Frantic Finish Expected For Last Day Of Legislature

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MONTGOMERY, Ala.(WHNT) - State lawmakers are bracing for a frantic finish in Montgomery with the final day of the 2013 legislative session set for Monday.

Last-minute wheeling and dealing will likely be par for the course on the legislature's last day, with some major bills possibly heading for votes in both chambers. School vouchers, gun owner rights and welfare abuse are just some of the items that are expected to be in a play for a session that many have already presumed will run through midnight.

"It will be a very, very long day," said Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur). "Quite frankly we won't be able to get to all the legislation that we need to."

Sen. Orr is one of the leading power brokers at the State Capitol, which remains divided over a newly passed school voucher law that allows tax credits for parents who want to take their children out of failing schools.  Governor Robert Bentley (R) signed the Alabama Accountability Act into law earlier in the spring, but a major development came last week when Bentley asked lawmakers to insert an amendment to a revamped version of the original bill. Bentley's amendment would delay implementation of the law for two years, a development Orr said was not likely.

"I don't have a crystal ball, but I would say that we'll probably not see that bill pass," said Orr, who stated his intention to vote for the amendment anyway. "There's just too much division among the representatives and senators."

If Gov. Bentley's amendment fails to pass, the Alabama Accountability Act will take effect before the start of the next school year.

Monday's calendar also is likely to include votes on a bill that would allow Alabama gun owners to bring their firearms to work, provided the weapons stay out of sight and locked in their vehicle. Some business groups had opposed the bill, calling it an intrusion on employer rights.

The final day could also include votes on a pair of bills dealing with the welfare system. One of the bills is sponsored by Sen. Orr, and would prevent welfare recipients from using their benefits on alcohol, strip clubs, tattoos and other frivolous items. The second bill would implement mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients who have had a drug conviction within the last five years. Both of the welfare-related bills have already passed the Senate and now go to the House.