State Government

Session enters final stretch

More than 1,000 bills have been introduced thus far this session. With a maximum of seven meeting days remaining, it will be “move or die” time when the Legislature returns next week. Of the 120-plus bills we’re following, here are a few highlights and their prospects:

 

SB 133 – General Fund (GF) budget for 2012. Two chambers passed different versions. Senate has appointed its conference committee members, and House must follow suit. The GF and Education budgets are the only bills the constitution requires the Legislature to pass.

 

HB 123  – Education budget for 2012. Passed both houses with amendments, now in conference committee.

 

HB 480  – The “untax groceries” bill. Must move out of House Ways & Means Education Committee in first week back to stay viable.

 

HB 60/SB 215 – Constitutional amendment to prohibit individual mandate in Affordable Care Act. House passed its version, Senate committee reported Senate bill out.

 

HB 380/SB 384 – Equal Pay Commission bill. Has three days to move.

 

HB 423/SB 316 – Changes by Realtors and other landlord interests to Landlord-Tenant Act 2006. Both versions have moved out of committee.

 

See our full Bills of Interest list.

 

Paid to Upgrade: Modernizing Unemployment Insurance

Alabama could get a $100 million boost for unemployed workers simply by making some common-sense changes to the way we calculate unemployment benefits. Yet, for two years running, Alabama policymakers have declined the offer.

This fact sheet examines how our current unemployment system works and what's at stake in the proposed changes.

On the Brink: Alabama's Looming Budget Shortfalls

Public services in Alabama have weathered the economic storm better than in most other states, but they're far from invincible. Rainy day funds and federal relief money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) have helped the state avoid massive budget cuts thus far. But with the economy still slumping and the ARRA money running out, Alabama soon could find itself facing the same kind of deep budget cuts that other states are making.

This fact sheet examines the budgetary consequences of structural problems in the state's tax system.

Rainy Day Fund Amendment: What are the stakes?

Cut funding for public services now or borrow money and pay for them later? As the nation's economy continues to slide toward a recession, that's the choice Alabamians will face next month when they vote on the proposed Rainy Day Fund Amendment, listed as Amendment 1 on the Nov. 4, 2008, ballot.

This fact sheet examines the historical background that gave rise to the amendment, as well as the potential results of a positive or negative vote.

Money & Politics

While political contributions and free meals may not "buy" legislators' votes on specific issues, everyone agrees that such gifts do help gain access to lawmakers. Alabama law makes it easy to hide the source of such contributions from the public. Allowing undisclosed gifts creates a general perception that interest groups with ample funds enjoy greater influence than others.

This fact sheet  This fact sheet outlines proposed accountability and transparency legislation for 2007.

Budget Cuts Hurt Real Alabamians

Facing a shortfall of more than $250 million for Fiscal Year 2006, Alabama's leaders have once again failed to address the long-standing problems in the state's General Fund. The Governor has proposed a budget only $7.6 million larger than this year's patched-together, one-year solution.

This fact sheet This fact sheet outlines the impact of proposed budget cuts for FY 2006.

Governor Riley's 2009 Budget Priorities

What programs deserve top priority as Alabama's revenues fall next year? Will the state address the shortfall with budget cuts, tax increases or both? And just how big is the budget hole, anyway? Lawmakers are likely to spend most of the 2008 legislative session trying to answer those questions for the fiscal year 2009 budget. Their decisions could affect the quality and direction of state services for years to come. One set of suggested solutions is in the budgets Gov. Bob Riley submitted to the Legislature this month.

This fact sheet examines the governor's 2009 budget priorities.

Show Me the Money: Four Barriers to Transparency

How do hidden campaign contributions differ from openly reported ones? What does an elected official "owe" the voters back home? Can a free fancy dinner ever be just something to eat?

This fact sheet This fact sheet "follows the money" through the political process and proposes ways to improve accountability and transparency. 

Losing Ground: Alabama's Eroding Revenues

A 2005 report on the stability of state revenues found Alabama at high risk for developing a gap between revenues and necessary expenditures in the coming years. Economists call this chronic revenue shortfall a structural deficit. The report by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) is titled "Faulty Foundations: State Structural Budget Problems and How to Fix Them." It raises many of the same concerns as ACPP's 2004 fact sheet "Two Steps Back: Alabama's Structural Deficit," adding a national perspective on the problem and potential solutions.

This fact sheet examines how Alabama fares on ten risk factors for a structural deficit.

How Does State Spending Work?

The Alabama Legislature budgets around $20 billion annually in federal and state money to keep state programs and services running. ACPP follows the budget process closely because of the vulnerability of programs serving low-income Alabamians.

This fact sheet This fact sheet explains where the state gets its money, how the budget process works, and where the money goes.

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