MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers are headed into the final days of the 2018 session with key votes looming on proposals to allow some teachers to carry guns in school, prison funding and other bills.
The final meeting days are expected to bring a flurry of work as lawmakers push to get bills approved before the session winds down. Lawmakers are expected to meet three days this week in Montgomery. Legislative leaders anticipate ending the session March 29.
Here's a look at some of the legislation expected to be decided in the final days of the legislative session.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday is expected to have lengthy debate on a proposal by Republican Rep. Will Ainsworth to allow designated teachers and school employees to carry or access firearms in school. A divided House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved the bill last week on a 5-4 vote. The legislation is one of multiple gun-related bills introduced after the Feb. 14 shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people. Gun control measures pushed by Democrats, such as raising the age to 21 to purchase an AR-15 or similar weapons, have not gotten a floor vote in the GOP-dominated Legislature.
Lawmakers said the focus of the session would be state budgets that are almost complete. Lawmakers are expected to give final approval to the general fund budget and education trust fund budget. The general fund includes an additional $85 million for the state prison system over the next two years. The state faces a federal court order to improve mental health care to inmates. The budget bills also include funding for a 3 percent pay increase for state employees and a 2.5 percent pay increase for education employees.
The Alabama Senate could debate a proposal to strip the lieutenant governor of legislative duties. Currently the lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and makes appointments. Some lawmakers have proposed making the office something similar to a vice president for the state governor, and letting senators choose their presiding officer similar to the way the House of Representatives does. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey spoke out against the proposal in her State of the State address.
The Senate-passed bill would authorize the state to carry out executions by nitrogen gas. The bill would allow execution by nitrogen hypoxia if lethal injection drugs are unavailable or are ruled unconstitutional. The House is scheduled to debate the proposal on Tuesday. The Death Penalty Information Center says no state has used nitrogen gas in an execution. Two states, Oklahoma and Mississippi, have voted to authorize the use of the gas as a backup method.
CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE
Lawmakers could vote on a proposal to track cases of civil asset forfeiture, the practice of law enforcement seizing property through a civil action for suspected criminal activity. The revamped bill would track cases instead of banning or altering the practice. The tracking version was introduced after legislation faltered that would have required a conviction to seize property. The bill has not cleared either chamber yet and faces a closing window for approval.
The proposed overhaul of the state's juvenile justice system aims to keep low-level offenders out of detention. The House approved the bill on a 69-20 vote last week and it could see a Senate committee vote this week. The bill is based on recommendations made by the Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force. Nearly two-thirds of the children in DYS custody in 2016 didn't commit a felony, according to the task force's report. They were sent there for probation violations and misdemeanor offenses.
The Senate-passed bill would lower the number of weeks a person can receive jobless benefits. The bill would lower the maximum unemployment benefit period from 26 weeks to between 14 weeks and 20 weeks, depending upon the state's average unemployment rate. The bill also raises the maximum benefit by about $40 per month. The House could vote on the bill Tuesday.