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What to Watch: Legislative Session Week 11

Today begins the Legislature’s 11th week of business. There are seven legislative days remaining in the 2023 general session.

Here are some things to keep an eye on this week:

Clock Ticking

This week marks a definitive last call for legislation. Given the minimum five-day threshold required for a bill to be passed, if it doesn’t get started this week – it’s a no-go this session. It’s likely we now have an inventory of what’s realistically on the table for that remainder of time.

Budgets

Expect action on the General Fund budget and Education Trust Fund simultaneously this week to answer a $11.8 billion question. The proposed $3 billion General Fund is in the hands of the Senate as the House takes up an $8.8 education and supplemental budget. Each will land in their respective committees Wednesday and be postured for final passage as soon as Thursday.

Rebates vs. Grocery Tax

Traveling along the education budget surplus track are two forms of taxpayer relief that look quite a bit different than originally proposed. As passed by the Senate, Gov. Kay Ivey’s $800 rebate for working families, $400 for individuals, was reduced to $100 for individuals. It’s still on the cutting room floor in this week’s House process.

Ainsworth’s proposal to cut the grocery tax received total support of the Senate and featured some key dynamics budget leaders wanted to see, such as a gradual-reduction mechanism and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program definition of food. Given that any revenue reductions have to originate in the House, Chairman Danny Garrett followed suit with a bill that includes many of those features. 100 members of the House signed onto that proposal.

With rebates, grocery tax cuts, and the entire education budget on the agenda – the House Ways & Means Education Fund committee will be one to watch Wednesday morning.

College Bailouts

This could be a positive week for those hoping the Legislature will authorize a temporary fix to keep Birmingham-Southern College and universities in similar situations afloat. Sen. Jabo Waggoner’s proposal to create a revolving loan program for distressed higher ed institutions lands in House committee Wednesday after a full passage by the Senate this month.

If implemented, the State Treasurer’s office would be able to provide a loan offering to colleges that have been open for more than 50 years, have a significant impact on the surrounding community, and can provide collateral assets. Tuskegee University and Stillman University are also seeking financial support.

Military Bills

With Redstone Arsenal in the national news spotlight, many lawmakers are thinking about the wide range of legislation on the table to further support Alabama’s military residents. Expect those proposals to be a priority during floor action this week.

Education Policy

Rep. Pebblin Warren’s bill to set kindergarten graduation as a requirement for entry into the first grade in Alabama is on the docket Wednesday in the Education Policy Committee. Ivey pointed to such a requirement as a good idea for schools in her State of the State Address.

Bill Signing

Today, Ivey will have a ceremonial bill-signing for several hallmark pieces of legislation, including Rep. Ginny Shaver’s adoption process reform and Rep. Andy Whitt’s financial literacy graduation requirement for Alabama high schools.

Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270 for coverage of the 2023 legislative session.

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