Thursday, the Alabama legislature ended the 2018 legislative session, and on the last day, the Alabama House of Representatives awarded the Shroud award for this session to State Rep. Ritchie Whorton, R-Scottsboro.
The Shroud Award goes to the Representative who sponsored the “deadest piece of legislation” introduced in the 2018 legislative session.
Whorton received the award for House Bill 333, which required that motorists turn their headlights on by the official moment of sunset and keep them on until the moment of official sunrise. Current law is that they have to be on within 30 minutes of sunset until 30 minutes if sunrise.
Whorton argued that the bill was a safety issue and claimed that he nearly pulled out in front of a car running without its headlights on at dusk.
Opponents argued that most people don’t know the official sunrise and sunset times so it would be an easy citation for law enforcement to write and that most people’s vehicles today have sensors that cut the headlights on and off, thus have no control over when the car’s sensors determine when to go on and off.
HB333 was carried over once and then brought back to the floor again after Whorton had another near wreck from a car he “could not see.” Whorton even produced photos of the car traveling without its lights on. The Shroud Award writers made note of the fact that the car was clearly visible in the photo that Whorton produced on his camera phone.
The runner-up for the Shroud Award went to Rep. Mark Tuggle, R-Alexander City, for his House Bill 362, which would have forced Forever Wild to pay payments in lieu of property taxes.
Tuggle argued that Forever Wild’s growing real estate holding tax-exempt status was hurting rural county school systems, county commissions and the state’s general fund. As the writers of the award noted, Forever Wild supporters inundated legislators with an email and social media campaign that was unsurpassed by anybody advocating for anything. Hunters, fishermen, hikers, campers, trail bikers, environmentalists, bird watchers and others bombarded the Legislature with a public outcry demanding that the bill be defeated.
Undaunted, Tuggle, who was not running for re-election, brought the bill to the floor of the House anyway, where it got voted down. Two days later State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said that this was a good bill and asked that the body to suspend the rules and reconsider HB362. The members of the House agreed and let Tuggle bring it back to the floor and reconsidered HB362 for the second time, and for the second time the legislators voted the bill down.