MONTGOMERY — Legislation that would add a fifth member to the Baldwin County Commission passed the Senate County and Municipal Government Committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 306 by State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) would provide for a chair of the county commission to be elected countywide in any county in which the county commission is currently composed of four county commissioners, and the chair of the county commission is currently rotating among the county commissioners. The chairman of the county commission would first be elected for a two-year term in 2024 and thereafter for four-year terms commencing in 2026.

Baldwin County is the only county in Alabama with four members on its commission.

"Our county commission in Baldwin County has four members. The bill would require that commissions with four members add a fifth member as a non-rotating chairman," Elliott said during the meeting. "We're the only county in the state that has that number of commissioners. It's been a problem for a while."

The legislation passed by a 7-1 margin. 

State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) voted against the bill and said, "All four commissioners are not supportive of this." 

"I don't think there's a controversy of moving to a five-member commission based on last night's meeting, but to have this voted holistically and some other issues, timings and everything that's there," Albritton said. "I'd prefer to handle this differently so we can get some consensus on it. Government can not function without the support of its populace. We don't have that with this bill. Frankly, this is a local bill. It deals with Baldwin County only."

Elliott said currently, if there's a 2-2 vote on the commission on an issue, there's no way of breaking the tie.

"Nothing happens. It's paralysis. This is something that we have tried to move way back when before me, after me on the commission, and still," Elliott said. "There is a local bill that is much more expansive and deals with a number of other issues besides this one. This is not a local bill. This is a statewide bill. It impacts counties that have four commissioners, and correctly there is only one of those."

If passed into law, the chairman of the Baldwin County Commission would be a full-time county employee and have a salary based on the same salary schedule as a circuit judge.  

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