Legislative Report – May 18, 2020

Volume 21 Number 8 – May 18, 2020

21st legislative day

Legislature adjourns sine die

Following one of the most bizarre legislative sessions in recent memory, the legislature adjourned sine die today. Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, many legislative days were lost and the legislature scrambled to pass budgets and local bills while socially distancing in a state house that was closed to the public.

The legislature approved the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets over a week ago despite push back from the Governor’s office regarding CARES Act funding. In a tersely worded statement on May 7, Governor Ivey said she “never desired to control a single penny of this money” and ceded control to the legislature for spending the approximately $1.8 billion from the federal government. She also indicated she would not sign the General Fund budget until she received a detailed plan from the legislature on how they intended to spend the money, which must be spent by December 30, 2020.

On Thursday of last week, the Governor sent a letter to legislators detailing her intention to propose an Executive Amendment to the General Fund regarding distribution of the CARES Act funds. The amendment includes $300 million for reimbursements to state agencies, $250 million to local governments, $200 million for the delivery of healthcare, $53 million for equipment and infrastructure necessary for remote work, $300 million for expenditures related to technology/infrastructure for remote learning, and several other expenditures. According to guidance from the U.S. Treasury, all CARES Act funds must be spent on items directly related to COVID-19.

Following the release of the letter and amendment, Senate leadership expressed concern over being left out of the negotiations. House leadership worked with the Governor to create the expenditure list.

Despite the tension between the Senate and Governor’s office, the Senate and House concurred with the Executive Amendment and adjourned sine die this afternoon. Following adjournment, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R – Anniston) described relations with Gov. Ivey as “strained.”

Now, we wait on the Governor to call one or more special sessions to address issues such as prisons, broadband, supplemental appropriations, and more. The general consensus is that special sessions will be held in late summer/early fall.