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Legislators back in session after break

Staff Writer

April 2, 2001 10 PM

It will be back to work for Alabama legislators today.

After a week-long vacation, the Alabama Legislature will return to the State House to tackle issues, such as constitutional reform and the General Fund budgets.

When the Legislature adjourned for spring break, members of the House of Representatives were ready to discuss House Bill 66, which deals with constitutional reform.

"That’s what we adjourned on," said State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy.

The bill would allow the governor to call a 12-day (30 calendar days) special legislative session for the purpose of proposing a new constitution for the state.

Individuals behind a grassroots effort to rewrite the Alabama Constitution of 1901 will rally at the Capitol beginning at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Constitutional reform is likely to take a back burner to the General Fund budget, which must be approved by the time the session ends on May 31.

And, because of a delay in action due to the special session for education, legislators may have to work three-day weeks to get everything passed before the session comes to a close.

As far as the budget is concerned, some state leaders met last week to discuss possible solutions to the state’s financial problems.

In addition to dealing with the budgets for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, legislators will be looking for ways to cut this year’s $4.3 billion education budget by $266 million.

One proposal would link $300 million in new taxes to budget changes, such as rainy day accounts for the state education and General Fund budgets.

Lawmakers have said such things as problems with the education budget and other state services all indicate the need for new revenue.

One plan reportedly discussed would increase sales and income taxes by .25 percent and a 4 mill property tax increase. That idea would reportedly generate about $325 million with $225 million going into the education budget and $100 million into the General Fund.

"It will be interesting," Boothe said of the upcoming week. "I look forward to getting started again."

On the seventh floor of the State House, senators are still finding it hard to agree.

State Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, said a Monday afternoon meeting resulted in "no agreement" as to what will be the top issues on the table.

He said there was talk of "revenue-raising proposals," but "nobody can agree on that."

Mitchell said the meeting ended with senators deciding they will take a look at the Senate calendar and consider the "most important" issues and those that can be passed with relative ease.

However, he said "everyone seems to be rested" from a week off and ready to get back to work.