As you likely learned earlier this week, an error in the Secretary of State’s office caused Amendment 2, the state parks amendment, to be published on the ballot incorrectly. Conservation Alabama has been working to understand the state’s solution to this problem since we first notified the Secretary of State’s office of the error on Monday morning, and we appreciate their openness with us.
Yesterday we learned from the Secretary of State’s office that the state will not be reissuing ballots to those absentee voters who have already received ballots with the incorrect language for Amendment 2. Here’s a updated guide to what voters should do:
If you received an incorrect absentee ballot and have already completed and submitted it: Your vote on Amendment 2 will be counted. No further action is necessary.
If you received an incorrect absentee ballot but have not yet completed and submitted it: Your vote on Amendment 2 will be counted – go ahead and cast your vote and submit the ballot.
If you have requested an absentee ballot but have not yet received it: The Secretary of State’s office is in the process of printing new ballots that have the correct, full text of Amendment 2. When you receive your ballot, it may be correct. Your vote will count regardless of the text printed.
If you will vote in person on Election Day: The ballot will be corrected and you will be able to cast your vote for the full text of Amendment 2.
We want to thank Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) for his work to make sure the ballot issue is resolved so that on November 8 voters can have full confidence that they are truly voting to protect our state parks. Sen. Scofield’s commitment to our parks has kept this legislation moving forward.
If you have any further questions about this issue, please feel free to contact us.
On Thursday, September 15, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Geological Survey of Alabama held a public meeting to “demystify” the various sources of restoration funding coming to Alabama as a result of the BP oil disaster.
A total of $1.38 billion is guaranteed for Alabama through four different “buckets” of funding. (This does not include the $1 billion in economic settlement funds the legislature recently allocated.) The following is a breakdown of the funding streams and the portion Alabama will receive.
Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) = $296 million
While we can compete for additional funding through NRDA, Alabama is guaranteed a total of $296 million. NRDA fines are levied through the Oil Pollution Act and are meant to address damages to natural resources, including the public’s loss of use during the injury.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) = $356 million
NFWF funding comes from the Clean Water Act criminal penalties levied against BP and Transocean. This funding comes in faster than other funding sources; the final payment of NFWF funds will be deposited into the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund in 2018. NFWF money funds projects that benefit natural resources harmed by the oil disaster.
RESTORE Act funding = $725 million for Alabama
Through the RESTORE Act, 80% of the penalties paid by responsible parties must come to the Gulf states for restoration. There are two sources of funds through the RESTORE Act, one of which is determined by the Federal Council, and the other through the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council, or state council. The funding guaranteed to Alabama comes through the state council and can fund projects that restore our economy and ecosystem. Additional funding for Alabama can be sought through the federal council’s funding process.
To sign up for coastal restoration email updates from the state of Alabama, visit AlabamaCoastalRestoration.org. Conservation Alabama will continue to update our members on opportunities for public comments and public meetings and as funding decisions are made.
Upcoming Public Meetings
The Alabama State House and Senate adjourned sine die Wednesday evening, bringing a contentious special session to a close. Gov. Bentley called for the session in late July, saying legislators needed to return to Montgomery in August to discuss a potential lottery and find a solution to the state’s $85 million Medicaid shortfall.
The lottery was the legislature’s primary focus in the beginning of the special session; any bill calling for a lottery would have gone before the voters as a constitutional amendment. The deadline for constitutional amendments to be added to the ballot was just one of many disagreements that arose between legislators and state officials during this debate. After arguments over how potential earnings from a lottery would be spent and what constituted gaming, the lottery bill ultimately died as a result of concerns in the Senate that it would negatively impact dog tracks.
With the lottery off the table as a potential revenue stream for Medicaid and the General Fund, legislators turned to the settlement paid to the state as a result of the 2010 BP oil spill. This portion of the settlement is meant to deal with the economic damage that occurred in the wake of the disaster; earlier payments were delineated for environmental restoration. At various points during debate it seemed that the legislature would adjourn without a solution, but on Wednesday a compromise was passed that provides a total of $120 million for Medicaid in 2017 and 2018, repays $400 million of the state’s debt, and allocates $120 million to the two coastal counties for road projects.
The legislature will return for the 2017 legislative session on February 7.