We’ve just finished the third week of the 2015 Legislative Session, and the focus in the state house has been on the governor’s revenue bills and charter schools. However, a handful of conservation bills have been introduced, and one has made it out of the Senate.
Senate Bill 4 was introduced by Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) to create a safe passing distance of three feet between automobiles and bicycles on the road to make roads safer for all users. During the debate on the bill, Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison County) requested an increase in the required passing distance to ten feet. After further discussion this week, the Senate agreed to a compromise that requires a distance of five feet between cars and bikes. The bill was passed by a 16-11 vote, and will now be debated by the Alabama House of Representatives.
In the House, Representative Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville) introduced HB61, a bill that would increase the penalties for violations of the safety standards for gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. The current penalty is $10,000 for each violation, and HB61 allows for a maximum penalty of $200,000 for each violation on each day that violation exists. It also increases the maximum civil penalty for any related series of violations from $500,000 to $2 million.
Also introduced was SB69 – the Hire Alabama First Bill. This bill will ensure that when disasters occur in Alabama, the first workers hired for clean up and/or restoration projects related to those disasters are Alabama residents. Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) introduced the bill, which was drafted as a result of efforts by the communities most impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster.
As the legislative session continues, we can expect further debate on these bills, and the introduction of more bills that could impact the people and places you love. We’ll continue to post our weekly blog to update you on what’s happening at the state house, and in the meantime you can use our Bill Tracker or follow us on Twitter @ConservationAL to keep up with the latest developments.
The 2015 Alabama State Legislative Session is now in its second week, and we want to make it easy for you to follow the progress of environmental bills and get involved in the legislative process.
First off, do you know your state legislator? Connecting with your representatives at the local, state, and federal level is a key step in making sure your voice is heard when you speak up for your community. Visit Conservation Alabama’s Legislative Directory to find your legislators, see which bills they’ve sponsored, and check out their voting records. Once you know who they are, here are some tips on how to effectively participate in the political process:
- Stay in regular, respectful contact with your representatives. Phone calls and personal letters are the best, but you can also use email and Twitter to talk with legislators.
- Ask questions about policy decisions that affect you and your community. Remember: elected officials work for us!
- Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper about the conservation issues that matter to you.
If you’re interested in the specifics of the environmental bills that the State Legislature is debating, there are several easy ways to find that information. You can subscribe to our weekly Hot List e-newsletter, which recaps the legislative session and details the progress of environmental bills. If you don’t need the weekly update, you can visit the Bill Tracker on Conservation Alabama’s website to check in on how environmental bills are progressing through the legislature.
As always, if you have questions about the legislative process or conservation legislation, please feel free to contact us. You can also follow us on Twitter @ConservationAL or on Facebook for the latest updates throughout the session.
While much of our work happens during the annual legislative session, Conservation Alabama is always keeping an eye on our state’s changing political landscape. This year’s regular session will begin March 3rd and end some time in June, but legislators met in Montgomery last week to hold an organizational session to elect leadership and determine rules for the next four years.
No major rule changes were made from the previous four years. We are watching one minor debate over the rule that allows the Senate President Pro Tem to send bills related to the environment to a second committee for review at his discretion. Several senators opposed the rule because there is no legal or legislative definition of “environment,” which they said meant that any bill could be deemed an environmental bill by the President Pro Tem. It is expected that this rule will be revisited once the legislative session begins, and we’ll keep you posted on any changes.
Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, who pleaded not guilty to 23 felony ethics charges, was re-elected Speaker of the House, 99-1. Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, nominated himself for Speaker and cast the lone dissenting vote against Hubbard. Elected to his second term as speaker pro tem was Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile. Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, remains House majority leader and Jeff Woodard was re-elected House Clerk. Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, will remain House minority leader.
The Senate unanimously re-elected Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, to another term as Senate president pro tem. Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, replaces Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, as majority leader. Waggoner did not seek a second term for the post, but will remain chairman of the powerful Rules and Confirmation committees. Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, is the new minority leader. Pat Harris was re-elected as secretary of the senate.
We’re looking forward to seeing what the 2015 legislative session will hold. If you want to receive weekly updates on the bills that are progressing through the legislature, sign up for Conservation Alabama’s Hot List. We’ll also post regular updates here on our blog to make sure you’re informed about how the legislature is voting and the work Conservation Alabama is doing to protect the people and places you love.
For now, here’s a full list of the new legislative committees’ leaders:
Committee Chairmanships in the House
Rules: Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Madison
Ways & Means-Education: Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa
Ways & Means-General Fund: Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark
Judiciary: Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia
Agriculture & Forestry: Rep. David Sessions, R-Bayou La Batre
Boards, Agencies & Commissions: Rep. Howard Sanderford, R- Huntsville
County & Municipal Government: Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores
Constitution, Campaign & Elections: Rep. Randy Davis, R- Daphne
Children & Senior Advocacy: Rep. K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville
Commerce & Small Business: Rep. Jack D. Williams, R-Vestavia Hills
Economic Development & Tourism: Rep. Alan Harper, R- Northport
Education Policy: Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur
Ethics & Campaign Finance: Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison
Financial Services: Rep. Lesley Vance, R-Phenix City
Health: Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield
Internal Affairs: Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy
Insurance: Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana
Local Legislation: Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton
Military & Veterans Affairs: Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise
Public Safety & Homeland Security: Rep. Randy Wood, R- Oxford
State Government: Rep. Mark Tuggle, R-Alexander City
Technology & Research: Rep. Phil Williams, R-Huntsville
Transportation, Utilities & Infrastructure: Rep. Lynn Greer, R- Rogersville
Committee Chairmanships in the Senate
Rules: Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills
Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry: Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn
Banking & Insurance: Sen. Slade Blackwell, R-Mountain Brook
Confirmations: Sen. Clay Scofield, R- Arab
Constitution, Campaign & Elections: Sen. Bill Hightower, R-Mobile
County & Municipal Government: Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville
Education & Youth Affairs: Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery
Finance & Taxation-Education: Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose
Finance & Taxation-General Fund: Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur
Fiscal Responsibility & Economic Development: Sen. Phil Williams, R- Rainbow City
Health: Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville
Judiciary: Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster
Governmental Affairs: Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba
Transportation & Energy: Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa
Tourism: Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston
Veteran & Military Affairs: Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison