Alabama Legislature back in capital for regular 2022 session

Published 8:54 am Tuesday, February 8, 2022

By PAUL DEMARCO | Guest Columnist

Now that the Alabama Legislature is back in session this week, there will be a lot of important decisions to make.

There is a lot of discussion of what issues will come up for debate. Republicans, who are in the majority, have promised to take up bills regarding removing pistol permits, banning critical race theory and increasing penalties for those that attack law enforcement. We will see which of these bills are actually passed and sent to the governor’s desk for her signature this year.

What we know must be done and is required by the Alabama Constitution, is passing the state’s budgets to fund state government. In the past, lawmakers have struggled to find the dollars to support all of the state’s needs in the education and general fund budgets. There have been sessions in which the budgets were not passed until the waning hours of the session as the legislators searched for the resources to pay the state bills.

This year, the state now has double-digit increases in revenue appropriate for Alabama’s agencies and capital projects. Thus, there are already legislators and lobbyists who are making big funding request for their pet projects.

In addition, the state representatives and senators have to also decide how to spend the remaining $580 million in federal COVID-19 dollars. They have already committed $400 million previously from federal recovery dollars to both build and renovate state prisons.

There will be a lot of folks that want their hands on these hundreds of millions of dollars to spend for their special interest. The legislators must resist this temptation to spend all of what they have before them.

In the not to distance future, the lawmakers will be looking for how to balance the budget, so they need to tuck away as many dollars as they can. If they commit too much of these funds for reoccurring costs, they will not have the state dollars to do it and will be looking for new revenues of income to make up for it. This has been a proverbial problem with the legislature, especially in election years when they want to make everyone happy and not turn anyone down.

Paul DeMarco is a native of Alabama and a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.