MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama lawmakers are expected to conclude the legislative session this week, but simmering tensions in the House of Representatives threaten to throw the final days into turmoil.
Alabama lawmakers plan to conclude the session on Wednesday, using only 25 of the allowed 30 meeting days of a legislative session.
“If we leave next week, it’s because the budgets are complete. All major legislation is complete. All the issues that we think are important to the people of this state are complete. And if that’s the case, we are going to save the taxpayers a couple of hundred thousand dollars and go home,” said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.
Lawmakers are expected to finish work on the education budget and possibly vote on an ethics law exemption, juvenile justice reform, a racial profiling bill, and a reduction in the number of allowed weeks of unemployment compensation.
Tensions in the House of Representatives could cloud the final days of the legislative session after black lawmakers were unable to even bring proposals up for debate.
When legislation to collect racial data on traffic stops came before the full House of Representatives, Republicans overwhelming refused to bring the bill up for debate even though it had been unanimously approved in the GOP-controlled Alabama Senate. A day earlier, when an African-American lawmaker had a bill in a House committee to raise the minimum age for semiautomatic rifle purchases, only one Republican showed up for the meeting, preventing the bill from getting discussion.
“These last few days of the session could be quite contentious,” said Rep. Chris England, an African-American Democrat from Tuscaloosa.
Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers of the Alabama Legislature, and can largely control what bills do, and do not, become law, but minority lawmakers expressed frustration at being unable to even get measures up for discussion.
“The things that are important to us, it just doesn’t matter in this body,” Rep. Napoleon Bracy of Prichard said after the traffic stop bill was halted.
The House on Tuesday will make a second attempt to debate the traffic stop bill after the House Rules Committee placed it on the proposed debate agenda for a second time.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, a Republican, said Thursday he wanted to meet with lawmakers to see if they could find a compromise on the legislation.
“I’m hoping that we can get that bill out and get it passed.” McCutcheon said. McCutcheon, a former police officer, said he voted against bringing the bill up for debate, but said he could support it with changes.
He said he spoke with members of the House after the vote and there was an acknowledgement that “maybe there was not enough discussion about this and we need more discussion.”