What a difference a week makes

AL Capitol DomeMonday the House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings in an attempt to oust Governor Robert Bentley.  Because of the impeachment process, the legislature had been preparing for a major disruption of the legislative session with anticipation of at least one special session. Late Monday afternoon that disruption was removed when Bentley agreed to plead to two misdemeanors, relinquish his security detail, forfeit the remainder of his campaign account and promise to never run for public office again. Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey was sworn in as the 54th Governor of Alabama late Monday afternoon.

With fewer distractions the legislature can now focus its remaining time on the budgets, reapportionment, prisons, Medicaid and other legislative matters. When the legislature convened for the start of the second half of the legislative session it was back to business as usual, including the introduction of bills that once again threaten the future of Forever Wild.

House Bill 502 by Rep. Mark Tuggle (R-Alexander City) was introduced this week. Under existing law, property that has been acquired by the Forever Wild Land Trust is not subject to ad valorem taxation, as is the case with any land owned by the state. HB 502 proposes a constitutional amendment that would require Forever Wild to annually reimburse the amount to each county of any ad valorem tax revenue lost as a result of property previously subject to such that is acquired by Forever Wild.

The constitutional amendment has been assigned to the House Committee on State Government.

Rep. Ron Johnson (R-Sylacauga) introduced HB 490, a similar constitutional amendment with only local application for Coosa County.  This bill calls for lost ad valorem taxes paid directly from the Alabama Trust Fund. It has been approved by the local delegation and awaits a vote by the full House.

The Forever Wild Coosa Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Cahaba and Columbiana Tract consists of 9,746 acres of mountain longleaf pine and hardwood habitat within the Weogufka and Hatchet Creek watersheds in Coosa County. This acreage contributes to the 32,624 total acres within the Coosa Wildlife Management Area WMA, one of Alabama’s oldest established public hunting areas. The Forever Wild Land Trust section of the Coosa WMA provides recreational opportunities including hunting, fishing, canoeing, hiking and camping.

Conservation Alabama sees these bills as a threat to the purchase of additional lands through Forever Wild, as it creates a financial burden for the program.  These bills also unfairly target Forever Wild, though all state-owned lands are exempt from payment of ad valorem taxes.

To sign up for our weekly Hot List to stay up to date on the progress of these bills and others we are tracking, or to sign up for future action alerts, visit http://www.conservationalabama.org/hot-list/.

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