State Legislature

With only a few days left in the 2019 legislative session, Alabama’s lawmakers still have to work to do.

Before the legislature wraps up, they must pass both the education budget and the $2.2 billion general fund budget.

“It has been a difficult session dealing with the two budgets and of course the two budgets dealing with the teacher pay raise which is very very needed and then at the same time we got the general fund which is still struggling because we haven’t like made the agreements that we need to make dealing with some very critical issues,” state Sen. Gerald Allen said.

The education budget will not only include teacher pay raises but will support personnel and funding for the pre-K initiative.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced in April that there will be funding for 41 new classrooms from pre-K through third grade that will be integrated into early learning classes.

Another critical issue that must be addressed is deciding which budget will pay for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. The state will fund $35-$40 million to the program and the federal government will match it. Approximately 220,000 children in Alabama receive their health insurance through the CHIP program.

“That’s been the battle for most of the session so we anticipate a budget going to the floor today that we vote on and it got some changes from the house and senate versions from what I understand so, it’s going to go to conference and they’re going to try and reconcile their difference,” said Tuscaloosa Rep. Chris England.

The state’s prison system has been a sticking point in the general fund budget debate. England says that the state isn’t building new prisons to add bed space but to improve living and working conditions.

“It’s not a safe environment for the employees or the incarcerated individuals some of the facilities are so old that they’re probably due to being condemned so we’re not building new prisons to add bed space we’re actually building new prisons to create humane conditions for the prisoners and a safe working environment for the employees,” England said.

Ivey is expected to call a special session in September regarding the prison system.

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