Voters support Alabama Amendment 2 protecting state park revenue

Source: Dennis Pillion, AL.com, November 8, 2016

Alabamians voted strongly in support of Amendment 2, protecting the state parks’ revenues from being used by the legislature for other purposes.  With 57 of 67 counties reporting, more than 79 percent of votes cast were in favor of Amendment 2, according to unofficial results posted on the Secretary of State’s web site, with more than 1 million ballots for and 275,000 against. It was the widest margin of any of the 14 amendments on the ballot. Alabama State Parks System Director Greg Lein said the vote validated the widespread concerns over the state parks’ budget woes. The system saw $15 million transferred to the state’s general fund over the past five years. Five state parks closed last year and others had to defer planned maintenance projects. … Though there was little organized opposition to keeping revenues generated by the parks within the park system, a second part of the amendment raised fears of state park privatization.  That language came from a previous bond issue (Alabama Amendment 617), which gave the parks $110 million for long-term maintenance and construction projects, but prohibited those parks from using private contractors or outside vendors.  Opponents of Amendment 2 — most notably former Lt. Gov. and attorney general Bill Baxley and former Conservation Commissioner Charley Grimsley — argued that removing that language would open the door to completely privatizing state parks. …

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Amendment 2 focuses on funding and “privatization” of state parks
Source: Candace Murphy, WTVM, November 2, 2016

The Alabama State Parks’ website says since 2012, the legislature has transferred 15 million dollars from the Alabama State Parks Fund, to the General Fund, resulting in the closure of five state parks in 2015. If approved, Amendment 2 would to ban the transfer of park funds which are primarily generated by tax dollars. In addition to providing permanent funding, Amendment 2 allows outside vendors to run non-state entities like hotels, restaurants and golf courses at state parks. Former Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources Charley Grimsley strongly opposes the amendment, writing in an editorial, “Amendment 2 would allow state park privatization, and turning our state parks over to private corporations is something we should never do.” … If Amendment 2 passes, MacTaggart thinks there needs to be some regulation. “Probability a citizen’s oversight than a civil services oversight like the state,” he said. Amendment 2 says transfers from the state park fund to the general fund would be allowed if the park revenue exceeds 50 million dollars. …

Opinion: Amendment 2 will protect our parks, not privatize them
Source: Bob Baumhower and Greg Lein, AL.com, October 25, 2016

Alabama’s State Parks have received much attention during the last few years, including reports of crippling transfers of park funding, the closing of five locations, and now Constitutional Amendment 2, which will be on the ballot Nov. 8 and is needed to protect park funding. Amendment 2 – the State Parks Amendment – will prevent park revenues from being siphoned off to support other needs in state government. It constitutionally protects the future of Alabama’s State Parks’ funding. … Some say the amendment will “privatize” state parks, but that is not true and that word does not even appear in the language the people of Alabama will see on their ballot in November. If it were true, State Parks staff, outdoors organizations, chamber of commerce, tourism offices and the many other park partners (https://alparkspartners.com/park-partners/) would not be supporting Amendment 2. Amendment 2 simply gives more parks the flexibility to partner with businesses to develop and/or maintain attractions at the parks as they have done for years. … Agreements with private entities could also be good for parks or amenities that the state otherwise cannot afford to operate. While we’d rather not be in this position, the option to bid out parks and amenities to private businesses is better than being forced to immediately close them to park guests. It’s not privatization. It’s smart business sense. … The bottom line: if we want to ensure we have a well-maintained parks system and that money spent at the parks stays at the parks, we encourage you to vote YES for Amendment 2. A yes vote for amendment 2 is a vote to protect parks funding and a vote to ensure that more park attractions will be open to the public. A no vote will guarantee more uncertainty for our state parks system and its future. Please join us in voting YES for Amendment 2 – the State Parks Amendment. …

Opinion: Amendment 2 would allow privatization of state parks
Source: Charles Grimsley, AL.com, October 24, 2016

Amendment 2 on State Parks has been advertised as a way to protect state park revenues. If that were all it did, it would be good. But like a Trojan horse, hidden inside is something you probably didn’t know. Amendment 2 would allow state park privatization, and turning our state parks over to private corporations is something we should never do. Look at the following description of Amendment 2 from the website Ballotpedia (the privatization language is highlighted): “A ‘yes’ vote supports this proposal to prohibit reallocating state park funds for other uses and allow the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to contract with non-state entities for the operation and maintenance of land and facilities that are part of the state park system.” This means that if Amendment 2 passes, we would be voting to hand over our state parks, land, lodges and all, to private corporations. … Years ago the state leased the major state park lodges to private companies, and the experience was an abysmal failure. The companies made millions, but because they did not properly maintain the facilities, at the end of the leases we the people inherited state park lodges that were in a terrible state of repair. To fix this mess, in 1998 we the people approved Amendment 617 of the Alabama Constitution that authorized a $110 million bond issue to renovate the state park with the express condition that privatization of the renovated parks could no longer occur. But now that we are on the hook for a $110 million bond issue caused by the first privatization mess, with Amendment 2 the politicians are asking us to jump right back into the fire by privatizing them again. ..