During the special legislative session that resumed in earnest on Tuesday, Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Arab) introduced Senate Bill 38, which would effectively end the Forever Wild Land Trust program by transferring its budget to the state parks system and prohibiting Forever Wild from acquiring any more land. Forever Wild is one of the most popular conservation programs in the state’s history, and was renewed for another 20 years in 2012 by an overwhelming majority of voters.
Conservation Alabama deployed an Action Alert to make it easy for conservation voters to communicate with their state senators about their opposition to SB 38. Over 200 messages were sent, but the bill passed the State Senate by an astonishing vote of 32-1. Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) was the only senator who took a stand for Forever Wild and voted no.
When we saw how quickly the bill passed the Senate, we updated our Action Alert to target the House Ways & Means Committee as well as general House members. Thanks to great partners like Alabama Rivers Alliance and Black Warrior Riverkeeper who shared the alert, over 400 messages were sent to state representatives to tell them that Forever Wild must be protected. (If you haven’t already, click here to tell your representative to vote no on SB 38!)
The Ways & Means Committee heard you loud and clear, and postponed a vote on SB 38 to allow time for people to voice their opinions on the bill. Rep. Randy Davis (R-Daphne) and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Gunter Guy spoke against it. Commissioner Guy made it very clear that SB 38 would not solve the state parks’ budget problem, and that the state was not in favor of removing Forever Wild’s funding.
As of Friday morning, the Ways & Means Committee has not scheduled a vote on SB 38. The legislature is expected to stay in session over the weekend, and we will be watching closely to make sure we alert you as soon as a vote is scheduled. In the meantime, give your representative a call today and let them know to vote NO on SB 38. You can find the contact information for their offices on our website.
As the Policy Director for Conservation Alabama, Jeff Martin learns about State House issues firsthand. Check back here at the end of each week for his commentary on what’s going on in Montgomery.
This legislative session is almost two-thirds complete, with still a lot of work to be done. The House plans to start debating the General Fund Budget on April 21st and the Education Budget the following week. The removal of the sales tax on groceries is also expected to come up for the fourth time in what will probably be a final attempt to pass the BIR.
Gaming legislation dealing with electronic bingo is expected to consume a few legislative days in the Senate in the next week or two. This is expected to be a lively debate. Twenty-one votes are needed to pass the constitutional amendment and the Senate is currently missing three potential ‘yes’ votes because of a death, a conviction, and a promotion to Congress.
This week in the House the Black Caucus continued filibustering because the Republican members refuse to allow passage of the Budget Isolation Resolution and allow debate on the bill removing the state sales tax on groceries. In another twist, the Republican Caucus also began filibustering this week because they feel there aren’t enough Republican sponsored bills on the House Special Order Calendar. Needless, to say very little was accomplished this week in the House. Next week is expected to be more productive.
Surprisingly, the Senate did work this week passing several local and non-controversial bills. Thursday, the Senate passed SB373 that deregulates AT&T and removing them from the oversight of the Public Service Commission.
HJR 37 has passed the House and Senate. The joint resolution requests the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel to designate as an Alabama Scenic River any waterway that is designated by ADEM. This bill was drafted by Conservation Alabama and Rep. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster).
SB462 by Roger Bedford (D-Russellville) passed the Senate on Thursday. The local legislation dealing with Franklin County prevents human sewage biosolids from being applied to land as fertilizer. The bill goes to the House.
House Bills 859-861 were introduced this week. The 3 bills sponsored by Reps. Henry White (D-Athens) and Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) prohibit rock quarries from within a certain distance of Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, Calhoun Community College of Robotics Center, and TVA Industrial Development Mega Site.