Lawmakers look ahead to remaining legislative session

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Lawmakers representing the taxpayers of north Alabama are back in town for a one-week recess.

Now that charter schools and other agenda items have made their way through, future talks will be on everything from Alabama's official dessert, no, really, to the state competing for liquor sales.

"I do believe ABC privatization is something we need to do," said district 3 Senator Arthur Orr. "Why do we have the state pushing liquor when the private sector is doing that?"

Governor Bentley has a package of bills on research and development, focused on incentives for more business.

"He's asked me to carry one of his bills that would allow for a research and development credit for those that invest in Alabama," said district 6 Representative Phil Williams. That could lure research of companies that already do business here.

There is also talk of what's now being called the 'Tim Tebow Law.'

"We're going to take up again the concept of allowing people not in public school system to participate in sports or academies," said Williams.

In Madison County, the sheriff's department is hoping for a tax increase.

"It's hard to pass a tax increase and even with the needs the sheriff has, I think there's going to be challenges with [getting it passed]," said Williams.

District 25's Representative Mac McCutcheon says that with so much growth in rural parts of the county demanding public safety accommodations, lawmakers know the department needs more resources. "Our question is 'is there a way we can fund them better through current budgets and is a tax needed?'"

The Madison County Sheriff's tax is still in the advertisement phase with no bill on the table just yet.

Budgets to take over last leg of legislation

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With an imbalanced state checkbook, budget legislation may come with some wild cards.

"I think that you may see gambling via through compact with the Indians or a lottery may rear its head in this 2015 legislative session," said Senator Orr.

"Tennessee claims to have raised a billion dollars over ten years, some of that's bound to come from north Alabama," added Representative Phil Williams.

Lawmakers add that there is high probability that they will take another look at state organizations that have their own budgets so as not to drain state resources, such as the Alabama Department of Transportation.

On top of that, there's the governor's proposed tax plan.

"His proposals were, by and large, a fairness issue in the 8 bills he has presented," said Senator Orr. "Does that mean they'll pass? Not necessarily."

The different aspects of the plan will be voted on as separate bills, and not all are popular.

"Vehicle tax and the utility tax, those are two with major question marks over in the legislature," said Representative McCutheon. "A popular part of his agenda is the part dealing with small business versus corporate business and the tax structure."

"It's a shame we're talking about tax increases knowing we've got a budget surplus, a large budget surplus, maybe $250-300 million. so therein lies the irony of government," said Williams.

But at this point, earmarks don't allow lawmakers to move any of that money around.

Legislative session continues March 31.

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