Council focuses on state legislation that will impact Birmingham

The Council will be meeting with elected members of the Jefferson County Delegation in Montgomery on Wednesday. During the meeting, Councilors plan to discuss several bills that are currently being considered by the legislature.

On Tuesday, several resolutions came before the council urging lawmakers to amend legislation that impacts Birmingham, namely SB 220, the lottery bill that currently does not earmark funding for education and a resolution encouraging the legislature to amend the law to allow for a more modern approach to notifying the public of environmental issues.

The latter is an issue that arose recently following the proposed relocation of a Sherman Industries concrete facility to Five Points West. The facility would be located near the CrossPlex and other businesses. Neighborhood leaders and city officials have voiced their concern over the move, and the lack of notification that was given to residents.

“This is an issue we’ve had recently as it relates to the proposed concrete facility,” Council President Pro Tem William Parker said. “The notification process must be improved. There has to be a 21st century approach that will allow residents to be made aware of what is going on in their community. We are trying to get the state legislature to amend the act that governs the Jefferson County Department of Health and increase the public comment period from 14 days to 60 days as well as add requirements about where this information should be posted.”

Parker added, “We are meeting with members of the legislature tomorrow and this is definitely something we will be discussing.”

Here is the resolution as it appeared on Tuesday’s agenda:

The Council also considered a resolution opposing SB 220, an item that was submitted by Councilor Clinton Woods, who said he is against a lottery bill that does not included money earmarked for education.

After a brief discussion, that item was referred to the Governmental Affairs Committee, which Woods chairs, in order for additional debate to be had. Councilors wanted to add specific language urging the legislature to include education funding into the lottery bill.

“Right now in the city of Birmingham, we face a lot of issues with crime and lack of opportunity,” Councilor Hunter Williams said. “Education can help that. If a child is not reading at grade level by second grade, statistically it’s almost impossible for them to catch up. A lottery that funds education would be a real opportunity to close that gap.”

Alabama is one of only eight states currently without a lottery. There is a bill, SB 220, that has passed through the Alabama Senate and is waiting for a vote in the House of Representatives that would allow for a state lottery.

The Senate approved the bill 21–12 and the legislation is now in the House of Representatives. One of the goals of meeting with legislators on Wednesday is to discuss potential changes in the bill before the House votes on it.

“Alabama has one of the best Pre-K programs in the country, but less than five percent of kids have access to it because it’s underfunded,” Woods said. “We’re missing a major opportunity with this current bill to address the issues with education in our state. Imagine the difference that money could make in Birmingham. We could give every child access to a Pre-K program and make sure they enter school being able to read. That would be huge.”