The Alabama Legislature opened its 2023 session this week, and there's money to be spent.Political watchers widely believe Gov. Kay Ivey will quickly call a special session to determine how to spend …
The Alabama Legislature opened its 2023 session this week, and there's money to be spent.
Political watchers widely believe Gov. Kay Ivey will quickly call a special session to determine how to spend nearly $1 billion of American Rescue Plan Act given to the state by the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legislators are expected to pour much of that money into expanding access to broadband service in the state's rural communities, funding upgrades at hospitals and nursing homes as well as making improvements to municipal water and sewer projects.
The language of those proposed bills places a laser focus on swiftly growing municipalities, which would potentially include several in Baldwin County.
A special session cannot be longer than 12 legislative days within a 30-day span. The Alabama Legislature generally meets twice a week, meaning the special session could linger into early April.
Once the special session ends, state senators and House representatives will return their attention to bills at hand, including HB1, a bill Rep. Matt Simson, R-Daphne, drafted as a means to slow the rapid pace of deaths in Baldwin County and across Alabama from fentanyl.
The Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which covers multiple states, reported 1,069 fentanyl deaths in Alabama in 2021, up nearly 136% from 2020.
HB1 puts mandatory minimum prison sentences in place for trafficking fentanyl, the only drug that currently does not require jail time with a trafficking conviction in Alabama.
The pre-filed bill is expected to be fast-tracked through the legislative process after it is formally introduced and assigned to committee.
Simpson, who represents District 96 in Daphne and Spanish Fort, began touting the bill's details last September when he announced its creation in front of the Mobile County Courthouse with Baldwin and Mobile county sheriffs and several members of both counties' district attorneys' offices at his side.
At the time, Simpson said he was appalled at the number of deaths tied to the drug, calling that number too "big to put into words."
He crafted the bill long before the 2023 session so any questions were addressed early, he said. The fastest a bill can move through the legislative process is seven to eight legislative days, roughly two to three weeks.
None of Baldwin County's other five representatives have pre-filed legislation for the 2023 session. This includes Rep. Alan Baker, District 66; Rep. Jennifer Fidler, District 94; Rep. Donna Givens, District 64; Rep. Frances Holk-Jones, District 95; and Rep. Shane Stringer, District 102.
Bills to be filed soon after session starts including annexations for Loxley and Foley, as well as historic landmark district bills for the Bon Secour, Stapleton and White House communities.
In the Senate, Sen. Greg Albritton, District 22, has pre-filed three bills.
The first two, SB3 and SB4, would bring non-contiguous land around Bay Minette into city limits through legislative annexation, the only way to bring acreage that does not currently touch a city's limits into the city's jurisdiction.
The first parcel encompasses 58 acres off State Highway 225 south of I-65. The second is 410 acres off State Highway 59. Both are city-owned property but do not fall within city limits.
Albritton has also drafted SB 8, which expands the scope of practice of podiatry to include treatment and disorder of the ankle and foot. This is at least the third session that Albritton has submitted the bill, which would help expand access to health care and cut down on the number of specialized doctors patients must visit and pay to receive care.
Sen. Chris Elliott, District 32, has pre-filed SB 7, which limits the time period that inmates can be released to mandatory supervision.
The bill was written in response to an attempt by the Alabama Department of Corrections to release hundreds of inmates in January. The release failed after ADOC failed to notify the victims associated with the prisoners' offenses.
Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, the newest Senate member and sole Democratic member of the Baldwin County delegation, will soon be filing an annexation bill for the City of Spanish Fort that would bring into the city the Cypress Point property the city purchased with GOMESA funding last year to be used for public purposes.