The Alabama Legislature came back to town this week and completed their first and second workdays highlighted by Governor Kay Ivey’s State of the State presentation on Tuesday evening. The Legislature has 105 calendar days in which to conduct 30 legislative workdays. Generally, the legislative schedule involves workdays on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the principal committee day being held on Wednesday. Following this schedule, the legislature would be set to adjourn the session on April 23rd.
This year is anticipated to be different, because it is an election year. The election primaries are scheduled for Tuesday, June 5th. The legislators running for re-election want to get out of Montgomery as quickly as possible so that they can spend their time campaigning and rumors have it that they will try to be gone by the end of March.
In this first week of action, the House of Representatives introduced 202 bills and the Senate introduced 171 bills.
Of note to forestry is SB131, sponsored by Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) which redistributes 20% of the forest severance tax from the Alabama Forestry Commission to the State’s General Fund. Pittman’s bill will be taken up in the Senate’s Finance & Taxation General Fund Appropriations committee (which Pittman chairs) on next Wednesday. AFA is opposed to this bill.
As evidence of the legislature’s desire to move quickly through the session, both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund appropriations bills have already been introduced. The Alabama Constitution vests one principal responsibility upon the Legislature and that is to pass appropriations bills that result in a balance budget for the state. This year, the FY19 (begins October 1, 2018) ETF bill (sponsored by Representative Bill Poole) will originate in the House of Representatives and the FY19 GF bill will originate in the Senate (sponsored by Senator Trip Pittman).
The legislature is not anticipated to propose an increase in fuel taxes this session, but advocates are gearing for a substantial increase next year (after the elections). In anticipation of that future revenue, Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) has introduced SB86 setting up a $2.45 BILLION bond issue for road and bridge construction. ATRIP II (as its being referred to) would utilize the future fuel tax increase to underwrite the bond issue that is intended to be split evenly between state DOT projects and local (county and municipal) projects. AFA has developed an Issue Brief regarding fuel taxes that is available by clicking here.
The election season is well underway, but candidates for the legislature and state offices are precluded from raising campaign dollars while the legislature is in session, up until 120 days prior to the primary elections. This has created a fund raising “dead period” from January 9th through February 5th.