At the State House this Week
As the Policy Director for Conservation Alabama, Jeff Martin learns about State House issues firsthand. Check back here at the end of each week for his commentary on what’ s going on in Montgomery.
This week, the Senate committee on Finance and Taxation Education held a public hearing on SB388, which provides for a sales tax holiday for ENERGY STAR products. The committee listened to comments, but did not vote on the bill. It appeared to have the support of the majority attending the meeting; however, the committee chairman, Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) made comments against the legislation. We hope Sen. Sanders will allow the bill to be voted on at the next meeting.
Senate Bill 279 sponsored by Sen. Lowell Barron (D-Fyffe) made its way to the Senate floor on Tuesday. The bill would take $1 billion from the Alabama Trust Fund over the next 10 years to fund road and bridge construction. Conservation Alabama is opposed to the legislation because it raids money that the Forever Wild program receives and provides no money for mass transit.
The legislation failed 19-11. The legislation requires 21 affirmative votes because it is a constitutional amendment. The vote fell primarily along party lines with the exception of two Republicans, Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba) and Sen. Harri Anne Smith (R-Slocomb) who voted in favor of the bill with 17 Democrats. Two Democrats, Sen. Phil Poole (D-Moundsville) and Sen. Myron Penn (D-Union Springs) were not in the Senate chamber during the vote, had they been the bill would have probably passed. Sen. Barron has publicly said he will reintroduce the bill and try again.
Senate Bill 72 by Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne) received a favorable report from the Senate Governmental Affairs committee on Wednesday. The legislation is being pushed by Barbara Evans of WildLaw, and Conservation Alabama is in support of the bill. Under existing law, if a local governing body fails to act on a proposal related to its local solid waste disposal management plan within 90 days of receiving the application, the proposal is considered approved. This legislation would require local approval or the application would be deemed denied.
The Senate and House have been passing non-controversial legislation for weeks now, but we expect that harmony to come to an end soon. With the introduction of gaming legislation this week and other hot button topics like ethics reform, we expect the Senate to grind to a halt as Senators retire to their corners and dig their heels in the sand.