Update on State Environmental Bills
There are six days left in the 2015 Legislative Session, and both the House and Senate have been focused on solving the state’s budget shortfall. While the budget crisis has not been resolved and state parks and other services remain on the chopping block, we have had some success in moving environmental bills through the legislature. Below is a recap on the progress of the bills Conservation Alabama has supported this session.
SB260 – Healthy Food Financing Act
This bill creates an incentive system of tax breaks and grants to encourage grocery stores to locate in rural and urban “food deserts” throughout the state. The Healthy Food Financing Act has been passed and forwarded to the governor’s office for his signature.
HB61 – Public Service Commission, regulation of pipelines for gas and hazardous liquids, penalties for violation of safety standards increased
This bill successfully passed out of the House this week, and is now being debated by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would increase penalties for responsible parties in the event of a pipeline break or spill, which is more relevant than ever after the recent oil pipeline break in California. Plains All American, the company responsible for the pipeline break in California, is the parent company of Plains Southcap, the company constructing and operating a pipeline in the watershed of Big Creek Lake, Mobile’s drinking water supply.
SB21/HB195 – Open Meetings Act
Currently in the House Committee on Ethics and Campaign Finance after a second reading, this bill closes gaps in the existing Open Meetings Act to help make government actions more transparent and accessible for the public. This bill specifies that serial meetings, in which members of government boards meet together in groups that are too small to be considered a quorum, are in fact illegal.
SB4/HB128 – Motor vehicles must maintain safe distance of at least three feet from bicycle
After passing in the senate with the additional restriction that cars must stay five feet from bikes, this bill is currently in the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.
HB214 – Taxation, tax credits for rehabilitation of qualified structures, credits extended until 2022
Now in the Senate Committee on Tourism and Marketing, this bill extends an existing tax credit for property owners who restore historic buildings. A public hearing on the bill was held on Wednesday, in which supporters noted that the tax credit makes available a pool of $20 million each year for qualified projects.
SB220 – Property Insurance and Energy Reduction Act of Alabama
Passed by the Senate this week and sent to the House Committee on County and Municipal Government, this bill provides a framework for local governments to offer tax incentives to property owners for making their properties more energy efficient and resilient to storms.