Elected officials from Elmore County met with state legislators last week to share with the lawmakers updates on issues important to the county ahead of the 2020 legislative session.
“We have a legislative luncheon, annually, in anticipation of the legislative session coming up,” Elmore County Commission chairman Troy Stubbs said. “We schedule that so we can talk about county priorities and hear from the representatives and senators.”
Sentencing reform, construction of state prisons and a statewide lottery were among the topics discussed.
“If the state is going to build a new prison, it is a priority for (Elmore County) to have one of the prisons located in the county,” Stubbs said. “Similar to that, sentencing reform sounds to us like it is going to be a priority at the state level.”
Four state correctional facilities are located in Elmore County. Those include Draper, Elmore, Staton and Julia Tutwiler, which can house a combined 4,769 inmates.
The commissioners shared with the state legislators a report recently published by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama that states sentencing reforms passed by the state legislature in 2015 increased the operational costs of nearly every county jail and sheriff’s department in the state.
The reforms were passed to deal with overcrowding at state prisons. It reduced prison overcrowding at the state level but, according to the report, dramatically increased the number of prisoners being sent to county jails.
“We want to make sure the state legislature is not adding to the burden impacting the counties,” Stubbs said. “Those two things (new prison construction and sentencing reform) are different but go hand in hand. It is dramatically impacting the bottom line of counties.”
Stubbs said the comments made by the state legislators concerning gambling and a state lottery lead him to believe those will be a major focus when the legislature is back in session.
“From that meeting, it looks like the lottery and gambling will be a big issue this legislative session,” he said. “I think there are going to be a lot of proposals and ideas on the state level and we want to be very aware of what direction that is headed so we can make sure our interests on the county level are protected.”
Stubbs said the annual meeting ensures there is an open dialog between county officials and their local delegation.
“We don’t want them to be surprised by something they hear about Elmore County and we don’t want to be surprised by things they say or do at the state house,” he said. “This helps us to share our ideas, for us to explain why or how something impacts the county and to make sure they are aware of our concerns, and vice versa.”
State legislators who attended the meeting included Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Montgomery), Rep. Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka) and Rep. Reed Ingram (R-Pike Road). Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) did not attend the meeting.