Legislation appropriating $1.06 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) (HB1) funding passed through the State House with minimal opposition Tuesday.
According to the legislation filed by State Rep. Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville), $660 million of the $1 billion-plus total would go to water, sewer and broadband spending, and $200 million would be split between hospitals and nursing homes. Of the remainder, $55 million was earmarked for "programs or services in response to the negative economic impacts of the public health emergency" such as food banks, domestic violence victim assistance, and summer education; and the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Board and the State Employees' Health Insurance Board would each receive $40 million in reimbursements.
Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) said he was "excited" after the legislation passed the House with only three "no" votes, State Reps. Ben Harrison (R-Elkmont), Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and Ernie Yarbrough (R-Trinity).
"I think we made an investment in our state today," Ledbetter said. "I'm excited that the members listened to everything we had going on (and) asked all the questions they needed to ask through the process. I think it was as transparent as we could have had it, and excited that we've made an investment in our state."
Harrison told 1819 News he voted against the measure because "allocating more than $1 billion in ARPA funding should be done with great care, consideration, and input from as many voices as possible."
"The full House met for only two legislative days between the time that Gov. Ivey called the special session, and members took a vote on the bill, and few, if any, of the rank-and-file members were given a chance to participate in negotiations," Harrison said. "As a small government, constitutional conservative, I also believe strongly that the ARPA money was allocated to some uses that are better left to the free market and the private sector. In short, I voted against the ARPA bill because the amount of money was too large, the way it was spent was too broad, and the final vote was taken much too quick."
The ARPA funding legislation will now be considered by members of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund on Wednesday at 9 a.m.
State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Joesphine) said on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show" on Friday he didn't "like the idea of passing it as is."
State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that "we're going to see what we can work out" about the legislation.
Gov. Kay Ivey called the special session last Wednesday for the legislature to allocate ARPA funds and transfer nearly $60 million from the state's General Fund to pay off the remainder of a debt to the Alabama Trust Fund.
The 2023 regular session is scheduled to resume March 21.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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