Lawmakers back in session

Published 11:27 pm Monday, January 10, 2022

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The Alabama Legislature convenes on Tuesday, and it’s likely to be a short and quiet session.

Political analyst Steve Flowers said in election years, the state’s constitution requires the legislature to start in January, about a month before sessions normally resume each year. Flowers said about 70 percent of the incumbents, both Democrats and Republicans, are currently running unopposed. But, despite a lack of opposition Flowers said he expects the session to be rather boring.

“With it being an election year, they’ll deal with the budget issues and that’s it,” Flowers said. “There will be some social issues – abortion and vaccines and that sort of thing – that will come up and pass. But, budgets are boring, so I expect it to be a quite session.”

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Flowers said the Legislature has $540 million in federal COVID relief money that has to be appropriated. Flowers said he had talked to Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and said he had been told that Gov. Kay Ivey is likely to call a special session inside of the normal session to deal with appropriating the COVID money. He said that may happen early in the session so the Legislature can deal with the COVID money separately from the state’s budgets.

“That money will likely go toward broadband, hospitals and nursing homes,” Flowers said. “That was what it is intended for. The money the appropriate to broadband infrastructure will put Alabama in the driver’s seat for internet access in the nation.”

Flowers said gambling was a big issue in the last session, and he’s hearing some talk that the topic may come up again this year.

“I’m hearing there is going to be a lot of effort to put gambling on the ballot,” Flowers said. “But, my observation is that it has to be addressed in a special session and the governor has to be behind it. Gov. Ivey may be hesitant to do that because she has some right wing opposition this year. But, 70 percent of the legislature is unopposed, so you may have some that will vote on it that normally wouldn’t. But, all the legislature can do is put it on the ballot, the people still have to vote on it.”

Flowers said the legislature has 90 days each year to conduct its business. But, he said he thought the session would end sometimes in early April and the lawmakers would gavel out of session and those facing opposition would hit the campaign trail.