Alabama House Democrats held a press conference announcing tacit support for the framework of the bill appropriating American Rescue Act funds.
“We are very encouraged by the framework that we are dealing with,” said House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville).
State Rep. Jeremy Gray (D-Opelika) said that some of the money is going to water and sewage.
“This will really help out Lowndes County,” Gray said.
Failing wastewater treatment systems were recently highlighted by the CBS News program ’60 Minutes’.
Gray said, “The hospitals wanted $200 million, they got $40 million.”
“The hospitals are struggling. I have a hospital in my district that calls me daily. ... We are good with the first step."
State Rep. Ralph Howard (D-Greensboro) said that the special session. “Will focus on appropriating American Rescue Act funds.
“The caucus stands firm in our beliefs that these needs should be addressed,” Howard said. “We still have a long way to go.”
State Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee) said the bill will address the wastewater issues in Lowndes County, but that it would also include help for the people in Tallapoosa County and the Macon Country industrial park with water infrastructure.
“Replacing old lead pipes is very expensive,” Warren said. “Often small rural communities do not have the money for matching funds.
“Federal money has been available. Finally, we have an opportunity to do the right thing for Alabama. We need to address our most pressing needs first. We can’t recruit new industries to our state if we don’t have broadband and water and sewer infrastructure. We are pro-growth pro-innovation and pro-Alabama.”
State Rep. Prince Chestnut (D-Selma) said that in his district, “We have many of the same issues in the Black Belt.
“There are complaints about discolored drinking water in Marion, Alabama,” Chestnut said. “The water system is decades old and outdated. The hard-working people of Perry County should not be under an advisory to boil their water. This is a landmark opportunity to settle these problems that are distributed in a fair and equitable manner. Small communities should not be penalized because they cannot afford matching funds or reporting requirements.”
State Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham) said that bill has money for infrastructure which includes roads bridges and broadband.
“If the bill as written is the bill that moves, I don’t anticipate any opposition from our caucus,” Daniels said. “We need to make sure that we are solving problems so that all communities will have a fair and equitable shot.”
“This is just the first step,” Daniels said. “It will take $2-5 billion to totally solve our (broadband) issues.”
The legislature will debate the ARPA appropriation bill on Tuesday.
Tuesday is the third day of the first 2022 special session. The 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session will resume on Feb. 1.
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