Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed at today’s Business Council of Alabama’s Tuesday Briefing said the Legislature has accomplished a lot since convening the 2016 regular legislative session on Feb. 2 but much remains to be done in the final five session working days.
“It’s been a challenging session,” Sen. Reed said. “We have done quite well in staying focused.”
Sen. Reed, R-Jasper, attended the final Tuesday Briefing of the 2016 legislative session. The briefing was sponsored by the Drummond Co. Inc., an 81-year-old privately owned, international coal producer and supplier.
Sen. Reed said passage of HB 34, the Alabama Renewal Act, which authorizes tax credits for using Alabama’s port facilities, “will be very important” for economic development. The Governor signed the bill sponsored by Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, into law on April 4.
Sen. Reed discussed the status of Alabama’s Medicaid health insurance program, which received a $15 million appropriation increase in the 2016-17 General Fund budget.
Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar said the administration sought $785 million for Medicaid in the next fiscal year but the Legislature appropriated $700 million, a $15 million increase from this year.
Towards the end of the General Fund approval cycle, the House and Senate created a joint committee to learn more about Medicaid and why it requires such a large amount of the General Fund. That committee met last week with Azar giving an overview of Medicaid.
“The more legislators learn about Medicaid, the deeper we peel back the layers of the onion, we become better prepared,” Sen. Reed said.
Sen. Reed said that Medicaid operates efficiently but because of the poor economy has been adding significant numbers of participants – 600,000 of the 1.05 million on Medicaid are children – adding to the expense.
Sen. Reed’s SB 397 would help funding by granting the state Medicaid Agency the authority to extend the certification deadline for Regional Care Organizations beyond the current deadline of Oct. 1, 2016. RCOs were created to manage Medicaid patient care and better husband Medicaid resources.
Sen. Reed said legislative actions the last five years involving the Education Trust Fund in order to prevent proration have paid dividends and allowed the first surplus in the budget since the Recession and money for raises for education employees.
The $6.4 billion ETF for 2016-17, HB 117 by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Northport, was sent to the Governor on April 21. It contains increased funding for many BCA-backed education proposals including early childhood learning.
“We have been able to position ourselves to have a strong education budget,” Sen. Reed said.
He touched on road and bridge infrastructure, the best use of Alabama’s $1 billion share of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster Settlement, and extending the historic building tax credit under HB 62 by Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile.
Sen. Reed said the funding for Alabama road and bridge infrastructure appears stalled and probably won’t pass this session.
After the Senate voted 30-5 to pass SB 267, the Alabama Strategic Investment Initiative bill by Sen. Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee this week voted to carry the bill over to the call of the chair. That bill would distribute the oil spill disaster settlement.
BCA Tuesday Briefings feature legislative leadership and administration officials who discuss topics of interest to Alabama’s business community.