By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— Republican Representatives Paul Beckman and Allen Farley are sponsoring HB282, a bill designed to help put some teeth into the Laws under the Fair Campaign Practice Act, (FCPA).
If the Beckman/Farley bill becomes law, it would make it a felony to make threats of physical harm, damage property, trespass on property, steal or destroy campaign signs and/or equipment. It would also make it a felony to cause a political candidate mental duress
Now, while that may, at first glance, appear as an unusual clause, a look at the definition of mental duress will make the picture come into greater focus.
According to law-dictionary.clearpointlaw.com, mental duress is, “the use of threats or other forms of psychological coercion… to induce another to act against his or her will.”
Anyone who has spent time in the political trenches knows that there are occasions when a candidate might receive a visit or a phone call from someone threatening them if they do not get out of a particular race. These threats usually come from third parties. Unfortunately, this type of intimidation is for some, business-as-usual.
Currently such threading actions are misdemeanors, but under HB278 they would become felonies. Beckman, says that people who commit these acts are, “messing with our basic liberties; they are messing with people’s lives.”
Many times they are not thoroughly investigated because police are overtaxed with other priorities.
“The bill would give the police teeth to go after these people and investigate,” said Beckman.
Beckman said he came forward with the bill because, “In the past we have had episodes where signs have been stolen and people have been threatened.” Beckman wants to put a stop to such behavior because, in part, it discourages good people to enter the political arena.
The bill as written has some very vague areas. In a field where competitors are generally required to suspend the “Golden rule,” the ambiguities may condemn the bill.
Because the use of such tactics are so widespread throughout the State, it will be interesting to see if the Speaker of the House allows the bill to come to the floor for debate at all.