MONTGOMERY — Bills that would allow medical marijuana, ban certain medical treatments for transgender youth and expand gambling have yet to receive a vote in the House with three voting days left in the Alabama Legislature's 2021 session.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said the prospect of floor votes on the gambling and medical marijuana bills was “promising” in the House. He wasn’t as certain for the transgender medical bill, which bans treatments including puberty blockers and surgery.
“We’re working with Senate leadership so I can’t speak as firm on that one as we can the gaming or the medical marijuana, but it is being considered,” McCutcheon said. The Legislature has already passed and Gov. Kay Ivey has signed a bill requiring high school athletes to only compete in sports as their gender assigned at birth.
McCutcheon wasn’t sure about the vote outlook on the gambling legislation. The bill right now would allow for six casino locations, not including the three federal trust locations already operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. All state tax and licensing revenues would go toward education initiatives, rural health care and expanding access to high-speed broadband internet.
A House committee has changed some of the enforcement and gaming commission language from the Senate-passed bill. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said he has been pleased with the collaboration between the House and Senate on the issue and thinks it has helped persuade those who may have been against expanding gambling in the state altogether.
“On this topic, sometimes you can find that people are just instantly either all for it or all against it,” Reed said. “That’s not the case and I’ve seen a lot of effort by members of the Senate, and now I’m seeing much of that same effort from members of the House of Representatives that are working together to try and find ways to move the legislation forward.”
None of the three bills is on the proposed House agenda for today. That means bill proponents will have two days to get the proposals passed by the House and work out any differences with the Senate: Thursday and May 17.
After this week, there will be a break until May 17, the last possible day of the constitutionally set 105 calendar day session. The May 17 meeting date will give lawmakers a chance to override any vetoes by Ivey between now and then, McCutcheon said.
“It also gives us a chance to work with the governor, to see if the governor’s office might want to put an executive amendment on the bill. We can get prepared for that and when the bill comes back over to us we can address it,” McCutcheon said.
McCutcheon said he didn’t know of any bills that were at risk of being vetoed.
With such a small window of time, it is not just the vote count that matters but also the threat of a filibuster on the House floor, which could happen on any of the three bills.
Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, said he’s been promised a vote on the medical marijuana bill by House leadership. Reed also said while the House will likely garner most of the attention in the remaining weeks of the session, the Senate will still be working through remaining House bills.
Some Senate bills the House will be working on today include education retiree bonus checks, a ban on vaccine passports and a prohibition on using artificial intelligence to arrest people.