Legislative Report – March 10, 2023

Volume 24 Number 1 – March 10, 2023

The Alabama legislature convened the 2023 Regular Legislative Session on Tuesday 7 March 2023.  This session marks the first year of a four-year quadrennium, with approximately 30% of the membership being freshmen.

As widely anticipated, Governor Ivey announced in her State of the State address that she would call the legislature into special legislative session the following day to address a $1.06 billion spending plan to distribute federal funds provided under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA II).

The plan has been developed behind the scenes by state Finance Director Bill Poole and his staff, members of the legislative leadership, the Legislative Fiscal Office and others over the past few weeks.  It includes $660 million for infrastructure, $339.1 million for public health, and $55 million for community services. Some of the specific allocations under the infrastructure portions include $400 million for water and sewer grants, $260 million for broadband expansion, and $100 million each to reimburse hospitals and nursing homes for COVID-19 related expenses.

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee took up the bill on Thursday morning and gave it a favorable report without amendment. Only Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Pelham) voted against the bill, citing his concerns over spending priorities and legislative oversight.

Ways and Means General Fund Chairman Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville) was quoted as saying, “We need to get this passed and then we’ll get it up to the Senate and we’ll address any amendments that come up there.” This statement reflects the view of the House leadership and, as such, the bill is expected to pass the House overwhelmingly on Tuesday.

At that point, the bill will be referred to the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee, chaired by Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore).  Sen. Albritton is one of the architects of this bill, so significant changes to the legislation are not anticipated in that venue.

Once the bill is referred to the full Senate, individual Senators could use the rules to slow the process down and attempt to make alterations to this important legislation. It remains to be seen whether the Senate membership will go along with this plan or make substantial changes to it.

Also during her state of the State, Governor Ivey outlined several priorities for the coming legislative session including a mandatory kindergarten program, reauthorization of the state’s economic development incentives, and a potential tax cut of $400 for individual Alabamians and $800 for families.

The House of Representatives and Senate will re-convene next Tuesday, March 14th, at 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm respectively to continue the special session. Once the ARPA II funding bill has been passed, the legislature will return to Montgomery to resume the regular legislative session, presumably on Tuesday, March 21st.