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July 2015 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Special Session has begun, and legislators are working to solve the state’s budget woes, but that’s not the only thing happening in Alabama.

  • Special Session Called. With very little notice and in an unexpected move, Governor Robert Bentley called the Alabama Legislature into a special session starting this past Monday. A special session was inevitable, but most thought it would be called in mid-August. The legislators met for a few minutes on Monday afternoon and then recessed for three weeks; they are now expected to reconvene on August 3. The governor asked the legislature to pass a General Fund budget, pass revenue measures needed to adequately fund the General Fund budget, budget reform measures and an economic development bond issue for improvement at Gulf State Park. (See the governor’s proclamation below.) One item notably absent from his proclamation was any discussion of gambling. Bentley is still at odds with Republicans in the House and Senate over just how to fill the approximately $200 million hole in the General Fund. Bentley’s plan calls for raised taxes, while Republicans like Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh say more taxes would slow the state’s still-recovering economy. During the regular session, Marsh proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow the people of Alabama to vote on an omnibus gambling bill and may introduce a similar proposal again. (Read here to find out how and why he can.) Committees from both chambers will be meeting before they reconvene to look over Bentley’s proposals and work on their own. They have 30 days from July 13 to solve the budget issues or another special session will be called.
  • BP To Settle Deepwater Horizon Claims. Petroleum giant British Petroleum (BP) has reached a settlement in principal arising from the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill in 2010. The agreement with the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas also includes settlement of claims made by more than 400 local government entities. The principal payments include a $5.5 billion civil penalty under the Clean Water Act and $7.1 billion to the federal government and the five Gulf Coast states for natural resource damages, both payable over 15 years. These amounts are in addition to the $1 billion already committed for early restoration. A total of $4.9 billion will be paid over 18 years to settle economic and other claims made by the five Gulf Coast states. Up to $1 billion will be paid to resolve claims made by more than 400 local governments. The agreements in principal are subject to execution of definitive agreements and will comprise the ultimate Consent Decree with the federal government and the five Gulf Coast states. The Consent Decree will be subject to public comment and final court approval.
  • $1.2M Grant to Expand Re-employment Program. The State of Alabama recently announced the use of a $1.2 million federal grant to expand a program aimed at getting unemployed people back to work. Officials say money from the U.S. Department of Labor will expand a program that provides one-on-one services to people receiving unemployment. The program provides intensive counseling to help people re-join the work force. About 6,800 people have participated over the last year, and that number will increase to 10,000 with the federal assistance. State workers will be identifying people most likely to run out of unemployment compensation and those who are receiving benefits as military veterans. The services are available at unemployment offices around the state.

Governor Bentley’s Special Session Proclamation:


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