February 20, 2019
By Jeff Helms
Alabama’s crumbling infrastructure is expected to be a priority when the Legislature convenes March 5. Gov. Kay Ivey addressed the need for road and bridge funding in her inaugural address, while a fuel tax has been a hot topic at the Statehouse for three years.
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s David Cole said the organization is focused on ensuring any infrastructure plan is simple, transparent and accountable.
“There’s no question Alabama’s roads and bridges are in bad shape,” said Cole, the Federation’s State Affairs director. “We are working to ensure any additional funding is spent on materials, not bureaucracy, and that rural Alabama shares equitably in road improvements.”
According to the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure, about half of the state’s roads and bridges are in fair to very poor condition, and 75 percent of all road miles are in rural Alabama. Cole said the Federation is seeking to increase the distribution of any new fuel taxes to towns and counties while preventing additional revenues from being spent on administration and overhead.
Meanwhile, the Federation will seek to clarify rules pertaining to farm vehicles and equipment. Proposed legislation would define “implements of husbandry” to ensure consistent enforcement of rules across jurisdictions.
Cole said there also will be an opportunity to build on the Federation’s success in 2018, when the organization championed a bill providing incentives to expand rural broadband.
“Gov. Ivey recently announced $1.1 million in broadband grants for places like Gilbertown, Toxey, Moulton, Boaz and Henagar,” Cole said. “This is a first step in improving economic opportunity, education and essential services in rural Alabama. We will continue working with legislators to fund internet expansion and ensure accountability.”
With the Education Trust Fund and General Fund budgets expected to be in good shape, the Federation will work to preserve funding for agriscience education, Ag in the Classroom, the National Poultry Technology Center, rural medicine programs, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation registration fees and other agriculture and conservation programs.
Cole said the Federation will be monitoring issues with potential to dominate legislative debate, like a statewide lottery or prison funding. Lawmakers may also tackle ethics reform.
“It’s important to have clear and consistent ethics laws so Federation members can understand the rules and have confidence as they engage with elected officials and state agencies,” Cole said.
County Federation leaders will have a chance to share their thoughts and concerns with legislators March 13 during the organization’s Taste of Alabama legislative reception. To receive weekly updates during the legislative session, sign up for the Capitol Connection newsletter at AlfaFarmers.org.