Alabama Senate Passes $ 1.3 Billion Prison Construction Plan
By CAROLINE BECK, Daily News from Alabama
MONTGOMERY, Alabama – The Alabama Senate passed a slightly modified $ 1.3 billion prison construction plan on Friday. He is now heading to the House for final approval this afternoon.
The move home will mark the end of a week-long special session convened by Governor Kay Ivey to try to hold off a federal takeover of Alabama’s prison system.
Senator Greg Albritton, R-Range, is the Senate sponsor of the construction bill and has defended it against criticism, saying the measure would help Alabama’s prison infrastructure problems.
“We’re not here to increase the number of beds, we are here to replace them,” Albritton said.
Bill 4, which allows the state to borrow up to $ 785 million in bonds to build two new prisons and renovate others on a phased basis, passed by a final vote of 29 to 2. The two negative votes were Senator Billy Beasely, D-Clayton, and Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.
The Senate vote represented a bipartisan victory for Ivey and key lawmakers, unlike in the House where most Democrats opposed the measure. The House is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. today to consider Senate changes to the bill.
Roll-call vote on Bill 4
|Greg Albritton, R Range||YES|
|Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa||YES|
|Will Barfoot, R-Montgomery||YES|
|Billy Beasley, D-Union Springs||NO|
|Tom Butler, R-Huntsville||YES|
|Clyde Chamliss, R-Prattville||YES|
|Donne Chesteen, R-Geneva||YES|
|Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham||YES|
|Patricia Dunn, D-Birmingham||did not vote|
|Chris Elliott, R-Daphne||YES|
|Figures Vivian, D-Mobile||did not vote|
|Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville||YES|
|Gudger Garland, R-Cullman||YES|
|Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery||YES|
|Jimmy Holly, R-Elbe||YES|
|Andrew Jones, R-Gadsden||YES|
|Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro||YES|
|Del Marsh, R-Anniston||YES|
|Jim McClendon, R-Springville||YES|
|Tim Melson, R-Florence||YES|
|Arthur Orr, R-Décatur||NO|
|Randy Price, R-Opelika||YES|
|Greg Reed, R-Jasper||YES|
|Dan Roberts, R-Birmingham||YES|
|Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville||YES|
|David Sessions, R-Mobile||did not vote|
|Shay Shellnut, R-Trussville||did not vote|
|Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro||YES|
|Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham||YES|
|Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia||YES|
|Jabo Wagoner, R-Vestavia||YES|
|Tom Whatley, R-Auburn||YES|
|Jack Williams, R-Mobile||YES|
|April Weaver, R-Briarfield||YES|
Supporters of the bill said parts of it are a continuation of plans made under a previous prison rental plan. The bill allows the state to bypass certain normal bid selection processes.
Orr, the only non-voting Republican in the Senate, said that while he trusted and respected the governor and legislative leaders involved in the bill, he still had concerns about the final bill.
“There were several possibilities to achieve the target in regards to construction projects with public money,” Orr said. “I continued to be concerned about the process provided for in the bill. “
Orr voted in favor of the prison funding bills.
“I certainly agree with the need for new facilities,” he said.
An amendment proposed to the bill in committee removed the Hamilton Aged and Infirmed Center from the list of institutions to be closed. The amendment also specifically lists Bibb Correctional Facility as one of the prisons to be assessed in Phase III of the plan for possible reassignment.
The plan currently includes the closure of the Staton, Elmore, Kilby and St. Clair institutions once the two new men’s prisons are built.
Beasley tried unsuccessfully to replace the bill with his own which would build smaller prisons. He has three correctional facilities in his area that are at risk of being closed under the bill’s plan.
Once signed by Ivey, a process will begin to build two 4,000-bed men’s prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties, with a women’s prison being built later in Phase II. The renovation of three existing prisons is also included in the plan.
The Senate also passed the two appropriation bills that authorize the use of $ 400 million from the state’s American Rescue Plan Act for the construction of a prison, $ 135 million for the maintenance of the prison and the purchase of the Perry County settlement.
House Bill 5 passed with a final 30-1 vote, with Beasley the only vote against. House Bill 6 was passed unanimously.
Republican leaders continued to defend the use of COVID relief funds, highlighting its authorized use to replace income lost during the pandemic and the impact COVID-19 has had in prisons.
Senator Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said he believes the use of COVID funds is appropriate in this situation.
“It’s one-time money and what I would rather put is the one-time money that fixes a problem with the state that is a one-time request and we don’t use all the money,” Marsh said Friday.
Senator Tim Melson, R-Florence, told ADN he is supporting the construction of new prisons and renovations to the Limestone County Correctional Facility due to depleted law enforcement resources in his region due to the time spent transporting inmates to various prisons across the state.
“It takes a whole day and it takes an assistant off his patrol at the house where he could stay in this county to protect its citizens,” Melson said.
Senator Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, said he was part of the summer conversation on the bill and voted for it on Friday. He said an earlier proposal by the Ivey administration to rent new prisons on private land bothered him because when the leases were in effect after 30 years and cost nearly $ 3 billion, the state would not own it. buildings or land.
“(With House Bill 4) we own the prisons and we have a plan in place and a lot of it is paid off as it goes,” said Givan. The women’s prison and renovations in others will be funded as the money becomes available.
“This plan leaves us in control of our destiny,” he said.
Meanwhile, federal COVID-19 money will pay for almost all of Escambia prison, Givhan said.
Senator Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, voted to approve the building plan due to the need to set conditions inside the prisons.
“At the end of the day, we don’t want people to continue to live and be housed in the conditions they find themselves in,” said Coleman-Madison. “We have to do something about mental health issues, separate the sick people and be able to do something. “
Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Spanish Fort, said many months of work have gone into the bill.
“The resulting legislation is an important step in resolving the Alabama prisons problem and in addressing the lawsuit associated with the DOJ,” Elliott told DNA.