Start of the 2011 Legislative Session

The Alabama Legislature will gavel in tomorrow at 12 noon.  Here’s a preview of what you can expect during this session:

The 2011 legislative session can be summed up in one word–Budget.  It’s all about the budget this year.  Revenue shortfalls and the loss of federal stimulus money have led to serious budget woes for the Alabama legislature.  Governor Bentley and House and Senate leadership are warning of serious cuts.  The Alabama Education Trust Fund is in a slightly better situation than originally forecasted, so it may emerge relatively intact.  The Alabama General Fund, however, is a different story.  Look for another round of proration, layoffs or furloughs of state employees, and possibly even the complete elimination of some departments and agencies.

Budget

The Rolling Reserve Budget Act (RRBA) is a top priority for Republican legislators.  Introduced by Rep. Greg Canfield, the RRBA changes the way we budget from a revenue forecasting method to a 15-year rolling average.  Spending is capped at the 15-year average, and in years where revenue exceeds that cap the surplus will go into a savings account to prepare for years where revenues fall short of the average.  This will be a big step toward avoiding proration in the Education budget in the future.

Jobs

Job creation is also a running theme in pre-session interviews with legislators.  Look for some form of tax credits for companies who hire new employees.  There is also a move to increase the tax credit for employers who provide health insurance to their employees from 150% to 200%.

Immigration

Rep. Micky Hammon has introduced HB56 which is similar to legislation passed in Arizona on immigration.  The bill requires businesses who receive economic development incentives to use e-verify, makes the entry, presence and involvement in economic activity of unauthorized illegal aliens a crime in this state, and requires law enforcement to verify the citizenship during routine enforcement of local, county or state laws.

Health Care

In their Handshake with Alabama, Republicans pledged to immediately introduce and work to pass a constitutional amendment that would ‘prohibit any person, employer or health care provider from being compelled to participate in any health care system.'” This amendment would essentially be a nullification of Obamacare and would be similar to measures introduced or passed in at least 30 other state legislatures across the country.

Transparency

Rep. Paul DeMarco has introduced legislation (HB25) that will reform the state’s online check register and reporting system.  The goal is to make it easier for the layperson to use and understand.

This list is hardly exhaustive of all that will come up this session, but it’s a good start.  I’m told the session will be an easy one, completing the budgets, passing a few key pieces of legislation, and sine die.  It will be interesting to see if things run that smoothly.  For a complete list of measures we support (and oppose) check out our legislative agenda.

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