General Fund budget under consideration

Published 11:27 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Alabama lawmakers are back in session, staying after school, so to speak, with the sole objective of passing a General Fund budget. As a plan to fill a shortfall of roughly a quarter billion dollars, Gov. Robert Bentley handed the Legislature a raft of tax initiatives that would generate about $300 million.
There is some movement on the budget. A House committee voted Tuesday to approve shifting some money from the education fund to the General Fund. One of Bentley’s initiatives, a cigarette tax hike, didn’t pass muster.
However, it wouldn’t be an Alabama legislative session without the usual diversion of knee-jerk, pandering legislation. A Senate committee this week took up bills about guns, gay marriage and the Confederacy, approving all three with little debate.
One measure would eliminate marriage licenses issued by probate offices and replacing the procedure with a requirement for spouses to file signed marriage contracts instead. That prevents probate workers from having to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Another measure would allow gun owners to carry their weapons in their vehicles without a permit.
A third measure would prohibit the removal of Confederate monuments.
These measures are not within the purview of the governor’s call to special session, so their passage would require a two-thirds vote rather than a simple majority. That means they’re unlikely to pass and the time and effort put into bringing the bills to committee is an exercise in futility.
In another room, a hearing on gambling took place, so watch closely – there’s sure to be some proposal that would remove some of the mystery of the Poarch Creeks’ advertising campaign, and what the tribal casinos would expect for sharing some of their proceeds to shore up the state budget.

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