Thursday, January 30, 2014
2014 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: WEEK THREE
Like the rest of Alabama, this week’s unusual winter storm impacted the Legislature, causing it to alter its schedule and its plans.
As the storm hit Alabama on Tuesday afternoon, only 40 members of the House were able to make it to Montgomery by 1 p.m. - the time previously set for the body to reconvene. Because that number was 13 members short of a quorum, the House was forced to recess. Making matters worse, it was required by rule to automatically reconvene the next day at 10 a.m. Because travel conditions were only getting worse, legislative leadership made the wise decision to ask members and staff not to return until Thursday. That meant that the planned two meeting-day week turned into a three day week, although no business was conducted on Wednesday.
The Senate was able to muster a quorum on Tuesday, with 21 Senators answering the roll. Senators spent Tuesday afternoon passing mostly non-controversial and agency-related legislation. The Senate returned to work on Thursday, and again focused on non-controversial matters. The House also was able to meet on Thursday, the ninth legislative day, and passed several non-controversial bills before adjourning until next Tuesday, Feb. 4.
In addition to the loss of legislative days, another significant effect of the winter storm was the inability of committees to conduct scheduled meetings. Because bills must be reported out of committee before they can be considered for passage, the cancellation of one day’s worth of committee meetings generally puts the process a full week behind. Although it is early enough in the session for both the House and Senate to make up for the lost time, the loss of most of this week will impact the schedule and the timing of important measures such as the budgets.
One important pro-business measure that made progress this week was the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (“TBOR”). The bill was the last one included on the Senate Special Order calendar on Thursday. While it was carried over, the Senate first approved the Budget Isolation Resolution and an amendment that had been added in Committee. Thus, TBOR is positioned for final passage in the Senate with a single up or down vote.
With the loss of working days due to the storm, next week is likely to be busy in Montgomery. Under Alabama law, the Senate is required to begin taking up “sunset legislation” (legislation that extends the existence of agencies such as the Public Service Commission and the Department of Insurance) on Tuesday, the 10th legislative day. The Legislature already has used nine of the 30 permitted meeting days for the session. It is expected that next week will be another three meeting-day week. Therefore, the session will be 40 percent complete by the end of next week.
The House will reconvene on Tuesday at 1 p.m. and will continue to work from its Regular Order Calendar. The House Rules Committee will meet for the first time on Tuesday prior to the House coming into session, meaning that – assuming the House meets Wednesday – Wednesday will be the first day in which the House will operate with a Special Order Calendar. The Senate will reconvene at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Maynard Cooper & Gale will send out updates throughout the Legislative Session. If you have any questions about the matters discussed above, or if there is a particular matter in which you or your business has an interest or concern, please do not hesitate to contact us: