A Quick Special Session Overview - A Special Session is limited to 12 legislative days within 30 calendar days; a legislative day is counted when we go to the floor to vote. A Special Session is called by the Governor issuing a Proclamation listing the subjects he wishes to be considered. An important distinction between “regular” and “special” sessions; in a regular session, bills may be introduced and enacted on any subject by majority vote. In a special session legislation must be enacted only on those subjects which the Governor puts in the “Call”, his proclamation. Anything not listed in the proclamation requires a two-thirds vote to be enacted; in the Senate that is 23 of 35 Senators voting favorably.
A Few Other Wrinkles to Watch For - The House will likely vote on a new Speaker and possibly other leadership positions once we convene a Special Session. Then there’s that impeachment thing the House Judiciary Committee is working on. Oh, and don’t forget that timeline I discussed earlier in the blog. In order to make that August 24th deadline we have fewer days than normal in a Special Session. It’s certainly never boring in Alabama politics these days!
First, where will the money go? There has been a lot of chatter over the past few days regarding where the revenue from a lottery should be directed; K-12 Education, College Scholarships, the General Fund or earmarked within the budgets for services such as Medicaid, Prisons, etc. For those new to Alabama, it has been about 17 years since Alabama voted on and rejected a lottery proposal championed by then Governor Siegelman. That lottery proposal directed lottery revenue to fund college scholarships, schools and pre-kindergarten. At this point Governor Bentley’s proposed lottery directs revenue to support Medicaid and Law Enforcement; there may be more areas once concepts are firmed up. A note on how much money will be “raised” – I’ve heard estimates ranging from $200M to $300M but I’ve seen little factual evidence to support those numbers. Don’t get me wrong, should a lottery pass we’ll put the money to work but as funds are directed we need to take into consideration the long-term viability of lottery revenue.
Second, incorporating some best practices and backstops to prevent instances such as what happened in Illinois. In September of last year – less than one year ago – lottery winners filed a federal lawsuit against the Illinois Lottery over its inability to pay prizes greater the $25,000 until state lawmakers passed a budget…wonder if that would ever happen in Alabama.
Third, the establishment of a lottery commission and all that comes with how they are appointed, governed and to what (if any) extent they can be politically involved at local, state and federal levels once appointed.
I’ll continue to update the blog as information becomes available and provide daily updates when the legislature convenes on the 15th of August. I am honored to be your voice in Montgomery and as always I welcome your comments and feedback.