You can view the committee meetings and the bills discussed at the Alabama Legislative Information System Online (ALISON) and click on Committee Meetings (fourth item on the left menu), select “Senate” and then “Get Schedule”. The bills are linked and can be viewed by clicking on a bill and then click on “View” (top of screen, second from right).
SB236 in Committee - The Chairman held a public hearing in the General Fund Committee with SB236, authorizing the Governor and State Department heads to furlough state employees during times of economic distress. We had a large turnout of state employees at the meeting. Unfortunately, time constraints allowed for the committee to hear from a limited number but the message was clear - state employees do not favor a furlough program.
Another controversial bill, SB257 was not on the agenda. This bill attempts to repeal longevity pay, subsistence allowance and daily expense allowances for state employees. These bills originated in the Governor’s office and represent a piece of the puzzle to balance the state’s budget. For instance, if enacted, SB257 results in an annual savings of $32 million to the state’s general fund and, according to the Governor’s office that could keep 700 state employees working. In my view, both of these bills are at risk in their current form. My only hope is that we can find some alternative to minimize state layoffs.
Reapportionment - I concluded the afternoon with a reapportionment meeting. This meeting included all members, both Senate and House. We discussed plans to move forward with town hall meetings with regard to redistricting the 7 Alabama congressional districts based on the 2010 Census. Our goal is to complete the congressional districts during this session and take up the legislative districts during the 2012 session.
Closing Tax Loopholes – Governor Bentley’s office has begun to move forward with the administrative process to close the tax loopholes resulting in approximately $30 million in savings in this year. Read the press release from the Governor’s office.
AT-PRO - I’ll attempt to clear up a couple of points on AT-PRO (SB303) which was introduced yesterday. First, in following what I understood to be the original intent of DROP, this bill is not intended as a supplemental retirement program. The intent is to incentivize a teacher who is nearing retirement to remain teaching in the classroom so that the school system can hire/transfer and train a replacement. This keeps a strong Math, Science, English, etc program in place in a school system. Key to the plan is a teacher has to be approved by the local board to participate in the plan and that upon completing, must retire. Additionally, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog, structuring AT-PRO so that it is revenue neutral will be key to moving forward in the legislative process. I received numerous emails referencing a revenue neutral solution during the DROP debate and look forward to seeing actual plans to help get us there.
I’ve had a couple of emails asking about participation for other state employees. I may support if we can find a revenue neutral position and justify reasoning such as with the teacher example cited above. I reiterate, unless the original intent of DROP was misrepresented to me…AT-PRO should not be viewed as a supplemental retirement program.
The day starts tomorrow with a Tennessee Valley Caucus meeting at 0830. The Senate goes back into session at 1000 tomorrow morning.