Legislature meets amid 'animosity' over COVID relief cash

By KIM CHANDLER Associated Press
Posted 5/18/20

MONTGOMERY, Ala, (AP) — Alabama lawmakers meet Monday for the final day of the legislative session amid a continuing dispute with Gov. Kay Ivey over how to use the state's $1.8 billion in …

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Legislature meets amid 'animosity' over COVID relief cash

Posted

MONTGOMERY, Ala, (AP) — Alabama lawmakers meet Monday for the final day of the legislative session amid a continuing dispute with Gov. Kay Ivey over how to use the state's $1.8 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds.

Lawmakers will decide whether to accept, or reject, Ivey's executive amendment on a spending bill to broadly detail how all the COVID-19 funds should be used. The spending bill as passed by lawmakers had designated $200 million to the governor for the reimbursement of coronavirus-related expenditures with the rest to be decided later by lawmakers.

The Republican governor and Republican-controlled Legislature have been in a tug-of-war over the funds.

Senate Republicans plan to meet before lawmakers convene to discuss the matter, the Senate budget chairman said.

"There is a lot of animosity right now," Republican Sen. Greg Albritton of Range said Monday morning. "It's very tenuous right now. I don't know which way it is going to go."

Albritton said the House negotiated separately with the governor without the Senate.

Ivey has proposed appropriating the money into different categories, including up to $300 million to reimburse state agencies for coronavirus expenses; $250 million to local governments; $250 million for health care services; $300 million to support citizens, businesses and nonprofit and faith-based organizations; $300 million for technology and infrastructure related to remote learning; $200 million to the prison system and $10 million to the court system.

"Tension can be a good thing if you allow it to birth good ideas. ... My firm opinion remains that most members of the Legislature want to do the right thing while making certain this money helps the people of Alabama who have been harmed by this disease," Ivey said in a statement last week.

The governor and legislators had a rare public disagreement over the funds.

Lawmakers contended it was their constitutional responsibility to make budgeting decisions and that it was better to have the entire 140-member Legislature decide how to use the money. Ivey publicly disclosed that she had seen a "wish list" suggesting that $200 million could be used to build a new Statehouse — an idea that legislative leaders say is now off the table.

The chairman of the budget committee in the House of Representatives said he will recommend that lawmakers accept the governor's proposals.

"I think it looks pretty good," Republican Rep. Steve Clouse of Ozark said last week of Ivey's proposal. Clouse said it moves the money into different "buckets" for coronavirus-related expenditures.

As of Monday, more than 12,000 people in the state had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and about 480 people statewide had died.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak