The 2017 legislative session began on Feb. 7, and several issues are expected to be debated over the next few months. Here’s a look at a few of them.
In January, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 12 legislative districts were unconstitutional and that new districts must be drawn before the 2018 elections. By ripple effect, most or all other state Senate and House districts may need to be redrawn as well. Passage of this legislation, per the court ruling, must happen during the legislative session.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, who sponsored a gas tax bill last year, is encouraging proposals on the issue this session. Other groups, such as the Alabama Association of County Commissions, support the idea of raising the gas tax to pay for road and bridge maintenance and improvement. NFIB/AL members have been split on whether to support a gas tax in the past.
Another bill seeks to change how multi-state businesses report their income on their taxes, which would effectively result in higher tax bills. A constitutional amendment has also been proposed that would allow voters to raise property taxes by 5 mills.
Various segments of the budget are requesting more funds. Medicaid says it needs $44 million more, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency says it needs $60 million more, the Department of Education plans to ask for $151 million more, and Gov. Bentley is seeking a $20 million increase for the state’s voluntary prekindergarten program. Additionally, the state still needs to deal with whether to borrow $800 million to build four new prisons to remedy the state’s prison overcrowding program.