Jones, Holley: Prisons, solid education funding on tap in ‘17

Published 12:35 am Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sen. Jimmy Holley and Rep. Mike Jones spoke briefly to locals gathered a town hall meeting last night about the upcoming legislative session.

The session begins Feb. 7.

Gov. Robert Bentley has hinted at the possibility of calling a special session just before the regular session to address prison construction. Holley said he believes at the present time there will be no need for a special session.

Holley said for the second time since the 2007-2008 fiscal year, there is growth in the education trust fund.

However, the general fund growth is flat.

“We have seen $200 million growth in the education trust fund,” he said.

Holley said that when the stock market crashed in 2008, the state exhausted extra money collected and savings set up by then-Speaker of the House Seth Hammett.

“Now we are utilizing our own growth,” he said.

Holley said that conditions in state prisons will have to be dealt with this session. Though, the state legislature isn’t sure how.

“Sen. Holley hit on the primary issues,” Jones said. “This is the longest period in modern history without proration. That’s saying a lot about our consistent budget method. This method seems to be working in controlling the spikes.”

The rolling reserve was passed in 2011 to help prevent proration and limits the amount of money that can be appropriated to the education budget.

“Proration is not a word our superintendents look forward to hearing,” he said.

Additionally, Jones agreed with Holley that there is no way legislators can avoid the prison system issue.

Jones, who has toured Department of Corrections facilities, said that the state has done little or no maintenance on the state’s prisons.

“Some things you can’t fix,” he said.

Jones said the DOC has solicited studies and data has been collected.

“I like to make decisions based on facts,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the data.”

Jones touched briefly on the impeachment proceedings against Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Jones chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which has been tasked with managing the impeachment process.

Jones said the committee was ready to hold a hearing, but Attorney General Luther Strange requested that the hearing be postponed.

“We paused at the request of the attorney general,” he said. “But at some point that will be lifted.”

Jones said the latest possible date for the legislature to be in session is May 22.

They will break for spring break from March 20-31.