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2019 legislative session begins Tuesday

Brandon Moseley



The 2019 regular session of the Alabama legislature begins today Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will give her annual state of the state address to a joint session of the Alabama Legislature tonight at 6:30 p.m. There are several key issues that will be decided by the legislature in these weeks.

Fuel tax increase – This is the Governor’s biggest priority. It is also the most controversial piece of legislation that the legislature has seen in many years. State Senator Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, and State Representative Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, are sponsoring this legislation. Motorists would see a ten cent a gallon fuel tax increase phased in over the next three years plus the bill includes a provision to index the fuel tax to the cost of road construction so could lead to future tax increases without a vote of future legislatures. The bill would generate an additional $310 million a year in new revenue that would be split between the Alabama Department of Transportation, county road departments, municipalities, and a $10 million a year subsidy for dredging the shipping channel in Mobile Bay so that the port can accommodate the new super container ships. The Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee has urged the legislature to reject the bill. The Business Council of Alabama, the Association of County Commissions, the League of Municipalities, and various trade associations are urging legislators to pass the bill. Expect the governor to call a special session so that proponents can ram this through in as little as ten calendar days.

Common Core repeal – This issue has been a conservative priority since the Bob Riley administration first agreed to the experimental new education curriculum. Repeal efforts have gotten new vigor in recent years because the schools have done such a poor job of implementing the change. Alabama’s public schools have been ranked as low as 50th on some measures in recent testing. The Alabama Department of Education is rewriting the math course of study and is urging the legislature to hire math coaches and reading coaches to coach teachers on how to teach, but conservatives are urging the legislature to just abolish the much-maligned Alabama College and Career Ready Standards. In the past, repeal efforts could not get out of committee; but Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has promised repeal advocates that repeal can get to the floor of the Senate.

Hunting hogs and deer over bait – This issue has come up repeatedly over the last four years and evokes passion by proponents and opponents alike. Feral swine is an enormous problem in Alabama. The invasive species preys on crops, ground nesting birds, and native plants. Proponents argue that hunting hogs over bait is necessary to control the species. Opponents argue that this is just a ploy to get approval of hunting deer over bait. Hunters feed the deer then harvest the animals at their convenience. Opponents argue that this is not fair chase.

Lottery – State Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville, is bringing a lottery bill. Polls show that most Alabamians support a lottery; but the details are where the legislature gets side tracked. The general fund is where the state needs revenue; but many people prefer an education lottery like Georgia has. Gambling proponents could kill the lottery bill over demands that a gambling bill legalize bingo machines at Greenetrack, Shorter, the Birmingham Race Course, and Lowndes County. Casino proponents know that if the legislature passes a lottery bill that does not provide any legalization of electric bingo or actual casino games then it is highly unlikely they will pass a gambling bill in future legislative sessions. McClendon’s bill is not expected to include any legalization of slot machines or electronic bingo. Any lottery or gambling bill would still have to be approved by voters, whom rejected a lottery when Governor Don Siegelman (D) last brought one to voters.

Permitless Carry – gun proponents including the National Rifle Association (NRA), Gunowners of America (GOA), and Bamacarry are all in support of Senator Gerald Allen’s, R-Tuscaloosa, bill to end the requirement that Alabama citizens must have a concealed carry permit in order to carry a handgun on their person or concealed in their automobile. The Alabama Sheriff’s Association and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America both strongly oppose this legislation. In the past the bill has gotten out of the Senate; but is unable to get out of committee in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Medicaid Expansion – the Alabama Hospital Association is floating a plan to expand the Medicaid program to cover non-disabled adults. They would pay for the state’s portion of the program with a per bed fee on the hospitals. The hospitals claim that expanding Medicaid is necessary to keep struggling rural hospitals from closing. Expanding Medicaid will have opposition in a conservative legislature which is already troubled by the rising costs of funding regular Medicaid.


Ethics reform – last year the legislature tasked a committee with preparing recommendations on how to reform Alabama’s 2010 ethics law. The committee is expected to recommend legislation to make economic developers exempt from the requirement that they have to register as lobbyists. Proponents argue that this is necessary to keep the state competitive in recruiting new industry. Opponents argue that the legislature is simply weakening the Alabama Ethics Law. Marsh has expressed concerns that there were unintended consequences with the 2010 ethics law that have prevented legislators from serving while operating their businesses.

Arming teachers – The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. That phrase will be used to justify a number of suggestions to increase the numbers of armed personnel in Alabama schools. An effort is underway to increase the number of school resource officers in schools. There will also be a bill introduced to arm some trained school teachers and administrators. Armed teachers is supported by pro-Second Amendment groups, but is opposed by Moms Demand Action. Legal liability concerns are a major issue as well.

Prisons – Federal Judge Myron Thompson has ruled that the state does not provide adequate mental health care for its inmates. The legislature is going to have to increase funding for mental health workers to comply with the federal court order. It is also going to have to come up with funding to hire hundreds more corrections officers for the chronically overcrowded and understaffed state corrections facilities. Gov. Ivey is expected to authorize the construction of three new large capacity men’s prisons. She could do that through executive action and go around the legislature. Doing a bond issue with the legislature is likely to be considered, but past efforts to get similar bills through the legislature all failed.


Budgets – the economy is doing strong so revenues are up and neither the general fund budget or education budget are expected to be difficult. The 2020 fiscal year education budget is anticipated to be the largest in state history. There will still be efforts to un-earmark more money. Any effort to actually combine all state funding into one pot would have to be approved by the voters and there seems to be little support for that in the legislature.



House passes landfill bill allowing alternative materials as temporary cover

Brandon Moseley



The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to change the statutory definition so that temporary “cover” in landfills can be a material other than “earth.”

House Bill 140 is sponsored by State Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton.

The bill allows landfills to use alternative daily covers in place of earth to cover landfills until the next business day. “The EPA has allowed this since 1979,” Baker said. It would save landfills the cost of using earth for daily cover.

“This does not change anything in the operating rules for landfills,” Baker said.

A number of members from both parties expressed concerns about this bill on Tuesday, so the bill was carried over until Thursday.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon told reporters, “Sometimes in a debate you can see that the debate is not a filibuster or anti-debate; but rather is an honest effort by members to understand a bill.”

“There was a lot of misinformation out there,” McCutcheon said. The Environmental Services Agency and ADEM were brought in to explain the members and address their concerns.


McCutcheon said that human biosolids is a separate issue and that Rep. Tommy Hanes has introduced legislation dealing with that issue.

Alternative daily cover is often described as cover material other than earthen material placed on the surface of the active face of a municipal solid waste landfill at the end of each operating day. It is utilized to control vectors, fires, odors, blowing litter, and scavenging. Federal and various state regulations require landfill operators to use such earthen material unless other materials are allowed as alternatives (Mitchell Williams writing on Oct 31 in JDSUPRA).

Soil cover can use valuable air space. Further, it can generate the need to excavate and haul soil to the facility. Alternative daily covers are often advocated to be a more efficient and cost-effective means of cover (Williams).


Baker said that it would be up to ADEM (the Alabama Department of Environmental Management) in the permit whether to allow a proposed alternative cover or not.

Baker said, “This bill does not change any of the materials used as cover.” “This would keep us from having to use that good earth in landfills when other materials are available. If it becomes a nuisance ADEM can revoke a cover on the permit. Daily cover has to be approved at the discretion of ADEM.”

Baker said that only materials not constituted as a risk to health or are not a hazard can be used.

An environmental attorney shared the list of ADEM alternative covers with the Alabama Political Reporter. The list includes: auto fluff, excavated waste, synthetic tarps, coal ash, petroleum contaminated soil, automotive shredder residue, shredder fluff, wiring insulation, contaminated soils, paper mill (including wood debris, ash shaker grit, clarifier sludge, dregs, lime), 50 percent on-site soil and 50 percent tire chips, spray-on polymer-based materials, reusable geosynthetic cover, automobile shredder fluff, tarps, foundry sand, clay emulsion known as USA Cover Top clay emulsion, non-hazardous contaminated soil, non-hazardous solid waste clarifier sludge, steckle dust all generated from Nucor Steel Tuscaloosa Inc., non-coal ash from Kimberly Clark operations, lagoon sludge from Armstrong World Industries operations, meltshop refractory material from Outokumpu Stainless USA operations, paper mill waste (non-coal ash, slaker grits, dregs, and lime), biodegradable synthetic film, fly ash, residue from wood chipper or paper, slurry with a fire retardant and tactifierl, Posi Shell Cover System, waste Cover, foundry waste, 50 percent soil and 50 percent automobile shredder fluff, incinerator ash, green waste to soil. Sure Clay Emulsion Coating, alternative cover materials (manufactured), compost produced by IREP Montgomery-MRF, LLC, 50 percent saw dust mixed with 50 percent soil, and waste soils considered to be special waste.

McCutcheon said that members did not understand that these were just temporary covers. That was explained to them.

Alabama landfills have used alternative covers for years; but three people sued saying that this was not allowed under Alabama law and that ADEM had exceeded its mandate by permitting alternate covers. On October 11, 2019 the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals found in favor of the plaintiffs.

HB140, if passed, would address this oversight in the Alabama legal code so that ADEM and the landfills can legally continue to use alternate covers and not have the added expense of quarrying dirt for daily cover.

A Senate version of the same bill received a favorable report last week from the Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee.

HB140 now goes to the Alabama Senate.


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Alabama lawmakers advance bill banning transgender athletes in K-12 sports

Jessa Reid Bolling



A House committee voted Wednesday to advance a bill that would ban transgender teenagers from playing on the sports teams of the gender they identify with. 

House Bill 35, titled the Gender Is Real Legislative Act, or GIRL Act, would require student athletes in K-12 schools to participate as the gender listed on their birth certificate, preventing transgender athletes from competing as the gender they identify as.

Sponsored by Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, the bill passed the House State Government Committee on an 8-4 vote. The bill will now go to the full House. 

The bill, according to Pringle, is aimed at preserving the accomplishments of women and to prevent women from having to compete against athletes who were born male.

“Gender is real. There are biological differences between boys and girls that influence athletic performance,” Pringle said in a statement. “The GIRL Bill seeks to support female student-athletes, so that they may compete against each other and not have to compete against male students with an unfair advantage.”

Opponents say that HB35 was born out of prejudice against transgender youth rather than seeking to protect women in athletics. 

Carmarion D. Anderson, Alabama state director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBTQ+ rights organization, called the bill a “political advertisement” with no supporting evidence


Anderson said she believes this bill will do harm to young transgender youth by segregating them from competing in sports events, further contributing to the ostracization trans youth feel in society.

“We’re concerned about a student’s mental health when they cannot participate in the sports that are comfortable for them, and the level of dysphoria they already face when they are transitioning,” said Anderson. 

Anderson also said that while it is unfortunate that this bill passed the committee, HRC will be at the forefront to try to see the bill defeated. 


The bill now heads to the full House.


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Legislation may harm pets locked in hot cars, not help, vets and advocates say

Eddie Burkhalter



A bill passed by the Alabama Senate last week lawmakers say will help keep pets trapped in hot cars safe, might actually endanger the animals, according to some animal advocates and veterinarians.

That bill was written by a dog breeder who some worry purposefully wrote the bill to make it harder to keep animals safe, and to instead protect breeders from having animals confiscated, they told APR this week. 

Mindy Gilbert, The Human Society’s Alabama state director, told APR by phone on Tuesday that she’s certain that the senate bill’s sponsor, Alabama Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, “does have good intentions, but I think the devils in the details.” 

Several attempts this week to reach Rep. Holley were unsuccessful. 

The bill would grant criminal immunity to a civilian who rescues an animal from a vehicle, and would provide civil and criminal immunity to first responders who do so. The legislation also makes it a misdemeanor crime if a pet dies in a hot car. 

Gilbert said that while those might also sound like great ideas, the bill would actually reduce criminal penalties for allowing a pet to die in a hot car. 

“Our current cruelty statute, which has been used in cases like this, would define that as a class C felony,” Gilbert said. 


A Trussville woman in 2018 was charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals for leaving her dog in a locked car while shopping in Walmart. The dog died after police broke out a window and removed the distressed animal. 

The bill also states that the ambient temperature of the interior of a vehicle must be 99 degrees or hotter to be charged under the legislation. 

Gilbert said she’s spoken with numerous veterinarians who all said that 99 degrees is too hot to be safe for pets trapped in cars. 


Gilbert said that for many breeds of pets, and pets with compromised health, “that requirement in order to rescue them will absolutely sentence them to death,” and there are other aspects of the bill that trouble her. 

“I think everybody was very focused on providing immunity to first responders, which I think is fabulous,” Gilbert said of the legislation, but worried that it doesn’t include animal control personnel in its definition of public safety officials and covered by the bill’s immunity clause. 

Holley’s legislation defines public safety officials as “An individual employed by a law enforcement agency, fire department, or 911 emergency service.” 

Dr. Mark Colicchio, a veterinarian in Spanish Fort, reached out to Sen. Holley and all of the members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee about his concerns with the bill prior to its passage in the senate. Holley put Colicchio in touch with the man he said wrote the bill, Norman Horton.

Colicchio said he spoke to Horton, owner of the Dale County german shepherd breeding company Triple S Shepherds, at length about his concerns, but that none were addressed in the final legislation. 

“There are a lot of temperature references in there which make no sense whatsoever,” Colicchio said. 

Colicchio said he spoke with Horton about the bill’s language that required the ambient temperature of the interior of a vehicle to be 99 degrees or higher before a person could be charged. He said he told Horton that there’s no practical way for a public safety official to measure the ambient temperature inside a locked vehicle from outside, to which he said Horton suggested they call carry digital temperature readers. 

Such devices measure surface temperatures, and wouldn’t  be able to read the temperature inside a locked car, Colicchio said. 

After speaking with veterinarians at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Cholicchio said they looked at data that suggested that if the outside temperature of a vehicle, which can be more easily measured, was 78 degrees an animal trapped inside with no ventilation could be in jeopardy. 

Colicchio said he suspects the legislation was purposely written to protect owners from having their animals taken from them in the event they’re left in hot cars. 

“He doesn’t want breeders to risk having their valuable dogs stolen out of the car because somebody thinks they’re at risk,” Colicchio said. “…When you structure a law to benefit yourself, and animals suffer for it, that just gets to me.” 

Horton, speaking by phone Wednesday,  told APR that he wrote the bill to protect animals and to establish the proper way to rescue an animal in distress. 

“This is America, and this is Alabama, and if someone’s gonna be guilty of a crime or charged for a crime then they need to have committed that crime” Horton said. 

Horton said “we don’t need vigilante justice” so he wrote the bill to make clear how best to enter a vehicle if an animal is in need of help. 

Asked how he decided that 99 degrees inside a vehicle was the temperature at which a pet was in danger, Horton said “I got the figure after talking to several veterinarians.” 

Asked which veterinarians he spoke to get that figure, Horton said “that’s immaterial” and declined to name them. 

Horton likened the matter to speed laws, and said while some speed limits are set at 70 MPH, some people, such as police officers, can drive safely at speeds up to 113mph. 

Asked why the bill doesn’t include animal control officers in the immunity protections, Horton said that “it does.” 

Horton pointed to the bill’s language that defines public safety officials as “An individual employed by a law enforcement agency” and said “go to Tuscaloosa. Go to any of the cities around, and animal control officers are employed by the police department. They’re sworn officers.” 

Some animal control officers who work in municipal law enforcement agencies are sworn officers, Gilbert said, but many are not, and in the counties, where animal control is operated as stand-alone agencies, animal control officers are not sworn officers and wouldn’t be immune from prosecution under the legislation. 

Asked why his bill didn’t include all animal control officers, whether they were sworn officers working in law enforcement agencies or not, Horton suggested that it was to ensure owners could be charged with crimes 

“Do we want to charge for the crime when they do something like this or just let them go?” Horton said. 

Horton declined to answer a question about the bill’s language that limits the charge of killing an animal in a hot vehicle to a misdemeanor and soon after ended the interview. 

“It’s not to help the animals,” Colicchio said of the legislation. “That’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing.” 

It was unclear Wednesday if Holley’s bill had a sponsor in the state House. There were no similar bills filed Wednesday, according to the state Legislature’s website.

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House Judiciary Committee passes bail reform law named for Aniah Blanchard

Jessa Reid Bolling



The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday passed a bill to give judges more discretion in denying bail to people accused of committing violent crimes. 

The bill is named for Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old Alabama college student who was kidnapped and murdered last year. The man charged with her murder, Ibraheed Yazeed, was out on bond for charges including kidnapping and attempted murder at the time he was arrested in connection with Blanchard’s case. 

Currently, judges can only deny bond in capital murder cases. The bill would allow judges to deny bail in cases involving certain violent offenses. 

Blanchard’s father, Elijah Blanchard, stepmother, Yashiba Blanchard, and mother, Angela Harris, spoke to the House Judiciary Committee today in support of the law. 

“This would not have happened to our child if this bill would have been in place,” Harris said. “We can save a lot of lives by doing this because, because with repeat violent offenders, they are going to repeat.”

If the bill passes the full House and Senate, it will appear on the ballot in November.



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