What to expect at the Alabama State House Friday
The House will gavel in at 10:30 a.m. after HB 1, HB 2 and HB 3 unanimously advanced from the Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee and received their second readings Thursday afternoon.
HB 2 is the only one of the three infrastructure bills that has been met with controversy. However, Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) told reporters that he is optimistic the bill will pass. The latest vote count the speaker had received from his whips on Wednesday saw a majority in favor of passage – 55 “yes” votes between the majority and minority caucuses. Thursday afternoon, McCutcheon said that number had grown and was continuing to trend upward for passage.
“The way the bill’s moving right now, according to a meeting I had yesterday with the minority caucus, it’s going to be a joint effort,” McCutcheon said, indicating that he expected a number of Democrats to vote in favor of the legislation.
The speaker said he is not just welcoming but “hoping” for “a lot of debate” on HB 2 when it comes to the floor.
“I would hope we’d be here through the day, all day,” McCutcheon added about the amount of debate and discussion he wants on the floor.
McCutcheon advised that State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) is “working with some of the people that have some amendments [to HB 2].” The speaker lavished praise on Poole’s leadership at multiple moments in his Thursday press gaggle, calling Poole’s opening statement at the Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee meeting earlier that day the best he had ever seen.
“I was very proud to be a state legislator when I heard him give his opening remarks to that committee,” McCutcheon said. “They were very professional, they were to the point, they were factual, and for a person living in Alabama to hear that statement that was made to that committee, he left no stone unturned. And he really addressed how important this is for us to do something when it comes to our infrastructure.”
“When people pay for their fuel at the pump, they are making the most important investment in the state they can make, bar none,” he added.
McCutcheon said the value of lives saved by investing in Alabama’s infrastructure cannot be stated in numerical terms.
“What’s one child’s life [worth]? Is it worth ten cents a gallon at a pump fill-up to save a child? Well, of course, we’d all say, ‘Well sure, that’s worth that,'” he stressed. “And then you look at the other issue, and that’s keeping us competitive with our neighboring states for jobs and the economy. And that’s important.”
On Thursday, the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee approved SB 2, which is a companion bill to HB 1. Sponsored by Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), the bill would put in place new oversight of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and increase accountability and transparency.
“This bill dramatically increases oversight and accountability for the Department of Transportation,” Chambliss said in a statement. “Governor Ivey has put forward her Rebuild Alabama plan for modernizing Alabama’s infrastructure, and I support her proposal. At the same time, the Legislature is tasked with making sure tax dollars are being spent in a transparent, efficient, and accountable manner.”
The bill requires that the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), ALDOT’s long-range plan of road and bridge projects, be constantly available on ALDOT’s website, along with any updates of the STIP plan.
Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) spoke about this and other accountability mechanisms in the legislation during an interview on “The Dale Jackson Show” Thursday morning.
SB 2 also overhauls the Joint Transportation Committee, which has responsibility for reviewing the long-term plans and budget for ALDOT.
“Accountability is an important piece of Governor Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama plan. We still have work to do but I believe that at the end of the day we will have a piece of legislation that holds ALDOT accountable for the work they do and the money they spend,” Marsh said in a press release. “This measure of oversight must be approved to show the taxpayers how money is been used to improve roads and bridges in Alabama. I want to thank the Transportation Committee for their work on this important piece of legislation.”
The Senate will convene Friday at 1:00 p.m., at which time they could enter debate and then vote on SB 2. The bill has broad, bipartisan support and is expected to easily pass the chamber.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn