said. “I was blessed to receive a vote on the first ballot.”

In his statement on Livingston’s election as Majority Leader, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said, I am excited about the transformative work we are doing and the goals we will achieve throughout our third quadrennium of leadership.”

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