Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Alabama Legislature Reconvenes Today

The Alabama State Legislature reconvenes today January 10, 2006. I will be headed to Goat Hill shortly to get a fix on when bills related to prison reform and medical marijuana will be debated. I will be giving full reports on my activities there at the end of every day I attend.

Stay Tuned....

Issues facing the Alabama Legislature when it convenes Tuesday for its 2006 regular session include:

EDUCATION BUDGET: With tax collections swelling due to the economic recovery, Riley is forecasting an extra $1 billion above this year's $5.16 billion budget. Riley wants to spend $500 million on school and college construction projects. His Republican opponent for governor, Roy Moore, is calling for a $500 million tax refund.

GENERAL FUND BUDGET: Tax collections for the budget that finances non-education agencies have not grown like education taxes have. Riley is expected to recommend a budget that's about one percent larger than this year's $1.55 billion.

INCOME TAX: The governor wants to use the projected surplus in the education budget to start a five-year plan to raise the threshold at which Alabamians pay income taxes. Riley's plan would raise the threshold for a family of four from $4, 600, which is the lowest in the country, to $15, 000 by 2011. That would save taxpayers $214 million annually.

RAISES: The Alabama Education Association is seeking about a five percent raise for school workers. The Alabama State Employees Association will also seek a raise for state workers, but hasn't decided how much. Groups representing retired teachers and retired state workers are seeking a seven percent hike in pension benefits. Riley has said he will recommend a raise for teachers, but he has not disclosed how much.

RELIGION: Bills are being offered to provide a Bible literacy course in public schools, put "God Bless America" on Alabama car tags, and post the Ten Commandments in public schools.

PRISONS: The governor's prison overcrowding tax force has recommended a package of bills, including providing more drug and alcohol counseling to try to reduce recidivism and adopting voluntary sentencing guidelines that would make sentences for the same crime more consistent from county to county.

PROPERTY REAPPRAISALS: Bills have been offered to end annual property reappraisals begun by the Riley administration and return to the state's old system of reappraising property every four years for tax purposes. Riley says he will sign the legislation if it passes.

EMINENT DOMAIN: The governor is backing a proposed constitutional amendment to restrict state, county and city governments from using eminent domain to obtain private property. The fight will be over whether the constitutional amendment should be like a state law the Legislature passed last year to restrict eminent domain or whether it should be stronger. That would be done by removing a section of last year's law that allowed governments to use eminent domain to remove blighted areas.

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