The 2023 Alabama Legislative Session starts on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. Education policy is going to be a huge priority, as always. The legislative process can be a bit complicated so we’ve broken down the “need-to-know” information for you.
Every four years, Alabama voters elect their state representatives and senators into the state legislature. Following that process, the newly-elected members of the legislature meet to elect their own leaders and organize into committees, a time known as the Organizational Session. No bills on any topic are filed or voted on during this time, which happened in January of this year following November 2022’s election.
Republicans retained their supermajority control of both the Alabama House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate, but that doesn’t mean that nothing has changed.
What To Know About the 2023 Alabama House of Representatives
The Alabama House of Representatives has a total of 105 members. There are 31 new state representatives in the House this quadrennium, or a period of four years. There are 24 committees in the house that are designated to address legislation in different topic areas – such as education policy and the education budget. Here are the important people and committees to know:
- The House elected a new Speaker, Nathaniel Ledbetter, following the retirement of Speaker Mac McCutcheon. The Speaker of the House has a number of responsibilities, including serving as a leader in the House and keeping order. Speaker Ledbetter was previously the Majority Leader.
- House Ways and Means Education, the 15-person committee responsible for the Education Trust Fund Budget, will be led by returning Chairman Danny Garrett. Four representatives are new to Ways and Means.
- House Education Policy, the 15-person committee responsible for all education legislation that does not involve funding, will be led by returning Chairwoman Terri Collins. Seven representatives on House Education Policy are new to the committee.
- The new Chairman of the Rules Committee, which is responsible for deciding which bills come to the floor to be voted on by the full House of Representatives, will be Chairman Joe Lovvorn.
- The Republican Party will be led by Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen and the Democratic Party will be led by Minority Leader Anthony Daniels.
- For a full list of committee assignments in the House, click here.
What To Know About the 2023 Alabama Senate
The Senate has a total of 35 members. There are 6 new members of the Alabama Senate this quadrennium. Just like in the house, there are specific committees for specific topics. Here are the important people and committees to know:
- The Lieutenant Governor, Will Ainsworth, is the president and presiding officer of the Senate by virtue of his office. The Senate President Pro Tempore, Sen. Greg Reed, is elected by his fellow Senators to lead the body.
- The Senate Committee responsible for the Education Trust Fund budget, Finance and Taxation Education, will be led by returning Chairman Arthur Orr. All members from last year’s committee are returning, and there are no new members on the committee.
- The Senate Committee responsible for education policy not involving funding, Senate Education Policy, will be led by Sen. Donnie Chesteen, who was previously vice chair of the committee. Out of the 10-member committee, 5 senators are new to Senate Education Policy.
- Sen. Jabo Waggoner will be returning to his position as Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which decides what bills come to the floor to be deliberated on by the full Senate.
- The Republican Party will be led by Majority Leader Clay Scofield and the Democratic Party will be led by Minority Leader Bobby Singleton.
- For a full list of committee assignments in the Senate, click here.
How Does Legislation Pass? Overview of the Legislative Process
After the 2022 election, there is significant turnover in the Legislature this year, especially in the House, among both the leadership and the general body. This has the potential to have a significant impact in how the 2023 Regular Session goes.
This year’s Regular Legislative Session will begin on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. Each body can only meet 30 legislative days within 105 calendar days during a Regular Session, not including committee days. While the Legislature will consider and pass numerous bills during the session, there are only two things the Legislature is constitutionally required to do: pass the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget and pass the General Fund Budget. The ETF budget contains every line item related to education in the state (plus a few others). The budget alternates which chamber it starts in each session, and this year, it will start in the Senate, in the Finance and Taxation Education Committee.
A Very Short Review of the Legislative Process:
- A legislator in either the House or the Senate files a bill, which is assigned a number (e.g. House Bill 10). Let’s assume the bill begins in the House of Representatives.
- A bill receives a “first reading” in the House and is assigned to a House committee.
- The chairperson of the House committee decides which bills to put on the committee meeting agenda for review. A public hearing on the bill can also be requested by legislators or members of the public. If the committee votes to give the bill a “favorable report,” it goes to the full House for its Second Reading (which means it is ready to be voted on by the full House).
- The bill gets its third reading if the full House deliberates and votes in favor of the bill.
- If the bill passes the House, it goes to the Senate to repeat the process.
- If the bill passes the Senate without any changes, it goes to the Governor. However, if the Senate amended the bill, it has to go back to the House for them to concur with the changes. If the House doesn’t agree, then it goes to a conference committee, made up of members from both chambers, for them to work out the differences. Both the House and the Senate have to accept the compromise for it to go to the Governor.
- Once there is a final version of the bill adopted by both the House and Senate, it goes to the Governor to be signed. If the governor signs the bill, it becomes law. However, if she vetoes it, it goes back to the Legislature, where it only takes a simple majority vote of both houses to override her veto. The Governor also has the opportunity to propose an executive amendment to make changes to the legislation, which the Legislature can either adopt or reject.
How is Legislation Prevented From Passing?
If that doesn’t seem complicated enough, there are a number of ways that a bill can be prevented from making it through the process (for example, approximately 1,000 bills were filed during last year’s regular session, but only around 300 became law). For example:
- A committee chair has full discretion over what bills make it to the committee agenda. If they choose not to place a bill on the agenda, it can never be voted on by the committee.
- The Rules committee is in charge of what bills make it to the House or Senate floor to be voted on by the full chamber. If they choose not to place a bill on the agenda, known as the Special Order Calendar, then it doesn’t get voted on either.
A+ will be keeping you up to date throughout the Session with everything you need to know regarding bills and budgets moving through the Legislature, so check back here or follow us on Twitter.