Legislative session down to final day

Published 9:55 pm Friday, May 17, 2013

State legislators will have full plates when they return to the statehouse Monday for the last day of the current session.

In addition to bills that have garnered national headlines, such as the Alabama Accountability Act and a gun rights bill, lawmakers representing Chilton County will try to push through bills that affect residents here.

“This is it,” state Rep. Kurt Wallace said about the final day. “We’ll be here until midnight if we have to.”

State Sen. Cam Ward said a data processing fee increase that would raise additional funding for the Chilton County Humane Society has cleared the Senate and is on the schedule for the House of Representatives to consider.

Ward said he expects the bill to pass.

Wallace is less hopeful about a bill he sponsored that would regulate the state’s barber industry.

He said Monday marks the fourth time the bill will be on the House’s schedule, but this time it is so far down the agenda that Wallace said he doesn’t expect it to come to a vote.

“Everybody has bills they are trying to get up there,” he said.

Wallace said he intends to re-introduce the bill during the Legislature’s next session, possibly with some modifications.

Ward, meanwhile, hopes to see final passage of three bills he is sponsoring: one would strengthen laws against financial and physical abuse of the elderly, the second would place caps on the amounts state government can pay to outside legal representation, and the third would increase penalties against an unauthorized person who boards a school bus and assaults the driver or a student.

Wallace and Ward differed on the latest development with the Accountability Act, which has garnered attention nationwide while being hailed by its Republican supporters as groundbreaking for education in the state.

Gov. Robert Bentley announced that instead of signing a set of revisions to the act into law, that he would tack on an executive amendment delaying implemenation by two years.

The Legislature would then consider the amendment.

The Accountability Act calls for tax credits for state residents who take their children out of “failing” schools and enroll them in non-failing schools. Bentley said the state needs to focus first on re-paying more than $400 million borrowed from the Education Trust Fund, a position Ward said he agrees with.

“We need to start paying that money back,” Ward said. “[Bentley’s amendment] doesn’t do away with the tax credit, and it doesn’t do away with school choice.”

But Wallace said legislators have been assured that the act is “fiscally responsible.”

“If everything continues on the path we’ve been on, we’ll be fine,” Wallace said. “We worked really, really hard, and this could put our work in jeopardy. Right now, I don’t support it.”

Wallace said he thinks both the House and Senate would override Bentley’s veto if the amendment came to a vote.