(NationalUSNews.com) — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is expected to sign a May 11 bill that will bring a brand-new capitol building to the state.
Lawmakers passed the bill to give a 20-seat panel the power to enter a contract with a state agency to build a new statehouse which the agency will then lease back to the state.
Elected representatives apparently believe that the current 60-year-old capitol building is too old. Greg Reed, Senate President Pro Tem, said it would probably be early 2024 before the panel has enough information to make more detailed plans.
He said “We need to recognize that the building we’re in is over 60 years old,” and that it’s in bad condition despite a large expenditure of money to keep it maintained.
The House Speaker, Nathanial Ledbetter, agreed. The building was initially erected to house the state highway department, and Ledbetter said constant maintenance problems make it hard to let visitors into committee meeting rooms.
Ledbetter said of the building, “We can’t accommodate the public,” and that Alabama residents deserve to be represented by a better capitol building.
The history of where the Alabama legislature meets is unusual. From the middle of the 19th century until 1985, the House and Senate convened in the actual Alabama Capitol building. They moved over to the building they meet in today in 1985 while the Capitol was being renovated. But they never moved back.
There is an underground tunnel that connects the current 60-year-old building to the actual Capitol.
In 2020, the legislature discussed spending $200 million in federal pandemic relief money to build a new state house from scratch, but the unpopular idea was quickly shelved.
That same year, the state hired an engineering firm to assess the state of the current building. The firm said the eight-story building would need more than $51 million in repairs over a ten-year period. Lack of visitor space and poor disabled accessibility are top concerns.
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