Special Session Ends with BP Compromise
The Alabama State House and Senate adjourned sine die Wednesday evening, bringing a contentious special session to a close. Gov. Bentley called for the session in late July, saying legislators needed to return to Montgomery in August to discuss a potential lottery and find a solution to the state’s $85 million Medicaid shortfall.
The lottery was the legislature’s primary focus in the beginning of the special session; any bill calling for a lottery would have gone before the voters as a constitutional amendment. The deadline for constitutional amendments to be added to the ballot was just one of many disagreements that arose between legislators and state officials during this debate. After arguments over how potential earnings from a lottery would be spent and what constituted gaming, the lottery bill ultimately died as a result of concerns in the Senate that it would negatively impact dog tracks.
With the lottery off the table as a potential revenue stream for Medicaid and the General Fund, legislators turned to the settlement paid to the state as a result of the 2010 BP oil spill. This portion of the settlement is meant to deal with the economic damage that occurred in the wake of the disaster; earlier payments were delineated for environmental restoration. At various points during debate it seemed that the legislature would adjourn without a solution, but on Wednesday a compromise was passed that provides a total of $120 million for Medicaid in 2017 and 2018, repays $400 million of the state’s debt, and allocates $120 million to the two coastal counties for road projects.
The legislature will return for the 2017 legislative session on February 7.