When the Alabama Legislature convenes Monday for the last day of the 2013 legislative session, it will be pass or die time for several Baldwin County bills.
—The Baldwin County Commission is relying on the passage of House Bill 609 so it can essentially borrow money from itself to help pay back a loan.
The commission wants to borrow $15.5 million from the Baldwin County Oil and Gas Severance Tax Trust Fund. Its plan is to put the money toward a $25 million loan that was used to buy land for the South Alabama Mega Site.
The mega site is the planned location for large scale industrial development.
The oil and gas trust fund was created in 1989, but the county can’t touch the money without legislative approval.
— House Bill 642 has caused some controversy in Baldwin County.
The county’s fire departments equally divide ad valorem tax money that is collected on car tags. That money is taken away from the fire departments under House Bill 642.
The bill calls for a local constitutional amendment to be put on the ballot in 2014 and for voters to decide if the money should go to the Baldwin Community and Economic Development Foundation.
Among the things that the foundation can use the money for is job creation projects.
The Baldwin County Fire Chiefs Association has expressed its disapproval of the bill.
The fire departments use the money for training, to purchase equipment and for other things. An average of $442,341 was divided among the fire departments between fiscal years 2007-08 and 2011-12, according to the Baldwin County Probate Office.
The bill does not impact the money fire departments get from ad valorem taxes collected on properties.
— Another hot button issue in the county is a plan to put a wind farm in south Baldwin County. Commissioner Tucker Dorsey has expressed strong opposition to it.
House Bill 676 would give the Baldwin County Commission the authority to regulate wind farms in the county.
APEX Wind Energy has talked the commission about its Foley Wind Project. APEX Wind is looking to put about 40 wind turbines in the county.
Another bill that was introduced this legislative session that dealt with wind farm regulations has been “indefinitely postponed,” meaning it is dead this session.
House Bill 678 would have established the Alabama Wind Energy Conversion Systems Act of 2013.
It would have allowed the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to establish rules regulating wind farms statewide.
— House Bill 406 would mandate that fire stations in Baldwin County open as polls during elections when a request is made.
The bill applies to municipal and county stations that accept a portion of the ad valorem tax money collected on properties in the county.
“These things were built with taxpayers’ money, so they should be open to the public,” state Rep. Joe Faust said in an April 24 story published on AL.com.
The bill states that the fire departments could not charge a fee for use the stations.
The Barnwell Volunteer Fire Rescue on U.S. 98 is one of the reasons for the bill. It will not open for elections, officials said.