I will share more details on the budgets in the coming days of the blog but the short version is the General Fund Budget request is $2B, projected revenue $1.7B. Education Budget request $6.4B, projected revenue, $5.8B. We have some tough decisions to make. Readers can view the same information we received at the Legislative Fiscal Office Website (the presentation from today should be available soon).
After the budget hearings I was able to visit with some great Patriots at the “Welcome Back” rally held in front of the State House before going into session at noon. A special thanks to everyone who attended today’s rally; I was able to catch up with some folks from Limestone County.
We conducted mostly administrative business today, the first day of session, but also passed a resolution honoring Mr. Charles Albert Poland Jr, the hero bus driver who paid the ultimate sacrifice by shielding the children on his bus during the onset of the crisis in Midland City that came to a successful end yesterday. After passage of the resolution, the Senate held a moment of silence. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with everyone involved in this situation.
I then joined members of the Republican Caucus for lunch and a pro-longed meeting concerning our agenda and priority bills for the upcoming session. This was followed by several other meetings in my office concerning legislation that we will have in committee tomorrow.
For tomorrow’s schedule I’ll be on The Dale Jackson show (WVNN – 92.5 FM) at 7:15, followed by two committee meetings in the morning – the Education Policy Committee will hold public hearings at 8:30 on two bills – HB54 and HB60. HB54 is the Flex Bill and HB 60 is the Educational Accountability and Intervention Act. Information on the Flex Bill can be found on the Home Page. I’ll share more about these bills in the blog after tomorrow’s hearings.
This meeting is followed by the General Fund Committee where we will discuss a total of 9 bills...busy day for the first day of committee hearings. Three bills of note SB7, SB9 and SB91. SB7 prohibits the purchase of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, lottery tickets and adult-oriented entertainment establishments with public benefit funds (aka food stamps, welfare) and provides penalties for violations. SB9 is the provision to pay back any funds borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund as a result to the September 18th Amendment. SB91 re-sets the annual property tax appraisal back to every 4 years vs. every year. This was law was passed several years ago as a means to allow counties to realize the increased revenue during the housing boom years and sorely needs to be reset to once every 4 years. I fully support these bills in their current state and will provide updates as they move along in the process.
I will attend the annual Legislative Prayer Luncheon followed by another committee meeting; Commerce, Transportation and Utilities at 2:30 where we will review 6 bills.
In local news – several road projects in Senate District 2 received funding from the state through the ATRIP program today. Limestone County received $3.5 million to help with several projects across the county. The Blake Bottom Rd overpass in Madison County received approx. $5M. I thank everyone that has been involved in ushering this critical project along for so many years – Commissioner Dale Strong and Rep Mac McCutcheon have tirelessly worked this project. I will continue to support them as we move into the long overdue “turning dirt” phase of this project!
In closing tonight's blog, I was honored to participate as a Senate escort for Governor Bentley in the procession leading into the historic chambers at the capital for the Governor’s State of the State speech this evening....I enjoyed a front row seat for a passionate speech by our Governor, one of those surreal – how did I get here – moments? Thank you for allowing me to serve and represent you in the Alabama legislature!
Semper Fi - Bill