MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — State lawmakers worked right up to the midnight deadline Wednesday. Ultimately, there wasn’t enough time to get a prison reform bill passed through the House of Representatives.
Wednesday was the 30th, and final, day of the 2016 Regular Session. Legislators started the day in conference, discussing the $800 million prison reform bill. That’s a process that would be repeated throughout the day.
A conference committee approved a slimmer $550 million bill. It was approved by the Senate, but failed in the House. Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said there wasn’t enough support. State Senator Cam Ward said the large amount of money being asked for caused some lawmakers to worry.
“Some people are concerned [that if] you’re going to spend that much money, are the savings going to be there to pay for it?” Ward asked.
“The whole premise of the bond issue was that we could pay for new construction without any additional revenue. That’s been one [issue]. The second has been do we need that many new facilities at one time,” Ward continued.
The idea of a Special Session being called to address prison reform and the gap in Medicaid funding has been talked about, but Hubbard wasn’t quick to say if it was a foregone conclusion.
“[The leadership] is going to have to assess where we are. We’re going to have to talk to the Executive Branch and determine where we are over the next few months,” Hubbard explained.
“Right now, for Medicaid, they know they have $700 million in state funds. So, right now, they are working on how to live within that budget,” Hubbard said. Medicaid officials were hoping that a bill taking some money from the BP Oil Spill settlement would help them fill an $85 million gap in state funds.