Busy Week on Goat Hill
This week, the state legislature juggled prison reform, historic monuments, judicial override, health insurance, the potential impeachment of Governor Bentley, and the General Fund budget during their two legislative days and one day of committee meetings. Several of the bills we’re following also came up for debate.
SB 255 – Agricultural Irrigation: A public hearing was held on Wednesday to discuss the bill that would allow agricultural landowners to access the Tennessee, Tombigbee, and Alabama Rivers for irrigation purposes even if their land is not connected to those rivers. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry heard comments from a farmer, a scientist from the University of Alabama-Huntsville, and Mitch Reid of the Alabama Rivers Alliance. Reid noted that expanding access to irrigation will impact downstream watersheds, and suggested the bill be amended to include protections for stream flow to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and Mobile Bay. There was no committee vote on this bill.
SB 262 – Historic Tax Credit: Sen. Jabo Waggoner’s (R-Vestavia Hills) bill to renew the tax credit for the preservation, renovation, or development of historic properties was also in committee this week. A substitute bill was offered to specify that qualifying properties must be at least 75 years old. The original bill only required that the property be listed or eligible for listing by the National Register of Historic Places. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee passed the substitute bill by a vote of 12 to 1.
HB 328 – Solid Waste Siting: The House Committee on County and Municipal Government discussed a bill to change the process for approving a site for a solid waste landfill. Previously this responsibility was given to Regional Planning Commissions, but the commissions have not always had the funding or the staff expertise to properly evaluate sites. This bill gives the authority for approval or denial of landfills to circuit courts, and also requires more public notification for the communities where landfills have been proposed. The committee did not vote on the bill.