Alabama Seal

MONTGOMERY (AP) – Alabama lawmakers have begun the 2018 legislative session.

Lawmakers convened at noon Tuesday at the Alabama Statehouse to begin a legislative session that also coincides with an election year.

The session will be dominated by two major budgetary issues: prisons and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Alabama is facing a court order to improve mental health care in prisons. The state will have to pick up some of the cost of the insurance program if Congress does not renew funding.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will give her first State of the State address on Tuesday night. Ivey became governor nine months ago by the sudden resignation of then-Gov. Robert Bentley.

In more legislative news:

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is proposing pay raises for state and education employees.

The raises were included in the Tuesday budget presentation Ivey’s finance director made to lawmakers on the opening day of the 2018 legislative session.

The numbers in the governor’s proposed budget indicate that she is proposing a nearly 3 percent raise for state employees and over a 2 percent raise for education employees.

While, Finance Director Clinton Carter would not confirm the numbers, saying he didn’t want to steal the “governor’s thunder.”

Ivey is expected to discuss the proposed raises in Tuesday night’s State of the State address.

The state finance director told lawmakers the budget outlook is “good news” but the state should “proceed with caution” because of looming issues in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and prisons.

Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday heard projections for the budgets they will write during this legislative session.

After years of lurching from crisis to crisis, Finance Director Clinton Carter said the two state budgets are in the best situation the state has seen in years.

However, Carter said Medicaid will need a significant increase in 2020 and the state will likely have to pick up at least some of the insurance program cost.

Carter said the state also will have to allocate more to prisons to comply with a court order to improve inmate health care.

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