Alabama to decide $85 million bond issue to fund public historical sites and state parks on May 24

Alabama voters will vote on 10 constitutional amendments in 2022. One measure will be on the May 24 primary election ballot. The other nine amendments will appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Voters will decide a constitutional amendment on May 24 that would amend the state constitution to issue up to $85 million in bonds for improvement, renovation, acquisition, construction, and maintenance of state parks. Of the bonds, $80 million would be used for state parks managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and $5 million would be used for historical sites managed by the Alabama Historical Commission. Under the amendment, bond proceeds could not be used for improvement, acquisition, provision, construction, equipping, or maintenance of the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Alabama. If bond proceeds exceed $85 million for any reason, additional proceeds would be allocated to the Alabama Forestry Commission for capital improvements and maintenance of state forests.

The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-24) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-27) as House Bill 565. The House approved it in a vote of 97-1 on April 13, 2021, with five absent or not voting. The Senate passed an amended version of HB 565 in a vote of 29-0 on April 29, with five absent or not voting. The House concurred with the amendments on the same day in a vote of 98-0, with five absent or not voting.

Amendment sponsor Rep. Ledbetter said, “Because interest rates are so low today, we’re able to use the same amount that we’re paying out now, redo new bonds and put $80 million into the existing parks, which is going to be a tremendous asset to our state and to our tourism and across our state.”

Christopher Blankenship, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said, “As we’ve seen this past year with COVID, state parks and outdoor recreation have been extremely important to people for their physical and mental health. We saw great increases in usage at our parks, and also the federal wild properties in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.” Blankenship also said attendance to state parks was up by about 1.2 million visitors in 2020 and the amendment would bring the state parks “up to a standard that people have come to expect now and as the landscape is changing with motor homes and they’re becoming more advanced and require more from our campground.”

In November, Alabama voters will be asked to approve an updated and recompiled state constitution, titled the Alabama Constitution of 2022. Voters will also decide a ballot measure that would authorize the Code Commissioner to incorporate constitutional amendments that are approved at the elections on May 24 and Nov. 8 into the Alabama Constitution of 2022 if voters approve the new constitution. The other amendments would:

  • allow local governments to award funding provided for broadband internet infrastructure to public or private entities;
  • remove orphans’ business from the jurisdiction of county probate courts;
  • allow the legislature to provide for offenses for which bail may be denied;
  • require changes to laws governing the conduct of a general election to be implemented at least six months before the general election;
  • require the governor to provide notice to the attorney general and the victim’s family before granting a commutation or reprieve of a death sentence
  • specify that counties and municipalities have authority to finance economic and industrial development through the use of public funds, issuing bonds, and leasing property or lending bonds to a private entity; and
  • authorize specific cities to use a previously established property tax to directly fund capital improvements in addition to using the revenue to repay bonds and other debt.

Both houses of the Alabama State Legislature are required to pass a proposed constitutional amendment by a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote in order to refer it to the statewide ballot. If the amendment is approved by a simple majority of voters, it becomes part of the state constitution.

A total of 78 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama during even-numbered election years from 2000 to 2020, of which, 62 were approved (79.49%), and 16 were defeated (20.59%). From 2000 to 2020, the number of constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot during even-numbered years ranged from 4 to 15.

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