Seed Standards Bill, CAFO Funding Highlight Legislative Session
Passage of bills establishing statewide seed standards and clarifying police jurisdictions, along with increased funding for Concentrated Animal Feed Operation (CAFO) permits, highlighted the 2016 regular session of the Alabama Legislature.
Gov. Robert Bentley signed SB 58 into law, which affirms the authority of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to regulate seeds. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, and the companion was carried by Rep. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay.
Legislation establishing consistent police jurisdictions of municipalities passed in the final hours of the legislative session. SB 218, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, establishes a three-mile police jurisdiction beyond corporate limits for municipalities with populations of 6,000 or more and 1.5 miles for towns with fewer residents. The bill builds on legislation passed last year which limits the ability of local governments to tax and regulate property outside corporate limits.
Meanwhile, the Legislature voted to override Bentley’s veto of the General Fund budget. It includes $400,000 to offset CAFO registration fees — a $120,000 increase from the current budget.
The $6.3 billion Education Trust Fund budget included funding for vocational education, health and agricultural programs that benefit rural Alabama. The Career Tech Initiative received an increase of $116,000 from the 2016 budget to $4.073 million. The Rural Health Program at University Alabama Huntsville received an additional $175,000. Agencies and programs that were level funded included other rural health programs, career technology operations, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance and Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.
Despite lengthy debate, a bill to raise gasoline and diesel tax for county roads failed to gain enough support for a vote. Other high-profile bills that never came up for a final vote included Bentley’s $800 million prison construction bill; a plan to use BP oil spill settlement money to repay debt, increase Medicaid spending and build roads; and several lottery bills.