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June 3, 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

During this year’s regular session of the Alabama Legislature, more than 1,000 bills were filed in the House and Senate, a third of which were passed. The legislature overwhelmingly approved a gas tax (in a special session that interrupted the beginning of the regular session) and a commission to study medical marijuana, but let die a bill to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. It tinkered with the notion of a state lottery before finally letting that measure go the way of the dodo once again.

It was a busy and tumultuous session to be sure, but as of last Friday, it’s over. While some issues like abortion and the possibility of a lottery grabbed headlines, one of the legislature’s key tasks, creating and passing budgets to run the government, deserves equal attention. On the last two days of the session, conference committee reports reconciling the differences in the Education Trust Fund and General Fund budgets were adopted, and both were passed.

The General Fund budget ($2.1 billion) and Education Trust Fund budget ($7.1 billion) have now gone to Governor Ivey’s desk to be signed. Of note are the pay raises included: The GF budget calls for a 2 percent pay raise for state employees, while the ETF budget includes a 4 percent pay raise for education employees.

The General Fund budget also addresses the state’s ongoing prison woes, allocating $517 million to The Alabama Department of Corrections, an 8 percent increase over last year, mainly to fix staffing issues. The bump up will pay to hire more correctional officers and allow for an increase in pay for current officers.

The ETF budget is the biggest it’s been since 2008, with a major increase going to the state’s community college system and its First Class Pre-K program. The budget also fully funds the Public Health Employees Health Insurance Program.

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