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September 2016 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House: Special Session Update

The 2016 Special Session that began in mid-August has wrapped up. Read on to get a play-by-play of what was accomplished.

Proposed Alabama Lottery Dies (Again)
During the second week of the special session, to the surprise of some onlookers, the lottery bill pushed by Governor Bentley passed both chambers only to die on a concurrence vote in the Senate when some Senators questioned how the House version would impact existing gaming facilities. The House debate on the bill lasted about 13 hours, during which 30 amendments were offered and six cloture motions made.

Four amendments were adopted, including one that narrowly defined the term “lottery.” Many believe the redefine term was needed to get the required votes to pass the proposed constitutional amendment. The following day when the Senate took up the House-amended bill, some Democrats were concerned how the narrow definition of lottery could affect existing gaming facilities. The bill’s sponsor moved to concur and lost 24-7, thus killing the proposal.

BP Settlement Allocation
The legislature returned on September 6 to begin consideration of the BP Settlement bill. The House-passed version authorized the state to monetize the settlement through the issuance of bonds and allocated $639 million in proceeds. The proceeds would be used to pay off debt and save about $35 million in interest payments and provide money for infrastructure projects in Baldwin and Mobile Counties. Interest savings could be used to fund Medicaid. The Senate debated the House changes to the bill for six hours, finally agreeing to go to a conference committee to resolve the differences and come up with a plan to fund Medicaid.

After hours of give and take, the conferees agreed to a compromise. The compromise will free up $70 million for the Medicaid program for 2017 plus an additional $15 million for the upcoming fiscal year and some additional funding for 2018. The House overwhelmingly approved the compromise as did the Senate after hours of additional discussion. Governor Bentley claimed victory for the citizens of Alabama and commented that this funding package for Medicaid should allow for the RCO program to move forward. The Alabama Legislature adjourned SINE DIE on September 7, 2016.

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