By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The State House will still largely be closed to the public when the legislature comes back from their spring break on Tuesday to finish out the second half of the legislative session.
The same COVID-19 precautions that have been in place since early February will stay for the foreseeable future, both the House Clerk and Secretary of the Senate told Alabama Daily News on Friday.
“We would like to figure out a way to open up both the House and Senate so they both have equal access, but it’s a difficult thing because there are so many more (House members),” Secretary of the Senate Pat Harris told ADN.
Some priorities for both chambers will be working on finalizing the passage of the two state budgets and possibly working toward some kind of legislation tackling gambling in the state.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, told reporters prior to spring break that it may be possible to have more public access in the building but it will depend on the number COVID-19 cases among members and how well the vaccine rollout goes.
“One thing that I would really hope that we might do before we get through this session, especially as we get a little deeper into the budgets is I’m hoping that we could have a little more public access into the building,” McCutcheon told reporters.
Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, told reporters he was happy to see that the budgets are being handled in an efficient and timely manner and expects that to continue.
“This is the first time in my tenure that I can remember that we’ve had the budgets out of the house of origin prior to spring break,” Reed said.
The legislature will have two legislative days this week and then the following week have a three-day legislative week.
The Senate so far has passed 149 pieces of legislation that have dealt with state agencies, the military and veterans and has also confirmed 86 nominees, which Reed says he is very pleased about.
“I think it has been very deliberative,” Reed said. “I think it has been very focused. I think it has been very efficient. We’ve had a lot of debate, but at the same time, we as a Senate have worked together in a collaborative way to deliver results that are important to the people of Alabama. As we continue to move through this legislative session, we will maintain that results-driven spirit of delivering accomplishments for Alabamians.”
The House has passed 160 pieces of legislation and McCutcheon said the House is looking at handling the education budget, legislation created by the prison commission and discussions are still ongoing surrounding a lottery or a comprehensive gambling bill.
McCutcheon said he has heard the most support for just a simple lottery bill from House members.
“When you talk to a lot of the legislators, when you talk about gaming, they’re pretty solid on a lottery issue,” McCutcheon said.
Sen. Tim Melson’s, R-Florence, medical marijuana bill is in the House judicial committee on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. where it is expected to be voted on. If it passes it will then go through the House health committee.