Alabama State Legislature

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Alabama State Legislature

Seal of Alabama.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   March 3, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Kay Ivey (R)
House Speaker:  Mike Hubbard (R)
Majority Leader:   J.T. Waggoner (R) (Senate),
Micky Hammon (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Vivian Figures (D) (Senate),
Craig Ford (D) (House)
Members:  35 (Senate), 105 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 4 years (House)
Authority:   Art IV, Alabama Constitution
Salary:   $10/day + $4,308/month
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
35 seats (Senate)
105 seats (House)
Next election:  November 6, 2018
35 seats (Senate)
105 seats (House)
Redistricting:  Alabama Legislature has control
Meeting place:
The Alabama State Legislature is the state legislature of Alabama. It is a bicameral body composed of the Alabama House of Representatives, with 105 members, and the Alabama State Senate, with 35 members. In the 2010 elections, Republicans gained control of both chambers for the first time since 1874.

The Legislature meets in the Alabama State House (officially designated as such by Amendment 427 to the Alabama Constitution) in Montgomery. The original capitol building located nearby has not been used by the Legislature since 1985, when it closed for renovations. It now serves as a museum.

As of May 2015, Alabama is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.

See also: Alabama House of Representatives, Alabama State Senate, Alabama Governor


Section 48 of Article IV of the Alabama Constitution initially set the rules for the timing and length of the Legislature's sessions. However, these rules have been changed by state statute.

The Alabama Legislature convenes in regular annual sessions on the first Tuesday in February, except during the first year of the four-year term, when the session begins on the first Tuesday in March. In the last year of a four-year term, the legislative session begins on the second Tuesday in January. The length of the regular session is limited to 30 meeting days within a period of 105 calendar days. There are usually two meeting or "legislative" days per week, with other days devoted to committee meetings.

The Governor of Alabama can call, by proclamation, special sessions of the Alabama legislature. The governor must list the subjects on which legislation will be debated upon. These sessions are limited to 12 legislative days within a 30 calendar day span. In a regular session, bills may be enacted on any subject. In a special session, legislation must be enacted only on those subjects which the governor announces on their proclamation or "call." Anything not in the "call" requires a two-thirds vote of each house to be enacted.[1]

Bills can be prefiled before sessions, starting at the end of the previous session and ending at the beginning of the session for which they are being filed. The exception to this is for sessions beginning in March every 4 years.[2]

The Alabama Legislature has a constitutional session length limit of 105 calendar days.

See also: Alabama House of Representatives, Alabama State Senate, Alabama Governor


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature is in session from March 3 through June 15.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2015 legislative session include a $265 million deficit in the state's General Fund. If left unchecked, this deficit is expected to reach nearly $700 million in a few years' time. This fund provides money for the judicial branch, prisons, Medicaid and state troopers.[3]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 14 through April 4.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session included creating a new budget, a pay raise for teachers, Common Core and banning legislators from serving as lobbyists immediately following their departure.[4]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from February 5 through May 20.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2013 legislative session included the general fund, maintaining Medicaid, raises for teachers, giving schools more flexibility over state policies, and gun laws.[5] Heading into the session, the general fund was estimated to be $200 million short of requests.


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in regular session from February 7 through May 16. It held a special session from May 17 through May 24 to address redistricting.[6]


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature was in session from March 1 through June 9.[7]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature was in session from January 12 through April 12.

Gubernatorial vetoes

Unlike other state legislatures, where gubernatorial vetos require a two-thirds or even a three-fifths majority vote to be overridden, the Alabama legislature has the power to override a veto with a simple majority vote in both houses. The legislature also has the constitutional power to override line item vetos by a simple majority. This has led to contention in recent years between the governor's Office and the legislature.

Role in state budget

See also: Alabama state budget
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The state operates on an annual budget cycle. Alabama's fiscal year runs from October 1 and ends September 30 of the following year. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[8][9]

  1. In September of the year preceding the start of the new fiscal year, budget instructions are sent to state agencies.
  2. In November, agencies submit their budget requests to the governor.
  3. Budget hearings are held with state agencies in January.
  4. By the second legislative day of each regular session of the legislature, the governor must submit his or her proposed budget to the state legislature. These dates vary from session to session, occurring as early as January and as late as March.
  5. The legislature must pass a budget with a simple majority. The fiscal year begins in October.

The governor is required to submit a balanced budget to the legislature. In turn, the legislature must pass a balanced budget.[9]

Alabama is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[9][10][9]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Alabama was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[11]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[12] According to the report, Alabama received a grade of D and a numerical score of 55, indicating that Alabama was "lagging" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[12]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Alabama was given a grade of F in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[13]



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Alabama legislature are paid $10/day plus $4,308/month plus $50/day for three days during each week that the legislature actually meets during any session.[14]


Alabama does not provide pensions for legislators.[15]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Alabama's state legislators assume office on midnight of the day that they are elected.


State Senate

The Alabama State Senate is the upper house of the Alabama Legislature, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Alabama. The body is composed of 35 members representing an equal amount of districts across the state. Each member represents an average of 136,564 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[16] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 127,060.[17] The Senate serves both without term limits and with a four-year term.

Like other upper houses of state and territorial legislatures and the U.S. Senate, the Senate can confirm or reject gubernatorial appointments to the state cabinet, commissions and boards.


The lieutenant governor of Alabama serves as the president of the senate, but only casts a vote if required to break a tie. In his or her absence, the president pro tempore presides over the Senate. The president pro tempore is elected by the majority party caucus followed by confirmation of the entire Senate through a Senate Resolution. The president pro tempore is the chief leadership position in the Senate. The other Senate majority and minority leaders are elected by their respective party caucuses.

Partisan composition

See also: Partisan composition of state senates
Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 8
     Republican Party 26
     Independent 1
Total 35

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Alabama State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Alabama State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The Alabama House of Representatives is the lower house of the Alabama Legislature. The House is composed of 105 members representing an equal amount of districts. Each member represents an average of 45,521 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[16] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 42,353.[17] There are no term limits in the House. The House is also one of the five lower houses of state legislatures in the United States that is elected every four years. Virtually all other lower houses, including the U.S. House of Representatives, are elected for a two-year term.


The Speaker of the House presides over the House of Representatives. The Speaker is elected by the majority party caucus followed by confirmation of the full House through the passage of a House Resolution. In addition to presiding over the body, the Speaker is also the chief leadership position, and controls the flow of legislation and committee assignments. Other House leaders, such as the majority and minority leaders, are elected by their respective party caucuses relative to their party's strength in the chamber.

Partisan composition

See also: Partisan composition of state houses
Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 33
     Republican Party 72
Total 105

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Alabama State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Alabama State House.PNG

Joint Legislative Committees

See also: Public policy in Alabama

The Alabama State Legislature has a category of committees that it defines as "Joint Interim Legislative Committees." Of these, some are identified as "permanent." The list below is a list of the interim committees that are defined as permanent:

Role in Alabama Constitution

See also: Amending state constitutions

Alabama has had a total of six different state constitutions, coming in 1819, 1861, 1865, 1868, 1875, and 1901. The current constitution is the longest written constitution in the United States.

The Alabama legislature under the constitution (Article XVIII, Alabama Constitution), can act to begin two different processes of amending the state's constitution:

  • If both houses of the Alabama State Legislature by a three-fifths (60%) vote agree, then a proposed constitutional amendment shall go on a statewide election ballot. If that amendment is approved by a simple majority of those voting in that election, it becomes part of the constitution.
  • Amendments can initiate in either the Alabama State Senate or the Alabama House of Representatives.
  • Amendments can be voted on either at the next general election, or at a special election date determined by the state legislature. Any such special elections must take place "not less than" three months after the final adjournment of the session of the legislature during which the amendment(s) was proposed.
  • Notice of the fact that an election on a proposed amendment is going to take place must be published in each county of the state for at least eight successive weeks prior to the election.
  • If both chambers of the state legislature agree by a simple majority vote, then a ballot question about whether to have a statewide constitutional convention can be placed on the ballot; if that question is approved by a majority of those voting in that election, then a constitutional convention will be called.


Creation and Civil War

The Alabama Legislature was created in 1818 as a territorial legislature for the Alabama Territory. Following the federal Alabama Enabling Act of 1819 and the successful passage of the first Alabama Constitution in the same year, the Alabama General Assembly became a fully-fledged state legislature upon its accession to statehood.

The General Assembly was one of the 11 state legislatures of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Following the state's secession from the Union in January 1861, delegates from across the South met at the state capital of Montgomery to create the Confederate government. Between February and May 1861, Montgomery served as the Confederacy's capital, where Alabama state officials let members of the new Southern federal government make use of its offices. The Provisional Confederate Congress met for three months inside the General Assembly's chambers at the Alabama State Capitol, while Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the Confederacy's first (and only) president on the steps of the capitol.

However, following complaints from Southern bureaucrats over Montgomery's uncomfortable conditions and Virginia's entry into the Confederacy, the Confederate government moved to Richmond in May 1861.


Following the Confederacy's defeat in 1865, the state government underwent a transformation. Upon the state's re-admission into the United States in 1868, Radical Republicans, including white Northerners known as "carpetbaggers," "scalawag" Southern Republicans, and "freedmen" African-Americans dominated both the state governorship and General Assembly. For the first time, blacks could vote and were elected to the legislature, a feat that would not be repeated for another 100 years. The resulting 1868 Constitution reflected the radicals period in the state government.

Yet as in other states during Reconstruction, former Confederate and reactionary conservative forces from the Democratic Party gradually overturned the radicals. By the 1874 state general elections, the General Assembly was once again a body dominated by Bourbon Democrats. Both the resulting 1875 and 1901 Constitutions disenfranchised blacks and dismembered the Radical Republicans, creating and enforcing Jim Crow laws. It was also in the 1901 Constitution that the General Assembly changed its name to the Alabama Legislature.

The Civil Rights era

The American Civil Rights Movement began only miles away from the Alabama Legislature's chambers with Rosa Parks' refusal to change seats on a Montgomery bus in December 1955. The subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott and the rise of both Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. to national and international prominence began a decade and a half of tumultuous political and social changes.

Throughout the late 1950s and into the 1960s, the Alabama Legislature and a series of succeeding segregationist governors massively resisted Civil Rights protestors. During this period, the Legislature created the Alabama State Sovereignty Commission. Mirroring Mississippi's own similarly named authority, the commission acted as a state intelligence agency to spy on Alabama citizens suspected of sympathizing with the Civil Rights movement.

However by the 1970s, with federal legislation enforcing bans on poll taxes, literacy tests and other blatant bureaucratic tools of discrimination, African-Americans entered the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.

In May 2007, the Alabama Legislature officially apologized for slavery, making it the fourth Deep South state to do so.

Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
Partisan breakdown of the Alabama legislature from 1992-2013
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Alabama

Alabama Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Alabama State Senate for 19 years while the Republicans were the majority for three years. The Alabama State Senate is 1 of 16 state senates that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. However, starting with the Alabama State Senate elections in 2010, both legislative chambers took a turn toward the Republican side. Since Alabamans have elected Republican governors since November 2002, the state has had a Republican trifecta as of the November 2010 elections.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Alabama House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Alabama State House of Representatives for 19 years while the Republicans were the majority for three years. The Alabama State House is one of 18 state Houses that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. Since Alabamans have elected Republican governors since November 2002, the state as of the November 2010 and 2012 elections has had a Republican trifecta.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Alabama, the Alabama State Senate and the Alabama House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Alabama state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Alabama state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Between the years 1993-1994 and 1999-2002, Alabama had Democratic trifectas, and since 2011, Alabama has had a Republican trifecta. In every remaining year between 1992 and 2012, Alabama had a Republican governor with a Democratic legislature. In every year of the study, Alabama ranked in the bottom-10 on the SQLI ranking. Its lowest ranking occurred during the Democratic trifectas of 1999 and 2000 (46th), while the state’s highest ranking occurred during the divided government years of 2005 and 2006 (41st).

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 44.33
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 43.50
  • SQLI average with divided government: 42.83
Chart displaying the partisanship of Alabama government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

See also

External links


  1. Alabama State Legislature, "Visitor's Guide to the Alabama Legislature," accessed May 15, 2014(Archived)
  2. Alabama State Legislature, "The Rules of the Senate of Alabama," accessed May 15, 2014
  3., "What big issues will the Alabama Legislature solve in 2015? Let us know in the poll and comments," December 31, 2014
  4., "Seven issues to watch in the 2014 legislative session," January 12, 2014
  5., "Alabama Legislature 2013: 10 hot issues to watch in the upcoming session," February 2, 2013
  6., "Alabama Legislature passes redistricting plans," accessed April 21, 2015
  7., "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed April 21, 2015
  8. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  10. NCSL, "Gubernatorial Veto Authority with Respect to Major Budget Bill(s)," accessed March 2, 2014
  11. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  12. 12.0 12.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  13. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  14., "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  15. USA Today, "State-by-state: Benefits available to state legislators," September 23, 2011
  16. 16.0 16.1 U.S. Census Bureau, "Population in 2010 of the American states," accessed January 6, 2014
  17. 17.0 17.1 U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001