Discussing their planned roadmap forward, Senator Gerald Allen, Representative Christopher England, Representative A. J. McCampbell, Representative Bill Poole, Senator Greg Reed, Representative Kyle South, Representative Rodney Sullivan, and Senator Bobby Singleton spoke on topics that ranged from health care to prisons, as well as the Rebuild Alabama legislation.
Rep. England said the delegation anticipates a special session on prison reform.
“The problems we face with our prison system are massive, but there are positives,” he said, noting improvements that have been made. “Although we are still at 160 percent over capacity, Alabama has experienced the largest drop in incarcerations in the country.”
England said the perception that Alabama incarcerates offenders for non-violent or minor drug offenses is incorrect.
“Less than 10 percent of our prison population is incarcerated for a non-violent offense or a probation violation,” he said.
Rep. Poole, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, spoke about gains the legislature had made in the budgeting process.
“We’ve passed the largest budget in the history of the state,” he said. “We’re funding 100 new pre-k classrooms and providing a raise to educators that will help us recruit and retain teachers.”
Another topic of interest, gaming, was addressed by several members of the delegation. Sen. Singleton maintained the reason the recent lottery bill had not passed was due to the fact it was simply a bad lottery bill.
“We need to put together a full, comprehensive lottery bill, but we need to do it right to get the maximum benefit for our state,” Singleton said.
One gaming bill that has passed is HB 361, a bill sponsored by Rep. South that allows fantasy sports. The bill is expected to generate an additional $4 million in revenue for the state’s general fund.
During the discussion, the legislators talked about the success of the delegation, and noted that collaboration across the aisle is critical.
“We’ve achieved significant accomplishments on serious issues and challenges,” Sen. Reed said. “Republicans and Democrats have collaborated on important topics, and with brand new members of our delegation.”