MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – Alabama's DROP program was as good as dead before Governor Robert Bentley and his legal adviser determined it good policy to allow more applicants into the program.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R – Anniston) announced on the Senate floor that the governor had sent back an Executive Amendment which required concurrence from both the House and Senate in order for the DROP repeal to become law.
The amendment allowed for any applicant who had submitted their entry into the program and was already eligible, would be allowed into the DROP before Governor Bentley signed the repeal into law.
House and Senate members met in a conference committee Tuesday in efforts to allow more people into the program but after guidance from the Department of Finance not to do so, the bill was passed in the same form.
"The DROP program needed to go," said Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Hubbard. "But at the same time we wanted to be fair and make sure there's nobody caught in the middle that actually followed the rules and then we changed the laws on them after the fact."
Both the House and Senate concurred soon after the governor sent over his amendment.
In a statement, Bentley admitted there was a legal component to his decision to allow more people into the program before it was to be repealed.
"In consultation with the House and Senate leadership, I sent SB 72 back to the Legislature unsigned with an executive amendment attached to avoid protracted litigation expense and offer further clarification on the eligibility participation."
Democrats had threatened to file lawsuits challenging the legality of the DROP repeal. The governor's compromise settled well with Democratic leadership.
"It's still a terrible bill" Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford said. "It makes the bill less awful. . . It was the right thing to do."
Hubbard, the House Speaker made it clear that allowing more people into the program wasn't necessarily the best approach as far as budgeting for education is concerned.
"Fiscally it's not good for the state of Alabama but it is the right thing to do" Hubbard said.
Governor Bentley signed the repeal shortly after 5 P.M. according to the statement released by his communications office.