Prison bill passes as education budget hits speed bump - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Prison bill passes as education budget hits speed bump

(Source: WSFA 12 News file photo) (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Senate lawmakers had two major tasks before leaving on spring break: the education budget and the newest state prison bill.

Going into Thursday, the prison bill was seen as the more controversial of the two.

The plan would build three new men's prisons, requiring local authorities to be in charge of building two. The local groups would agree to a lease to own agreement with the state. After two prisons are built by local authorities the state could issue a $325 million dollar. $225 million dollars to build a state prison and $100 million to renovating existing facilities.

By letting local authorities carry out the bonds to build two of the three facilities, it keeps most of the prison price tag off the state books.

Under the bill, most medium to maximum security prisons would close. The consolidation of the prisons system is supposed to help pay for the bond issue and lease agreements for the new prisons.

Tutwiler prison for women would not be replaced under the new bill, but would see money for renovations.

The bill passed 23-11 and will now head to the house.

Education Budget

The education budget was surprisingly controversial Thursday.

However after passing out of committee on Wednesday, a group of lawmakers expressed serious concerns over having just a day to look at the more the $6 billion dollar budget. 

One lawmaker in particular, Senator Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, said he planned to bring 20 or 30 amendments to the bill.

Bussman expressed concerns over the short amount of time given to examine the budget, especially after identifying several earmarks to higher education projects he said should not have been carried over from last year.

Bussman said the earmarks were taking money away from a K-12 system which needed help, especially after poor test scores.

After a lengthy debate, lawmakers decided to carry over the bill until after they return from spring break in two weeks.

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