Alabama bond question, Atlanta and Little Rock local measures on Tuesday ballot

On May 24, Alabama voters will decide Amendment 1. The measure 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 (AHC). The ACDNR manages 21 state parks spanning a total of approximately 45,300 acres of land and water. The AHC owns and manages 15 historic sites in Alabama including forts, battlefields, and archaeological sites, historic houses, and museums. The commission’s mission statement is to “protect, preserve, and interpret Alabama’s historic places.”

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.

Under the amendment, no bond proceeds could be expended for maintenance or improvements to the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Alabama. The home that exists at the park was constructed in 1902 as a care facility for Confederate veterans in Alabama. The last Confederate veteran living on the site died in 1934. The Alabama State Legislature created the Confederate Memorial Park in 1964 as “a shrine to the honor of Alabama’s citizens of the Confederacy.” The Confederate Memorial Park has been managed by the Alabama Historical Commission since 1971.

The amendment is supported by Governor Kay Ivey (R), who said, “It’s just real important that we all vote ‘Yes’ on that amendment on the ballot. We have so much natural beauty here, and it’s important that we offer our citizens and tourists the great opportunities to experience and enjoy them. With your support of the State Parks bond issue on May 24th, we will soon have ribbon-cuttings on several renovated campgrounds, cabins and improved day-use areas in our 21 State Parks.”

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Christopher Blankenship 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 Alabama, a constitutional amendment must be passed by a 60 percent vote in each house of the state legislature during one legislative session.

Amendment 1 was sponsored by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R) as House Bill 565. On April 13, 2021, the House approved it in a vote of 97-1, with five absent or not voting. On April 29, the Senate passed an amended version of HB 565 in a vote of 29-0, 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.

A total of 78 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered election years in Alabama from 2000 to 2020, of which, 62 were approved (79.49%), and 16 were defeated (20.51%). From 2000 to 2020, the number of measures on statewide ballots during even-numbered years ranged from four to 15.

Voters of Alabama cast ballots on five bond issues, totaling $535.2 million in value, since 1998. All were approved. The most recent bond issue decided by voters was on the ballot in 2000.

Also on May 24, voters in Little Rock Arkansas will decide a question reducing the existing capital-improvement millage from 1.8 to 1.3 mills, equal to $130 per $100,000 of assessed property value, and dedicating funds to a future issuance of bonds not to exceed $42 million for capital improvements to the Central Arkansas Library System.

Voters in Atlanta will decide two bond measures and a sales tax increase measure on May 24. The bond issues would authorize $213.01 million in general obligation bonds for constructing, improving, and repairing public safety facilities and parks and recreational facilities and $192.99 million in general obligation bonds for acquiring, planning, constructing, and maintaining roads, bicycle and transit lanes, sidewalks, pathways and trails, parks and playgrounds, and other related projects. The sales tax increase measure proposes to enact a sales tax of 0.4 percent for no more than five years to provide funding for transportation and congestion reduction projects.

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