MONTGOMERY, Ala.(WHNT)-State lawmakers have reached the halfway point of this year's legislative session, so what may lie ahead in the final two months down in Montgomery?
Legislators will have a full plate when they return from Easter break in the first week of April. As in years past, the power of the purse strings is expected to dominate attention in the home stretch. Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) is chairman of the Senate General Fund Budget Committee, which oversees and approves spending for agencies ranging from state prisons to Medicaid. Orr said next year's proposed $1.8 billion spending plan is a near carbon-copy of this year's edition, but will address current funding shortfalls in the court and correctional systems.
"The budgets will be the most important part of the second half of the session," said Orr. "In the first half we got the general fund budget out of the Senate in really record time...Our courts are still severely underfunded, and this is something we were able to restore, a couple million dollars over what Gov. Bentley had asked for."
The Senate has already passed the General Fund Budget bill, which now awaits a vote in the House. Orr also said the education budget will likely stay flat for next year.
Other potential headline-grabbing bills include an effort to restrict the use of drones by law enforcement, and legislation that would allow for the Ten Commandments to be publicly displayed on state and school property. A bill that aims to save taxpayer money by cracking down on welfare fraud is also on the front-burner.
"People are able to use their EBT cards, their welfare, their food stamps and spend it on tobacco or liquor or lottery tickets," said Orr, who is sponsoring the welfare fraud bill. "We're really trying to get a handle on that and pass some meaningful legislation to stop that."
Lawmakers have fifteen meetings left in this year's regular session, which expires at the end of May. Legislators will resume business at the state capital on Tuesday April 2nd.