The discussion of a possible lottery and/or gambling has moved from the backrooms of the State House into the public forum. As was widely reported yesterday, there is serious discussion of lottery/gambling legislation being introduced. But I caution that many, many questions remain unanswered. I’ll share that as of today I’ve received exactly 7 emails since the beginning of the session asking me to support Governor Bentley’s increased tax plan (a few have asked for a property tax to be introduced over the governor’s proposed taxes) I’ve received literally hundreds of emails asking “what about a lottery?”
Time is Running Short -To put things in perspective – today is the 17th legislative day of the 2015 session. Our state constitution limits the legislature to 30 legislative days a year. A legislative day is used when we are called to the floor to vote on a bill – whether we vote on a single bill or on 20 bills, the day is counted. Normally Wednesdays are reserved for committee meetings only and therefore we typically use two legislative days a week.
Predictions – I am very concerned that with 13 legislative days remaining in this session and the General Fund budget not having moved in the House because of the revenue (read TAX) bills associated with it, (the Education Budget started in the Senate this year, the General Fund Budget started in the House) we are simply running out of time to pass a budget in the regular session. This is my fifth legislative session and over the past four I’ve seen the budgets pass in the final hours of the session. I have always championed that the budgets have priority and that we not rush them but that we prioritize them and pass them in a timely manner. My concern this year is that the General Fund is hung up in the House for a variety of reasons – largely with the tax increases and it appears no one wants to work through the alternative budget cuts. The Education budget passed the Senate a couple of weeks ago and is still being debated in the House Education Budget Committee...but with no movement on the General Fund as the clock ticks I predict we will run out of time in passing the budgets.
Probabilities – with each passing legislative day the probability of the 2015 Legislative Session ending without both budgets being sent to the Governor is increasing. I view that as a legislative failure. Our constitutional duty and priority should be passing the budgets – as ugly as they may be. The House needs to move forward and either vote on the Governor’s proposed tax increases or make appropriate budget cuts (not the ones that are shamefully being used as pawns in the perennial budget battles) and pass a workable budget solution on to the Senate for consideration. If the House cannot pass a General Fund Budget, or passes one in the waning days of the 2015 session, the legislature is looking at a special session to address budgets and yes, gambling, lottery and even some revenue (tax) bills will be in the mix. I say let’s move forward now – little will change after the regular session that would influence the outcome of votes on actions that could be made now.
Today’s Senate Activity - It was an earlier start than normal as I drove to Montgomery this morning. I arrived in Montgomery at 0930 and the Senate went into session at 10AM today. We continue in the delay posture as the Democrats continue to slow roll all legislation. As reported last week, we are working through the Sunset Legislation to renew various boards, commissions and agencies doing important work across our state. By my count we passed 7 of the 15 bills last Thursday. Our goal was to pass the remaining bills today. Debate on each Sunset bill is limited to one “uninterrupted” hour – meaning we are unable to file a cloture petition to move along the process even though it is painfully apparent the Democrats have no real problem with the legislation.
By the end of the day the Senate passed the remaining 8 of the 15 Sunset Bills. The Senate adjourned at 6:30 will reconvene at 10AM on Thursday for the 18th Legislative Day.
I have several Senate committee meetings tomorrow. I also have two bills in House Committees – SB269, a public sector Veterans Hiring preference bill, and SB22, the school calendar bill establishing the option of 1080 hours equivalent to 180 school days.
Semper Fi - Bill