The Alabama Legislature gaveled in Tuesday to begin what is shaping up to be a long session but swiftly scheduled a lengthy two-week recess for the as-of-yet unscheduled special legislative session.
For over a week, it has been rumored that Gov. Kay Ivey would call a special session after the beginning of the regular session to address the allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
ARPA is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by U.S. Congress in 2021.
Tuesday’s proceedings began with a recognition of the sacrifice the families of Senate members made during session, a resolution by Senate President Pro-tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) recognizing women’s history month and another resolution by State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), recognizing former U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s contribution to the state.
The Senate concluded by Reed adjourning the meeting, putting the Senate in recess until March 21.
Ivey has not officially announced a special session. However, with the long break between legislative days and the multiple sources confirming the special session to 1819 News, Ivey calling the session is almost a certainty.
The special session will involve allocating over $1 billion in ARPA funds.
When asked, Reed coyly responded to inquiries about the possibility of a special session.
“As you are aware, the Governor of Alabama is responsible for calling special sessions, but we did adjourn until the 21st, so that means we got some other activities we anticipate,” Reed said.
The recess is scheduled for two weeks. However, special sessions have only five legislative days, so it’s unclear how brief lawmakers intend to make the special session.
“If there was a special session that the Governor of Alabama called, five legislative days is required to be able to move legislation through both chambers,” Reed continued. “So, you’d have to have five legislative days to be able to do that.”
In January 2022, Ivey called a five-day special session in the middle of the regular session to appropriate the first round of ARPA funds. Lawmakers approved $772 million in appropriations, $400 million of which went toward constructing new prisons.
This special session would allocate over $1 billion. According to a draft of the bill obtained by 1819 News that is expected to be considered in the special session, the legislature will grant broad discretion to the executive branch and its agencies to allocate the funding.
Reed said the second round of ARPA funding has more stringent restrictions, but he believes the budget committee chairs have done a good job forming a “starting place” for the funds.
Reed also said that water and sewer, broadband access, hospitals, nursing homes, wastewater, and stormwater were among his priorities for the funds.
Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) also alluded to the special session, saying he wanted to invest the money in water and sewer, broadband, wastewater, and health care, which were among his priorities for the ARPA funds.
Ivey is slated to give her state of the state address on Tuesday at 6 p.m. during a joint legislative session. It is anticipated that she will make the special session announcement then.
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