On holiday with Energy Star this session

The 2012 Regular Session of the Alabama State Legislature kicked off last week, and as predicted, Governor Robert Bentley set forth a gloomy view of the state’s budget situation during the State of the State address Tuesday.

As the cloud of a disastrous budget looms over the legislature, they went to work for three days, and are expected to go into session three days this week, consuming 20 percent of their constitutionally allotted meeting days in just 10 calendar days. Close to 600 bills have been introduced, and a handful of bills have already passed their house of origin and are on the fast track to being passed this week.

Some environmental bills of significance have been introduced. Most importantly is a bill Conservation Alabama has been pushing for several sessions – establishing a state sales tax holiday on Energy Star appliances. The holiday would coincide with the back-to-school sales tax holiday in early August, would put money back in Alabamians’ pockets, and reduce our energy consumption in the state. Rep. Greg Wren, co-chair of the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Energy Policy, is the lead sponsor along with about 10 other bipartisan co-sponsors, including Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. The Senate version is expected to be dropped this week.

On the negative side, a bill has been introduced to prohibit local and county governments from operating commercial recycling programs in areas already served by two private companies. Sponsored by more than a third of the House, HB274 is peculiar in its timing after several pieces of legislation related to recycling and solid waste passed in recent sessions. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Alabama Department of Public Health are studying the solid waste policies statewide following a two-year moratorium on new landfills that passed last year. In 2008, the legislature passed an increase in tipping fees designed to better fund ADEM’s solid waste program and provide a revolving loan fund for government-run recycling programs.

Next week, Conservation Alabama will publish the first Conservation Hot List of the session. You can read it each week at conservationalabama.org and track each conservation-related bill over the course of the entire legislative session.

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