MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — On Tuesday, Alabama lawmakers will return to Montgomery for the start of the 2020 legislative session, where there will be no shortage of issues for the legislature to discuss.
Some of the many issues lawmakers plan to tackle this session include education, prison, heath care, mental health care and a possible lottery.
Last April, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report outlining issues with Alabama’s prison system. The issues ranged from violence to overcrowding and the DOJ threatened to sue the state if those problems weren’t corrected.
Following the DOJ report, Gov. Kay Ivey created a study group on criminal justice policy with the goal of offering solutions to fix the crisis in the state’s prisons. To deal with overcrowding, Ivey said she would like to build three mega prisons in the state to house the majority of prisoners. The study group has offered suggestions in the areas of sentencing, educational programs and recidivism.
One of the biggest challenges for the state will be prison reform and rehabilitation. There has been committee meeting outside of the legislative session working on this issue.
“I think where we have done a disservice is not promoting vocational and pushing vocational training in prisons,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said.
Marsh, R-Anniston, said programs like those will help people who get out of prison will stay out. He is also advocating for more vocational training inside the prisons.
Last year, the Legislature passed a constitutional ballot initiative to change the way state school board members are selected. The goal is to go from an elected board by the people to a governor-appointed board. This measure is known as Amendment 1 and will be on the March 3 primary ballot. Ivey said that many of the state that have this model are top education preforming states.
Health care is also a big topic the legislature could tackle this year, with Democratic leadership say they’re still in favor of Medicaid expansion.
“If we are going to have a robust workforce, we have to have a healthy workforce also,” said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro.
“There’s about 43% of people in cities in Alabama that don’t have access to a primary care physician,” said Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville.
During an appearance in Dothan last week, Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said he plans to file an education lottery bill that would allow the sale of scratch-off tickets as well as participation in multi-state lotteries like Mega Millions and Powerball.
“We know that down in the southeast corner of the state for years people have been going to Georgia and Florida,” Clouse said.
Clouse said that unlike the previous lottery bills, this bill would be an education-only proposal with half of the money going to the Alabama State Department of Early Childhood Education for pre-K while the other half would fund education scholarships and other assistance for students.
The primary function of the Legislature is to pass the state’s two budgets–the general fund and education budge–to keep the state afloat.
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