MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives gaveled in for the first official day of 2023's special session, dropping the two bills to allocate funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Ivey officially called the special session Wednesday morning, but a special session has been rumored for some time.
The House adjourned just after a half hour, allowing members to file bills in the special session.
House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R–Rainsville) said the two bills relating to ARPA funds had been filed and would be deliberated in committee on Thursday.
House Bill 1 (HB1), sponsored by State Rep. Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville), the House General Fund chairman, is identical to the draft obtained by 1819 News before it was announced. The money is marked towards public health, improving infrastructure and mitigating negative economic impacts.
House Bill 2 (HB2), also sponsored by Reynolds, allocates funds to pay off the remaining $60 million owed to the Alabama Trust Fund (ATF). The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore). Alabama voters approved a $437 million transfer from the ATF in 2013 to balance the state budget. The $60 million in HB2 would fully pay off that debt.
According to Ledbetter, many backroom meetings have occurred, allowing members to express concerns and get elucidation on the details of the bill.
"We dropped it today, and we'll have it in committee probably in the morning," Ledbetter said. "I think we'll go ahead and vote it out, probably. I talked to the chairman before we went in, and he feels real good about it, and we've had a series of meetings with members. I mean, they've had the opportunity to ask questions. The department heads met today in a joint caucus between the Rs and the Ds, and they were able to talk about it. It went very well. I think one thing members can say is that they've been well-informed on this. We've had personal calls with them and one-on-ones, so I think it's gone very well."
Ledbetter said the extensive discussions on the ARPA funding leads him to think there will not be any significant changes to the bill.
Reynolds said the recent round of ARPA funds had additional restrictions by the Treasury Department, which somewhat hamstrung lawmakers' options. He also echoed Ledbetter in not expecting any holdups in the House.
"I pretty much sense in the House we've got overwhelming support on the bill," Reynolds said. "I do know there are some questions in the Senate, so we'll just have to deal with that when it gets there. It is one-time money. We are doing some one-time things: infrastructure, in particular, mental health, telemedicine. You've got the healthcare line item in there, southern research group. I mean, that's broadening access to potential clinical rugs and programs that Alabamians have never really seen."
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