Alabama Senate Committee amends ARPA funding bill

Photo Credit: Brandon Moseley

The Alabama Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee met on Wednesday morning to consider the American Rescue Plan Act appropriation bill passed by the House on Tuesday. The Committee voted to give the legislation a favorable report but only after amending how the sewer and water funds are distributed.

House Bill 1 (HB1) is sponsored by State Rep. Rex Reynolds, who chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. The legislation appropriates the second $1,060,000,000 that the state received from the federal government through the controversial ARPA Act – all of which are paid for through federal deficit spending.

State Sen. Greg Albritton chairs the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.

Albritton shared two documents with the members of the Committee. The first was an email from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) outlining where the first round of ARPA money for water and sewer projects has been allocated.

“This data is also available online,” Chairman Albritton said. “The second is the MOA (Memorandum of Understanding) between the Department of Finance and ADEM on the distribution of that money.”

“HB1 is the ARPA document,” Albritton said. “It passed the House 101 to 3.”

Sen. Chris Elliott presented an amendment to HB1.

Elliott explained that his amendment further defines the use of the water and sewer projects portion of the ARPA funds to include stormwater projects. The amendment also sets aside up to $100 million for the water and sewer projects to require matching grants of up to 35% and includes changes to the formula to factor in for growing communities.

“It allows this money to be used for stormwater infrastructure,” Elliott explained. “It further stretches this money out by requiring matching grants from local communities.”

$395 million of the ARPA will go to water and sewer projects. ADEM will award the projects to water and sewer systems that apply for the funds.

State Sen. Linda Coleman Madison said, “I had an amendment to add, but your amendment includes that. What is the difference between the two amendments?”

Albritton said, “It includes that and goes further to delineate that a portion of the money requires a 35% match.”

The Elliott amendment was adopted by a 15 to 0 vote.

“I know Sen Coleman Madison calls me Senator No,” said Sen. Sam Givhan. “It’s better, but it’s still not there yet.”

HB received final passage by the Committee, with 12 members voting in favor and three members, including Givan, voting to abstain.

The full Senate can now consider the legislation as early as Thursday. If the legislation passes the Senate with the Elliott amendment, it would have to go back to the Alabama House of Representatives for them to consider the changes.

The Alabama Legislature is currently in its First Special Session. It is hoped that the body will be able to resume the 2023 Alabama Regular Session on Tuesday, March 21.

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