Tuesday, March 12 Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) signed landmark legislation that will give the state an additional $310 million per year to improve infrastructure across the state. The Governor made the legislation the focus of her state of the state address less than a week ago.
“Today, March 12 is a historic day for the state of Alabama,” Gov. Ivey said. “I am so proud to have watched the legislature in its finest hours of operation.”
“Thank you to the new members of the House and Senate for being willing to address a tough subject,” Ivey said. “I am so proud to lead this state,”
“We have chosen to work together in a bipartisan way,” Ivey said. “We will use this new revenue to build a brighter day for the people of Alabama.”
The bill signing ceremony was held in the old House Chambers of Alabama’s historic 1859 Capital Building.
The measure will provide money for all 67 counties and the other 400 towns and cities in the state to begin road projects as early as next year. It will also provide over $11 million a year for the Port of Mobile to dredge a deeper wider shipping channel so that the Port can accommodate more ships as well as then larger post-Panama Canal widening container ships.
The legislation was sponsored by state Representative Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa in the House and carried by state Senator Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, in the Senate. The House passed the legislation on Friday and went to the Senate which passed it after a short debate on Tuesday.
A jubilant Ivey thanked Poole, Chambliss, and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon for their efforts in carrying her legislation.
“I have been working on this legislation for five years,” Speaker McCutcheon said. “We had a governor that was willing to stand up and provide leadership, Gov. Ivey I want to thank you for that.”
“This will move us forward for the children of this state,” McCutcheon said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said, “We have been studying this for a year and a half in the Pro Tem’s office.”
“This is a great day for Alabama and I am delighted to be a part of it,” Marsh added.
On the floor of the Senate, the debate was overwhelmingly supportive of the legislation.
Sen. Chambliss said that the legislation was critical to the future of the state.
“Why would anyone come here to live?” Chambliss asked. Why would your children and mine stay here to live? A job and quality of life. We have a good quality of life;”
Chambliss said that economic development means that employers need to be able to ship inputs in, products out, and workers need to drive there to work and all of that takes transportation. Chambliss said that the other southern states have all raised their fuel taxes to improve their infrastructures and that Alabama needed to do the same thing in order to compete.
Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Baldwin County, thanked Chambliss for modifying the original bill to accommodate the needs of fast-growing counties like his own.
“Instead of waiting every ten years to adjust the distribution, we are going to do that every five years,” Chambliss said. “You don’t want to do that every year. That gets confusing.”
Sen. Elliott said, “It strikes a very good balance there. In Baldwin County, we are growing by 40,000 people each ten years.”
Elliott said that the Port of Mobile is crucial to the Alabama economy. “That impacts the poultry industry, the timber industry, auto manufacturing, the coal industry.”
Chambliss said, “I did go down, tour the port and learn about the economic impact of the Port. This is a $25 billion economic impact due to the port.
“We absolutely had to see accountability in this,” Senator Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville said. “We can hold DOT’s feet to the fire and make sure that they are accountable to the people that we represent.”
“We have added several points where entities have to report to the Joint Legislative Committee,” Chambliss said. “That was a point I insisted on before I would even consider voting for a new tax much less carrying one.”
The bill also imposes a $100 a year fee on owners of hybrid vehicles and a $200 fee on owners of plug-in electric vehicles.
State Senate President Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said that passing this legislation will allow our children to stay in Alabama and get jobs.
Chambliss said that there is mandatory attendance of the Joint Legislative Transportation Committee. “If any member misses two meetings they don’t have a seat anymore. It is important that we hold ourselves accountable before we hold anyone else accountable.
Chambliss said that the Alabama Department of Transportation would not be allowed to use any of the money for administration. “They are going to have to do more work with less.”
“We at the Joint Legislative Transportation Committee have to identify ways that they can do that more efficiently,” Chambliss said.
Senator Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said that his granddaughter goes to a Christian school in Roebuck and that he lives on the Southside of Birmingham. Driving through malfunction junction to take her to school and then having to go back through it to get to his office every morning made him aware of how serious our infrastructure needs were and then concrete began falling off of the highway there. “That started my mind thinking about infrastructure.”
“I want minority people to be a part of this and get some of this business,” Sen. Smitherman said. Everything I have asked has been addressed. As this thing has evolved, I have to vote it.”
“It is my desire that we pass a lottery bill and half of those funds go into Medicaid expansion and half into the education trust fund,” Smitherman added. “We have too many rural hospitals that have closed and we have too many people who do not have access to healthcare.”
Senator Will Barfoot, R-Montgomery, said, “I am excited that Senator Albritton is chairing the general fund committee and has a seat on the joint legislative committee on transportation.” “I want to compliment you on trying to make it a more palatable bill.”
“We have seen it all on social media,” Barfoot said. “The personal attacks are not appropriate. I applaud the men and women in this chamber and the House as well that voted their convictions.”
Chambliss told Barfoot, “You have had a positive effect on the bill.”
Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, told Chambliss: “I am interested in the Port of Mobile because 40 percent of the exports from the Port of Mobile is coal and most of the coal that is mined is in my district. We have thousands of families in my district who are dependent on coal and the port.”
The Alabama State Senate passed the bill on a 28 to 6 vote.
The special session is now over. The regular session will resume on March 19.