By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A Senate committee on Wednesday advanced a proposed constitutional amendment allowing the state to borrow $80 million to improve state parks.
The money would be used to expand and improve campgrounds and recreational areas.
House Bills 565 and 573 from House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, were amended to now include the Alabama Historical Commission so that $5 million can be spent on improving or renovating public historical sites and historical parks in Alabama.
The House version of the bill that passed last week specifically excluded any money from being spent on the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Alabama.
In the Senate committee meeting on Wednesday, Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, passed an amendment to take out that exclusion saying that he thinks the historical commission should be the ones to decide where the money goes.
“I just would hate to see them isolated in here and say they are different,” McClendon told committee members.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, also explained that the Confederate memorial park already gets an annual appropriation from a constitutionally mandated tax revenue. Orr mentioned attempts in the past by legislators to pull the tax funding from the park, but said none have been successful.
The committee also passed House Bill 566, which makes changes to the distribution and expenditure of sales tax revenue related to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for state park maintenance.
Orr voted against the bill saying more consideration needs to be given to how many state dollars continue to go to state parks.
“I guess I’m saying time out,” Orr said. “I can see the train leaving the station out of this committee, but when does it end and at what cost?”
All three bills now go to the full Senate and, if passed, the constitutional amendment to borrow the $80 million would go before Alabama voters in the next general election.