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SB89 Brings Reforms, Transparency to Birmingham Water Works Board

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, May 6, State Alabama Senator J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner (R-Vestavia) thanked all of the legislators who were supportive of his efforts to reform the Birmingham Water Works Board and helped pass SB89, despite an enormous amount of paid lobbying to block the legislation.

Senator Waggoner said in a statement on Facebook:

“Final passage! Senate Bill 89 will enact long overdue reforms and transparency to the Birmingham Water Works Board. I want to thank all of you who supported our efforts to bring accountability and fairness for all BWWB ratepayers. Thank you to our friend Rep. Jim Carns who handled the bill in the House and the House and Senate leadership who resolutely supported our efforts. I also want to acknowledge the continued work and advocacy of former state Rep. Paul DeMarco who originally introduced the bill a couple of years ago.”

Former State Representative Paul John DeMarco (R-Homewood) issued his own statement on Facebook:

“Tuesday night the legislation to reform the Birmingham Water Works Board passed the Alabama House of Representatives. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for his signature. A lot of folks worked hard to get this bill passed despite the thousands of dollars the Board paid to kill the bill. Thank you to Senator Jabo Waggoner and Representatives Jim Carns and David Standridge for their hard work on this legislation. I personally have worked for a decade to get reforms to the board. I hope the governor signs this bill soon. This has been a longtime coming for the ratepayers and residents of our region.”

SB89 reforms 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 will also 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 will also provide for notice and a public hearing prior to the board adopting any rate increase; and specifies that the highly politicized board would be subject to the Alabama Open Meetings Act.

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After the controversial Senate legislation was given a favorable report by a House Committee, a faction of Democratic legislators led by State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) had vowed to shut the rest of the legislative session unless House Republicans agreed not to bring SB89 to the floor of the House.  

On Thursday, Rep. Rogers led a filibuster of bipartisan, non-controversial legislation essentially leading the legislature to burn a limited legislative day, where the only thing that got accomplished was approval of the brown shrimp as Alabama’s official crustacean.

Rep. Rogers and company attempted the same tactics on Tuesday; but angry House Republicans moved to adopt a revised special order calendar to bring the controversial SB89 to the floor, where it was carried by state Representative Jim Carns (R-Vestavia) and David Standridge (R-Blount County).

Rep. Standridge wrote on Facebook:

“The AL House of Representatives passed the bill to reform the Birmingham Water Works Board tonight. With much help, I was able to get a board appointment from Blount County included in the legislation. This has been a three year fight and is a big victory for Blount County!”

After the requisite two hours of debate the Republicans invoked cloture to shut down debate and force a vote. SB89 passed the Alabama House of Representatives on a 70 to 29 vote. SB89 had already passed the Senate so now has gone to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

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

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