The prospect of a special session of the Alabama Legislature to discuss economic development and COVID-19 protections has a number of local lawmakers from both sides of the aisle scratching their heads.
In a meeting with the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday, Oct. 15, Gov. Kay Ivey told the virtual crowd she was considering calling a special session before the Legislature reconvenes in February.
The topics to be discussed during the special session would range from economic development issues to COVID-19 liability protections for businesses in the state.
Local legislators questioned the need for the special session when reached for comment by Lagniappe.
State Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, called a special session “a waste of time.” He argued the Senate had passed bills related to both issues Ivey brought up before the last session ended and the House wouldn’t move on them.
“There’s more to it than I think we know,” he said. “What’s the urgency? We’ll be able to do those in quick order in February.”
Albritton also questioned the timing, especially with big holidays coming up.
“When are we going to have it, Thanksgiving?” he asked. “Then after Thanksgiving, it’s Christmas and then the New Year.”
Albritton said he was more interested in Ivey’s prison plan, which he looked at with a skeptical eye.
“The real question has to do with the prison construction plan out there,” Albritton said. “We know what they tell us about it, but there are still a lot of questions. I question whether [Ivey] should call us into session before it’s finalized.”
Sen. David Sessions, R-Mobile, said he doesn’t “see the need” for a special session unless there are loose ends related to the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money. He also called the decision “above my paygrade.”
“It’s the governor’s call,” he said. “If we’re called back, I’ll be there, but I’d like to have a vaccine in place before we come back.”
Health and safety concerns were the top issues Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, had with the prospect of a special session being called in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The size of the building and the members’ ability to practice safe social distancing were concerns for Pringle.
“We cannot socially distance in that building,” he said. “Some members’ offices have to stay open because of mold and the hallways are too narrow. I don’t think we’re going to be able to hold a session, period.”
If lawmakers have to sit in the balcony to safely vote and the public isn’t allowed in the building, Pringle said, it “flies in the face of representative government.”
Rep. Sam Jones, D-Mobile, said there could be a high degree of risk involved in meeting for a special session during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like Pringle, Jones said he had concerns about the capitol building’s size.
“I don’t doubt there might be a need for a special session,” he said. “I’m concerned over what it would involve.”
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