By Sen. Cam Ward
As the Chairman of The Senate Judiciary Committee, one of my jobs is to evaluate legislation that helps strengthen our laws, balancing the equation with an eye toward our civil liberties and the size and scope of our government.
Coming into the 2013 session, my colleagues and I identified several areas of the law that need strengthening. We realized there was a problem with school bus trespass and safety even before the tragic and shocking events in Midland City last week, so there is legislation clarifying and strengthening the penalties against entering a school bus. Because of that tragedy, we are honoring the heroic efforts of the bus driver and naming this the “Charles Poland School Bus Safety Act.”
We are aware that there is a national debate on gun control, and we believe in the right to keep and bear arms as enshrined in our nation’s Bill of Rights, and we filed legislation to ensure that right to Alabamians no matter how many executive orders the president signs, and unenforceable laws our congress passes.
Recognizing that despite past efforts which have done a good job at cutting down on the manufacture of methamphetamine – such as tracking the purchase of and limiting the amounts allowed to purchase of base materials – there is still a major problem with the hazard and cost of cleaning up a manufacturing site. Senator Whatley sponsored legislation to add the cost of clean up to the fines and punishments of those convicted of making meth.
We also have a serious prescription painkiller problem in our country – and Alabama is severely affected by this epidemic. In his state of the state address Gov. Robert Bentley proposed cracking down on illegitimate prescription selling pain management clinics while protecting the rights of doctors and the access to care required by patients. This legislation will also codify the crime of doctor shopping – wherein an addict goes to several different doctors in the pursuit of numerous prescriptions. This legislation will be the first on our docket for next week’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.
At this week’s first meeting the committee also moved legislation establishing the crime of and punishment for Elder Abuse. Every day in Alabama, elderly citizens are abused, neglected, defrauded and intimidated by family members and caregivers whose job it is to take care of their health, well-being and financial needs. These crimes are not the ones that are splashed on the front pages of our newspapers, but they nonetheless affect a significant proportion of our population.
Defrauding and deceiving by commission or omission will be codified in Alabama’s Criminal Procedure Codes as a tool for law enforcement to use against people and companies whose practices result in harm to Alabama citizens over the age of 60.
These laws will also encompass crimes of neglect such as not feeding, sheltering or properly tending to an elderly person’s medical needs – no matter if it is their intention to abuse the person or not.
I want to make our intentions very clear: abusing or neglecting, stealing from through fraud, the promise to perform work and not performing it, or outright theft will not be tolerated in our state.