Voters extend Forever Wild, cut lawmakers’ pay

Published 11:33 pm Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pike County and Alabama voted overwhelming to extend the state’s Forever Wild land preservation program for 20 years.

The measure passed 7,673 to 2,467 in Pike County.

The program, initially approved by voters in 1992, has secured more than 227,000 acres of land for public use through purchases or long-term leases. Land acquired ranges from more than 5,000 acres of fragile marshes on the Alabama coast to more than 16,000 acres at the Walls of Jericho, a dramatic gorge near the Tennessee border.

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The purchases are made with 10 percent of the interest and capital gains from the AlabamaTrust Fund, which receives royalties from natural gas wells drilled along the Alabama coast. The program does not get money from General Fund or education budgets.

Conservation and hunting groups favored the measure. Opponents wanted to use the money in other ways.

Alabama voters decided to cut the Legislature’s pay.

With 80 percent of the precincts reporting Tuesday night, Amendment 8 has passed with 67 percent of the vote. In Pike County, the Amendment passed 6,695 to 3,851.

The constitutional amendment undoes the pay raise the Legislature gave itself in 2007. It bases the Legislature’s pay on Alabama’s median household income. It will reduce a legislator’s typical annual compensation from $55,022 to $46,921, and it does away with the Legislature’s annual cost-of-living raises.

Voters also approved a measure that Gov. Robert Bentley says will help bring jobs to the state.

Amendment 2 allows the state to sell more bonds to get money to offer industries to build or expand plants in Alabama. The constitution already allows the state to sell up to $750 million in bonds to offer as industrial incentives, and the state has issued $720 million.

Amendment 2 doesn’t raise the $750 million cap. But it does provide that bonds that have been paid off and that bonds refinanced at lower interest rates will no longer count toward the $750 million total. That will allow the state to sell about $130 million in bonds in addition to the $30 million that is still available.

The Amendment passed 7,474 to 3,268 in Pike County.