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State Sen. Orr on prison plan ‘no’ vote: ‘I had my concerns’ on how construction component was put in the bill

At the end of last week’s special session, the prison plan proposal offered by Republican leadership and Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration sailed through both chambers of the legislature before it was signed into law.

In the Alabama Senate, the final product passed with bipartisan support by a 29-2 margin. Among the two no votes were State Sens. Billy Beasley (D-Clayton) and Arthur Orr (R-Decatur).

Beasley, who also filibustered the bill, had consistently said he would do what he needed to do to protect corrections facilities in Barbour and Bullock Counties, both in his senate district.

However, Orr’s “no” vote was a surprise to some.

During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Orr explained his opposition, which he said primarily pertained to the construction process as it had been inserted into the legislation.

“There are multiple ways it could have been done as far as construction of the prison and how that process worked,” he said. “I supported building the two new prisons — the one in Escambia and the one in Elmore, and then the rehab and renovations and whatnot, the Perry County facility because I’m convinced we needed to do something. [I] also supported the financing.”

Orr added, “But when it came to the process of the construction, I had my concerns on how that was put in the bill, and I let my colleagues know how I felt about it, and the Governor’s staff and I voted my conscience on it.”

The Morgan County Republican said he objected to how that part of the plan had been changed mid-process. However, he said he did understand the practicalities of a design-build plan as opposed to the traditional design-bid-build option.

“We seemed to change the process midstream,” Orr said. “In other words, we started, Governor Ivey started with the lease-back plan. And you had three interested parties, I think, with CoreCivic back in that scenario. Two of them were selected, and then we changed to a design-build model in that legislation instead of doing what we traditionally had done, which was design-bid-build. There are a lot of arguments supporting what was done — save time, save money, the 2% variable there for the general contractor — not a whole lot of money in the grand scheme of things.”

“I get it as far as the practicalities of proceeding the way it ultimately was done,” he added. “But I still could not just get comfortable with that process laid out and changing midstream like that.”

Beyond those construction concerns, Orr acknowledged that the overall plan would offer a satisfactory solution to the problems laid out by the Department of Justice, who argue Alabama’s Department of Corrections prison system was in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.