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Controversial Ag Center bill passes legislature amid filibuster threats

The bill paves the way for the creation of the Agriculture Exhibition Center Corporation to operate the Alabama Farm Center.

The logo of the Alabama Farmer's Federation.
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In a tense session marked by filibuster threats and controversy, the Alabama Legislature has passed a bill establishing a new entity to oversee an agriculture center in Jefferson County. Senate Bill 219, sponsored by Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, gained approval from a joint committee of legislators on Wednesday, paving the way for the creation of the Agriculture Exhibition Center Corporation to operate the Alabama Farm Center on Hallmark Farm.

However, the journey of SB219 through the legislative process was anything but smooth. The bill faced criticism from Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who raised concerns over the appointment structure favoring the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) over gubernatorial appointments.

Despite the controversy, ALFA defended the bill, stating that the center would provide educational opportunities for youth and bolster local and state economies by representing diverse agricultural interests, including historically black land grant universities.

The bill’s passage was not without its challenges. Delays in the conference committee and accusations of retaliation stemming from an unrelated gambling bill added fuel to the fire. Sen. Shelnutt’s threat to filibuster House bills further escalated tensions, prompting criticism from fellow legislators.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, expressed reservations about the appointment process, emphasizing the need for equitable representation. Meanwhile, Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Harvest, distanced himself from accusations of obstructing the legislation, underscoring the importance of prioritizing bills that benefit state residents.

Despite the bill’s passage, lingering discontent and unresolved issues underscore the challenges of navigating Alabama’s political landscape. As lawmakers brace for the session’s conclusion, the fallout from SB219’s tumultuous journey serves as a stark reminder of the complexities inherent in legislative processes.

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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