• Lawmakers have the flexibility to deal with big ticket items.
  • Fundraising, funding, gambling: where are they?
  • Governor Ivey emphasizes the need to use federal funds wisely.

This is a problem that most people would like to have: how to spend a large amount of money.

For now, this is the major problem facing lawmakers as they meet for the start of the 2022 regular session. The House and Senate will meet at noon on Tuesday for a session that will not adjourn. not before March at the earliest. It’s an election year session, and lawmakers traditionally try to avoid complicated issues and try to get out as soon as possible.

Following:Alabama Legislature: COVID relief fund, teacher compensation, game among key 2022 issues

The first signs suggest that lawmakers will have this opportunity. The approval of the two state budgets, the only constitutional duty of the legislature, should be easy: the budgets of the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund appear to be in good shape. And while the gambling bills have been filed for the session, there is no concerted effort on the part of the leadership to pass a lottery or casino bill. The session could be defined by what lawmakers want to do, rather than what they have to do.

Here are three things to look out for at the start of the session.

1. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Fund

Alabama lawmakers will decide how to allocate approximately $ 1.5 billion in federal ARPA funds, aimed at replacing revenue lost due to the COVID pandemic. There appears to be a broad consensus among Republicans to invest the money – which must be allocated before 2026 – in broadband expansion; water and sewage infrastructure and compensation for health care providers facing the pandemic.

What is less obvious is how the money would be distributed among these priorities. This could lead to long debates. Lawmakers have raised the possibility of a special session within the current session to deal with funds. It would force lawmakers to spend a week or more just talking about how the money would be spent. Gina Maiola, spokesperson for Governor Kay Ivey, did not rule out this possibility on Monday.

“The governor wants this to be a priority for the Legislature,” Maiola wrote in an email. “She has repeatedly emphasized that we need to invest this one-time money, not just casually spend it.”

2. Transportation without a license

If a special session does not begin in the first week or two of the session, expect legislation abolishing firearms licenses to show up upstairs at Alabama House for a review. vote. The measure, sponsored by Representative Shane Stringer, R-Citronelle, would repeal gun licensing requirements in the state of Alabama.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the past, but has failed to get out of the Legislature. House Republicans put unlicensed deferral at the top of their agenda released last week. Republican lawmakers could find themselves in an awkward position between activists who have been pushing the legislation for years – and who could make it a problem in the May primaries – and sheriffs who have historically opposed the measure.

3. Salary increases for teachers, government employees

Legislation on unlicensed transport can be controversial. But granting salary increases to teachers and state employees during an election year is still a popular decision.

Democrats and Republicans in the legislature say they will support some level of pay hike for both groups, but no exact hike has been agreed. In recent years, lawmakers have generally set pay increases at 2%. Republicans have yet to commit to a level they want to support. Minority House Leader Anthony Daniels of D-Huntsville, citing inflationary pressures, said last month that less than 5% would be “a waste of time.”

Lawmakers also appear likely to support a $ 300 bonus for teachers and state retirees. Retirees have not seen a cost of living adjustment since 2007 due to legislative changes that require the full cost of an increase to be prepaid. The expense is considerable: Where a 1% increase for current education employees costs around $ 45 million, a similar increase for retired teachers would cost $ 199.3 million.

Contact reporter Brian Lyman of Montgomery Advertiser at 334-240-0185 or [email protected]