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Gas tax, prisons among Alabama issues to watch in 2019

January 14, 2019

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey took the oath of office Monday after winning a full-term in office. Here are four state government issues to watch in 2019:

GAS TAX

In her inaugural speech, Ivey called for more investment in state roads, bridges and ports. Although she did not offer any specifics, a proposed gasoline tax increase is expected to come before state lawmakers in the session that begins March 5. The state gas tax has not been increased since 1992. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said last week that the governor wants “a reasonable increase in a fuel tax.” Legislators rejected a proposed gas tax two years ago.

PRISON CONSTRUCTION

Ivey said in her speech that the state was “replacing costly, at-risk prison facilities” and she would announce a new initiative in the coming days. The Alabama Department of Corrections has entered into a contract for potential design work. Alabama lawmakers previously rejected a prison construction plan, partly because of concern about the local economic impact of closing existing facilities. State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said Ivey has additional options available to her, such as leasing facilities.

EDUCATION

State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, said she has been working with Ivey’s office on an initiative to improve the reading ability of students in kindergarten through third grades. “I see it as an enhanced version of the reading initiative,” Collins said. The governor made children’s literacy a theme of her pre-inauguration activities, including hosting book drives.

LOTTERY

Ivey has been neutral on the subject, but Alabama lawmakers could again debate starting a state lottery in the 2019 session. Alabama is one of five states without a state lottery. Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said he plans to introduce lottery legislation in the coming session but hasn’t finalized a proposal. Alabama voters would have to approve the idea in a statewide vote.

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