Prison bill advances

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The prison construction bill made its way out of the House’s judiciary committee Tuesday, and could head to the House floor for a vote, a mere few days before the current session comes to an end.

The committee voted 9-5 to approved the bill, which would authorize local entities to pursue bonding for prisons, or up to some $845 million in bonds to build new prisons if the entities decide to, according to reports.

Rep. Alan Baker said he doesn’t know when the bill might make its way to the House floor in the remaining few days of the session.

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The prison construction bill has changed since former Gov. Robert Bentley introduced it last year.

The main reasons for the prison construction bill is because the state’s prisons are at 170 percent capacity, safety and the age of the prisons.

The Senate took the bill and made some changes to reflect the current structure of the bill.

Sen. Greg Albritton said Monday that the new plan reflects what is being done for the state’s public health and department of human resource buildings in regard to leasing them to the state.

“The advantages of that is it wouldn’t be on state books as borrowed money,” Albritton said. “The local (municipalities) wouldn’t have to raise money. The state would pay all of the cost. The entities would pay for the note and upkeep, and to keep it running.”

Additionally on Monday, the Association of County Commissions of Alabama released a statement on the prison construction bill.

“The changes in the committee substitute ensure that local governments can make proposals for the construction of prisons through a leasing partnership that gives communities an opportunity to evaluate the risks and rewards, and to ultimately make an independent decision on their involvement,” the ACCA said in a statement. “The new version also allows the state department of corrections (“DOC”) to move forward with construction, on its own, should local governments be unable or unwilling to enter into the lease agreements. This change in direction will ensure that local governments and the DOC work together on the very best solution to Alabama’s prison crisis.”

As far as whether a new prison will be built in Atmore, Albritton said he’s hoping that’s the case.

The will need approval before the end of the 2017 legislative session, which is tomorrow.