Eight Legislative Days Left for Parks Bill

Joe Wheeler

Joe Wheeler State Park

Senate Bill 260, which calls for a vote on a constitutional amendment to protect state parks’ funding, was not taken up by the House this week. With only eight legislative days left in the 2016 session, we will be watching closely as the legislature returns on Tuesday, April 19. The full House vote is the final legislative hurdle for SB 260, and once the bill is passed the constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in November.

It has been almost exactly one year since we began working to protect funding for Alabama’s state parks. Administrative funding transfers from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources had decimated parks’ budgets for five years, and in 2015 the transfers proposed by the legislature would have closed 15 of our 22 parks. When we shared that information with voters, the response was overwhelming. The very first action alert sent prompted more than 1,000 messages to Governor Bentley and our legislators in support of state parks.

From there, the campaign to save our parks continued through the 2015 regular legislative session and two special sessions called in an attempt to fix Alabama’s budget crisis. Support for our parks never wavered, and as a result the amount of administrative transfers required from DCNR was reduced so that only five of our parks had to close. While even one park closed is too many, keeping ten parks open that were slated to close was a victory for the parks themselves and the people who rely on them for their livelihoods.

Time and time again, Alabama’s voters have demanded in more than 10,000 messages that our state parks keep the funding they’ve rightfully earned. Our elected officials have heard that message loud and clear. During the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ budget hearing earlier this year, Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) referenced the messages he had received about parks. SB 260 sponsor Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) did the same when he spoke on behalf of SB 260 in the House Committee on Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections, saying he knew the committee had received “gobs and gobs” of messages. We are grateful to Sen. Scofield for his leadership on SB 260, and to all the legislators so far who have heard what you had to say and voted for the bill.

It is clear that when we work together for our natural resources, we can win. The next step is to make sure that your state representatives know: vote YES on SB 260!

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