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House Passes Birmingham Waterworks Reform Bill

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, May 5, the Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation reforming the Birmingham Waterworks Board to more accurately represent the diversity of the waterworks customers. SB89 was very contentious after it passed the Alabama Senate. On Wednesday, April 29 the controversial legislation passed out of committee with a favorable report.

On Thursday an angry Representative John Rogers (D-Birmingham) led a filibuster of everything on the calendar to force House Republicans to abandon the waterworks bill.  The only thing the Black Legislators allowed pass was a bill making the brown shrimp the State’s official crustacean.

Tuesday began with similar delaying tactics but this time Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) was ready for them…..and punishment came in the forms of SB89.

State Representative Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa) wrote on Facebook: “The House is in session. The special order calendar I posted yesterday will have to wait. We are working on adopting a one bill substitute special order calendar to bring up SB89 which is also known as the Birmingham Water Works Board Bill. Once that bill passes, then we will be back on the other special order I posted yesterday.”

State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R-Winston County) wrote: “ In an effort to move the House body forward due to delaying tactics, a revised special order calendar is introduced that has Water Works Board bill on it. The special order calendar content (not the bill) is being debated. A special order calendar content can be debated under the rules for two hours. Purpose is to get the Water Works Board on the floor for an up or down vote. That way the issue is resolved in the House once and for all.”

After over two hours of debate the House Republican Super Majority invoked cloture ending debate and forcing a vote. The bill passed.  SB89 has now passed both Houses of the legislature.

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SB89 would reform the Birmingham Waterworks Board (BWWB) so that counties where the BWWB has water customers or assets will be provided representation on the BWWB.  Additionally, SB89 would lo limit the terms of all board members including members appointed prior to this act becoming applicable to the board; limit the compensation and expenses of the board members; to specify that the board members would be covered by the State Ethics Law and could not be elected officials.  SB89 would also provide for notice and a public hearing prior to the board adopting any rate increase; and specifies that the board would be subject to the Alabama Open Meetings Act.

SB89 was sponsored by Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia).

To get back on schedule the House reconvened after dinner.

Among the bills passed Tuesday night was HB211 which reorganizes the legislature giving vast new powers to a legislative council of 16.  Both the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tem would have even greater influence in how the legislature conducts business according to critics of the controversial legislation.

Again cloture was invoked and after the 46 page bill was read out loud HB211 was passed at 11:35 pm.

Rep Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) filibustered the “Tim Tebow bill.” HB 236. Rep. Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) said, “We had to adjourn at midnight so as not to burn another legislative day.”  The “Tim Tebow bill” would allow homeschooled children to participate in public school extracurricular activities.  Rep. Butler said, “This bill is unfinished business so we will pick it back up on this Thursday.”

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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