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September 20, 2014

Alabama governor considering special legislative session

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Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 5:19 pm | Updated: 5:22 pm, Wed Jul 23, 2014.

Gov. Robert Bentley might call a special session of the Alabama Legislature to discuss incentives to bring industries into the state, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

"Calling a special session on economic development is one of many options that may be necessary to help Alabama continue to compete with other states to bring jobs to the state," wrote Yasamie August, Bentley's spokeswoman, in an email.  "The governor will work with the Legislative leadership before calling a special session.”

August said the announcement is not a result of Bentley's recent visit to the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom. In recent years, Alabama officials have made regular visits to international airshows to recruit aircraft manufacturers.

Still, Bentley's office has yet to say what sort of incentives would be offered, the financial source of those incentives and which companies they'd be designed to attract.

By law, the Alabama Legislature meets for 30 calendar days each year. The governor has the power to call lawmakers back for additional days of deliberation. Those special sessions are usually held to tackle emergency items such as a budget shortfall.

The 2014 session ended abruptly on April 1, when Legislative leaders adjourned early on the 30th day to head off any chance Bentley would send the state's education budget back for changes. Bentley wanted a 2 percent pay raise for teachers in that budget; House and Senate leaders had sent Bentley a budget without a raise.

At the time, Bentley hinted that he might call legislators back to reconsider a raise. Earlier this summer, citing flat revenues, he told al.com that a special session seemed less likely.

Attempts to reach Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, were not immediately successful Wednesday.

The Democratic leader in the House panned the idea of meeting to offer economic incentives. Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said any incentives would likely come from the Education Trust Fund budget, the richer of the state's two budgets. The Education Trust Fund pays for schools, while the General Fund pays for all other state agencies, including Medicaid and the state prison system, where costs have swelled in recent years.

"We're just raiding the Education Trust Fund to give out-of-state companies a tax break, when we should be funding our schools," Ford said.

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