AL legislative session over but special session could be on horizon

Updated: May. 22, 2017 at 3:59 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama lawmakers wrapped up the 2017 regular session Friday, but many expect to be back to Montgomery for a special session soon. Legislators were unable to pass a prison plan this year and many believe a pending court case will force them to come back to address the issue.

Currently, federal Judge Myron Thompson is deciding on a case dealing with the mental health care provided in Alabama's state-run prisons.

"At a minimum, I think the federal court has us back in special session," said Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. "On any of the issues we come back on, it won't be cheap, and it won't be free."

Ward has led the charge for prison reform and the building of new prisons over the last few years.

"It has always been my hope we would have been proactive instead of reactive to lawsuits, but the will is not there," Ward stated.

Many legislators said they expect the ruling to force lawmakers to come back in a special session.

"In the next few days or next few weeks, we should get some sort of court ruling to help us get an understanding of what the judge is going to expect," House speaker Mac McCutcheon said.

Lawmakers have debated the possibility of passing a new state prison plan to build new facilities since then-governor Robert Bentley introduced the plans last year. For those like Ward, they fear that by waiting to address this issue and having the court decide on what they must do for them, the end result could be much more expensive.

"We are kicking another can down the road, and one day very soon a judge is going to look at us and say there is a pile of cans over there that we have been kicking down the road and now we are going to own them and it's going to be very expensive," Ward said.

No date has been set for announcing Judge Thompson's ruling.

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