The Alabama Senate passed a bill distributing $772 million of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to various state and local agencies.
Senate Bill 1 is sponsored by State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore). The bill passed the Senate on Tuesday 26 to 1.
“The bill that we have before us today is an eight-page bill,” Albritton said. “This is the same bill that came in from the House. I believe that the vote on that was 100 to 1 with no amendment.”
State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said, “I want to make some observations. Number one, I have every intention, every plan to vote to support this bill. At this time, I do not plan to offer any amendments.”
Smitherman said he supports all of the areas the money is going to, including broadband, sewers, and medical facilities.
“We have got to have broadband,” Smitherman said. “It is critical. I know how dear it is to the Majority Leader. I also know how dear it is to the Minority Leader as well. It is critical that people have clean water. I know that it is critical for our hospitals to stay open and also know that it is critical for the nursing homes.”
The Senate Minority Leader is Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro). The Majority Leader is Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville).
Lawmakers said the appropriations are not focused on urban Alabama as much as smaller areas of the state.
“Ninety percent of this money is for rural,” Smitherman said. “I am aware that based on the makeup of the committee, it was heavily rural-laden. Even on you’ all’s part. There is nothing wrong with that. That’s not a reflection of urban Alabama. We would like an increase of urban Senators on there and when we talk about urban, I am saying for both parties.”
Albritton said his home is three blocks from downtown Atmore, which he said is “very urban.”
Smitherman said aging infrastructure in urban areas could impact a large number of people.
“When we are talking about infrastructure in the cities, we are talking about copper pipe that is 100 years old,” Smitherman said. “When we talk about stormwater because the pipes are overflowing. Whole areas are cut off because of the flooding.”
Smitherman said that urban areas in Alabama need adequate basic housing, crime prevention, and transportation. He said that he was supporting SB1; but when the next $1.1 billion tranche of ARPA money comes, he hopes it includes his concerns.
State Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham) said, “I want to echo my colleague from Jefferson County.”
Coleman-Madison proposed an amendment that transferred up to $20 million for the housing trust fund to address homelessness in the state and up to $10 million to the Alabama Transportation trust fund. That fund would be administered by ADECA. It would provide money for down payment assistance for first-time homeowners.
The amendment was defeated, and the bill passed the Senate 26 to 1.
The American Rescue Plan Act appropriation is expected to receive final passage on Thursday and be sent to Gov. Kay Ivey’s (R) desk.
The state legislature will resume the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session on Tuesday.
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