The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 22, 2014

Much to do when Alabama Legislature returns

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — When Alabama legislators return from spring break on April 1, they will have plenty to do and only three days left to do it.

The pending legislation ranges from serious matters like state budgets and abortion restrictions to light-hearted matters, including declaring cornbread the official state bread.

Each year, the Legislature has 30 meeting days to pass the state budgets and consider other legislation. Lawmakers wrapped up their 27th meeting day Thursday and left Montgomery until April 1.

Here's a look at what's left for the last three meeting days:

EDUCATION BUDGET: The House and Senate have passed differing versions of the $5.9 billion spending plan for the 2014-2015 school year. The Senate version included a one-time bonus of 1 percent for education employees. The House version didn't, but it included more money to fund health insurance benefits. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said House and Senate budget writers have agreed with the governor to drop the bonus and provide more funding for health insurance to keep employees from having to pay higher premiums. They expect that to have broad support.

GENERAL FUND BUDGET: The Senate has passed a $1.8 billion budget that is based on state employees getting a one-time pay bonus of $400. Senate budget committee Chairman Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he's optimistic the House will agree. Hubbard said he anticipates that happening.

ABORTION: The House has approved a bill to extend the waiting time for an abortion from 24 hours to 48 hours after an abortion clinic provides information about adoption and the risks of abortion. The bill has cleared a Senate committee and is awaiting a final vote in the Senate. The sponsor, Republican Rep. Ed Henry of Decatur, said he's optimistic about passage in the Senate. The House also passed a bill to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen at six or seven weeks into a pregnancy. That bill is still pending in the Senate Health Committee.

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