Alabama lawmakers ended a productive legislative session last week; how successful it was depends on one’s perspective.
Perhaps the most significant achievement is the passage of a 10 cent per gallon gasoline tax that will be phased in over three years. While some Alabamians have decried the hike, the increase – the first in 27 years – will provide an infusion of revenue into the road construction and maintenance accounts by taxing those who use the services. Lawmakers may want to revisit road taxes as electric-powered vehicles gain popularity.
Lawmakers joined a growing national movement to enact strict abortion laws in an effort to force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit Roe vs. Wade . The measure, signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey, was met with strenuous and polarized reaction from supporters and opponents alike.
A series of controversial actions by the state board of pardons and paroles prompted a measure that makes multiple changes, including making the director a gubernatorial appointee who could be dismissed at will by the governor. The board currently hires the director.
State workers got a 2 percent pay hike while teachers reaped a 4 percent increase, and prison workers’ pay is expected to rise as the federal government scrutinizes Alabama’s Department of Corrections.
And from the What Took So Long department – lawmakers eliminated a loophole that allowed some sheriffs to bank thousands of dollars in prison food funds, established a mechanism for accountability for law enforcement’s asset forfeiture programs, and enacted an equal pay law prohibiting businesses from paying workers less than employees of another race or sex for the same work except under specific circumstances.
We’re disappointed by the failure of some measures to pass, particularly another incremental improvement to the payday loan industry, and putting more teeth in the distracted driving laws. Regardless, lawmakers earned their pay over the last few weeks. We hope they’re at least as productive later this year, when they’ll return in special session to address the state’s seemingly intractable challenges in the prison system.