Legislative Report 030317

Volume 18 Number 4 – March 3, 2017

7th & 8th legislative days

Committee Approves Bill to Repeal Pistol Permit Requirement

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6 – 3 to approve SB 24 by Sen. Gerald Allen (R – Tuscaloosa) after a public hearing.

The bill would repeal the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Gun rights advocates spoke in favor of the bill saying that permits are an infringement upon their Second Amendment rights. Law enforcement spoke in opposition of the bill asserting that the permit requirement is an important tool for them.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote. Sen. Bobby Singleton (D – Greensboro) vowed to do everything in his power to stop the bill.

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Public Hearing on Prison Construction Bill

Sen. Cam Ward (R – Alabaster) presented his bill to build four new prisons to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Sen. Ward serves as the Chairman of the committee.

The bill would authorize the state to borrow $800 million to construct four new state of the art prisons to replace many of the overcrowded prisons throughout the state.

At the end of 2016, the state’s prisons were at 175 percent capacity and proponents of the bill say the federal government will soon intervene if the state does not make changes.

During the public hearing, opponents spoke on the lack of access to mental health resources and absence of sentencing reform. Local public officials also spoke about the importance of local prisons to their communities’ economies.

Proponents of the bill spoke about the increase in violence and need for more staff.

On Thursday, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R – Anniston) said a smaller version of the bill would be offered in committee on Tuesday.

Sen. Ward said there would be negotiations over the weekend that will help determine what the bill includes on Tuesday. He said it would be a smaller amount than the governor has proposed, but it will be more than one prison.

The committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday.

House Republicans Choose New Majority Leader

Following the resignation of Rep. Micky Hammon (R – Decatur) as Majority Leader, the House Republican Caucus met on Wednesday to elect a new Majority Leader. They chose Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville).

Before being elected to the legislature, Rep. Ledbetter served as mayor and on the city council of Rainsville.

Members also voted to elect Rep. Connie Rowe (R – Jasper) as Vice Chair of the Caucus. She is the first female to hold a leadership position in the House Republican Caucus.

Before being elected to the legislature in 2014, Rep. Rowe served as police chief of Jasper.

Judicial Reallocation Bill Sent to Governor

On Tuesday, the House approved a bill to allow for the creation of a commission that could move judicial positions from one area of the state to another as needs arise. The House bill was substituted for the Senate version, which had already been approved in the Senate. It was sent to the Governor for his signature.

The bill would establish a commission to assess the needs of judges in each state judicial circuit and recommend changes. The commission would weigh needs based on population, caseload, and the duties of those in the circuit, including any special courts that may be present.

The commission would consist of the Alabama chief justice, the Governor’s legal adviser, the attorney general, three incumbent circuit judges, three district judges, and three licensed attorneys. The commission could only reassign judges in the event of a vacancy in that judgeship. A vote to move a judgeship would require a two-thirds vote of the commission.

Fast growing counties have complained for several years that they are unable to get enough judges to keep up with their caseloads. The Legislature has resisted efforts to create new judgeships in those areas due to the lack of revenue in the General Fund.

Group Pulls Out of RCOs, Future Unknown

Centene Corp., a St. Louis-based company, has pulled out of the state’s plan to manage Medicaid patients.

Lawmakers approved the transition from a fee-for-service model to managed care for the state’s roughly 1 million Medicaid patients in 2013.

Regional care organizations (RCOs) are supposed to take effect in October after a one-year delay. Under the proposal, the state is divided into five parts. Centene had proposed it would operate in each region. It would have been the only RCO in three of the regions.

Several other proposed RCOs backed out last year, concerned about long-term funding for Medicaid. Lawmakers in recent months have questioned the wisdom of making a financial commitment to the RCOs.

The goal of the RCOs is to “bend the cost curve” on Medicaid’s expenses. The third-party RCOs would oversee patients’ care and be paid a set amount per patient.

If there is only one RCO operating in a region, as would be the case in the west Alabama region, Medicaid recipients could choose to stay with their current fee-for-service model of care. The impact on potential cost savings if Medicaid recipients opt out is not known.

Upcoming Legislative Schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. respectively.

The legislature is scheduled to have a three-day workweek next week and the week of March 13, which means they will convene on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. They are set to take up the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets beginning March 14.