Legislature hits final push for 2010 session
As the Alabama State Legislature returns from Spring Break, the legislators are ready for the final push before the end of the session and the return to the campaign trail.
Thus far, it has been a mixed bag for the environment. The long-fought-against Hog Farm bill is poised to pass this session. After nearly 10 years of the Sierra Club, Sand Mountain Concerned Citizens, and others fighting this legislation, a more watered-down version is likely to pass. The “loser-pays” provision related to nuisance lawsuits against farming operations has been removed. So has any protection for new or expanding hog operations. However, it would be difficult to bring nuisance lawsuits agains existing hog operations - the ones that bring the stench, large black flies, and water quality degradation to rural Alabamians.
Energy legislation has been on the move this year. Governor Bob Riley signed legislation in mid-March to upgrade Alabama’s residential build codes to match federal and international codes on energy efficiency. This legislation also expanded the powers of the board from an advisory capacity to one that has the authority to upgrade the residential building codes in the future.
Other energy legislation - including allowing for idling technology on trucks to reduce fuel consumption, establishing research and grant programs for energy technology development, and setting up a mechanism to create a statewide energy plan - has had good progress this session and has a good chance of passage in the final 10 days.
Transportation related legislation has gotten a good deal of attention this session as well. One bill would establish the Alabama Trails Commission to promote trails (both on land and in the water) throughout the state. Another bill would create a commission to oversee decisions at the Alabama Department of Transportation, with the hope of taking the politics out of transportation decisions. A third bill would allow state funds to go toward mass transit operations. Each bill has received varying degrees of traction.
The big transportation bill is the $1 billion for roads bill. This legislation would take $1 billion over 10 years from the Alabama Trust Fund for road and bridge construction. After five days of debate early in the session, Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, didn’t have the votes to pass the bill. In mid-March, he brought the bill back with revisions and passed the proposal 25-10 in the Senate. It now awaits debate in the House.
With neither the General Fund or Education budgets passed and less than one-third of the session remaining, the final days will be busy dealing with budgets and other priority legislation. Additionally, legislators are looking to get out of Montgomery and get back to their home districts to campaign for the upcoming June 1 primary.
In the rush, there is the potential for bad bills, and good bills, to sneak through. Conservation Alabama, who lobbies on the Sierra Club’s behalf, will be tracking all these bills through to the final day of the session. You can track the bills as well by checking out the Conservation Hot List each week under the News Center section of our website, www.conservationalabama.org.
(from Adam Synder, Conservation Alabama)