After the dramatic death of anti-Forever Wild House Bill 362 last week, we were hoping to finish out the 2018 legislative session without any further threats to Alabama’s public lands. On Tuesday night, Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), introduced Senate Bill 370, which would limit Forever Wild’s ability to acquire land in rural counties.
We got ready to once again go to bat for Forever Wild, but luckily the Senate Committee on County and Municipal Government voted the bill down during their Wednesday meeting. Several committee members spoke out against the bill, saying that it infringed on property owners’ rights by limiting who could purchase their lands.
SB 370 was another attempt to assist rural counties that are looking for ways to increase their property tax revenue. We don’t believe that a legislative “fix” is necessary to address these county-level concerns, particularly when the proposed changes negatively impact a conservation program that voters overwhelmingly chose to renew for another 20 years in 2012.
We’ll continue to watch for any new threats to Forever Wild and Alabama’s public lands as the session winds down. You can subscribe to our Hot List to get weekly updates on the bills we’re following, and check back here each week for a short recap of the legislature’s work.
On Tuesday, HB 362, the anti-Forever Wild bill, was defeated in the House. We all breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that the attempts to tax Alabama’s public lands were done once and for all this session. Unfortunately, like something right out of a horror movie, the bill very briefly came back to life on Thursday night.
Conservation Alabama learned of a plan by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mark Tuggle (R-Alexander City) to bring HB 362 back from the dead Thursday. Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) filed a motion in writing within the first hour of the House convening requesting HB362 be reconsidered despite the bill having been defeated on Tuesday. This is an uncommon occurrence, but one that is allowed by House rules. Thursday evening the bill was brought up before the full House for reconsideration. Rep. Tuggle, who had been working members all day, offered an amendment to the bill in an attempt to appease some House members who voted “no” on Tuesday. A bill like HB 362 that calls for a constitutional amendment requires three-fifths of the vote to pass, and despite his best efforts Rep. Tuggle could not muster the 62 votes he needed. HB 362 was defeated again Thursday night by a margin of 49-12, putting the last nail in its coffin for this legislative session.
The attempted resurrection of HB 362 is a perfect example of the importance of Conservation Alabama’s work at the State House. During session, things can happen quickly, and without a careful eye on the legislative process our natural resources are at risk.
We want to give a special thanks to Rep. Randy Davis (R-Daphne), who went to the podium during Tuesday’s debate on HB 362 and eloquently explained the Forever Wild Land Trust and the threat this bill posed to the program. Rep. Davis was also a sponsor of the legislation to renew Forever Wild in 2012, and we are grateful for his leadership when it comes to protecting Alabama’s public lands.
As always, we’ll be watching the legislature for the rest of the session to make sure your conservation values are protected. For now we’re celebrating – and we hope you are too.