Lawmakers Weigh In Ahead of 2013 Legislative Session

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By Heather VacLav

The 2013 Alabama Legislative Session starts Tuesday, but before lawmakers gather at the State House, they are busy preparing bills to propose in front of the legislature.

There are several key pieces of legislation that many lawmakers expect to debate to pass. Most say one of the first bills to be addressed is how to repay the Alabama Trust Fund. Back in September voters approved the amendment to bail out the state general fund budget. By doing so, the state was allowed to take out $437 million over three years from a state savings account

"We said we would pass that bill first and we will repay the rainy day account," said the bill's sponsor, Representative Jay Love, R-Montgomery.

Love's Montgomery counterpart, Representative Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery says the Republicans in the house need to, "Pay it back under the same terms you would for a private bank." "That's not just going to restore the money to the trust, it restores the money to the people who we took it from in the first place," he said.

Another big issue both parties are pushing forward is resolving Medicaid. Rep. Love says it's the most difficult issue to tackle, because it consumed a larger portion of the general fund budget, and forced lawmakers to cut other state programs.  

"At some point we have to figure out a way to keep Medicaid funded at a sustainable level, and also to make sure it is run as efficiently as it possibly can be," Love said.

"Medicaid right now is the most underfunded agency in the entire budget, and until we fund it properly, the entire budget, the budgets will not balance," Hubbard said.

Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey says current the budget does not fulfill Medicaid's needs.

"The budget this year is $603 million of tax payers funds, and that's double of what it was two years ago," Ivey said. 

Lawmakers say everything is up in the air, and it's something that worries Democrat Joe Hubbard, working in a Republican controlled house.  

Hubbard says even if it doesn't seem interesting or worthwhile, Alabamians need to pay attention because the issues, "Come up every session and you can find out who is watching those issues and who is advocating for you if you pay attention."

Other issues lawmakers expect to make headlines, include pay raises, gun control and job creation.

Democrats are calling for a 10-percent pay raise for teachers and education employees over the next two to three years.

Lawmakers also say they especially don't want a repeat of last year's added special session.

Stay tuned to Alabama News Network for complete team coverage all day Tuesday and throughout session.

 

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