Legislative session concludes with two budgets but no prison plan

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Alabama Legislature failed to pass a bill to build new state prisons before the session ended at midnight Thursday, but a local representative said lawmakers completed their most important assignments by passing General Fund and education budgets.

State Rep. Jimmy Martin (R-Clanton) said he left the House of Representatives floor at about 12:20 a.m. Thursday and arrived at his home at about 1:30 a.m.—typical for the last day of a session, he said.

Martin said he was pleased with the education budget, which gives a 4-percent pay raise to teachers.

“There was no raise for retirees, but maybe next year,” Martin said.

The General Fund budget, meanwhile, is always a challenge, he said.

“Until there’s some consensus about raising taxes, the General Fund budget is always going to be short,” Martin said.

The prison plan supported by Gov. Robert Bentley, meanwhile, passed the Senate but was not presented to the House of Representatives until about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

By that time, changes had been made to the plan, and Martin said his colleagues were hesitant to pass the bill in an expedited fashion.

“There were quite a few that were not enthusiastic about jumping into it because of all the shortfalls in the General Fund,” Martin said. “I was in favor of the prison bill, but I wanted more information.

“They’re going to see if they can come up with a proposal and possibly present it next year, or we may be called in on a special session (in July or August).”

The plan called for the construction of three prisons paid for by a bond issue of $550 million.

Before he left the Capital, Martin passed along a light-hearted award to its next recipient.

Each session, lawmakers give the “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill presented.

Last year, Martin was given the award for a bill to allow municipalities to enforce speed limits on interstate highways.

This year, Rep. Connie Rowe was the recipient for a bill to regulate and legalize fantasy sports.

The trophy is a black suit mounted on cardboard and is a longstanding tradition of the final night of the session.