Thursday, the House passed legislation, HB212, requiring that motorists to use the left lane for passing on interstates.
State Representative Phillip Pettus, R-Killen, is the sponsor of HB212 and is a former state trooper.
“If you are driving 50 miles per hour in the left lane you are impeding traffic,” Pettus said. “I know of two shootings that happened because of people driving in the left lane.”
State Representative Laura Hall, D-Huntsville. Responded, “That was crazy people. You can’t do anything to stop crazy people.”
“I have talked with DOT and if this passes they are going to put up signs and do PSAs.” Pettus said. “This is interstate only. It does not apply to U.S. Highways or state highways. I am not changing anything to do with the regular highways.”
If a motorist drives for more than a mile and a half in the left hand lane of an interstate without passing they could be cited and fined by law enforcement.
Hall asked, “Why did you use a mile and a half?”
“This is what Texas did,” Pettus said. “That is the distance that it takes a big truck to pass. That is a long distance for a car/”
State Representative Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, asked, “Do you think they are going to mind that?”
Pettus replied, “If we get enough troopers on the road to enforce it they will.”
“This would cause traffic to flow a whole lot better and I thank you for bringing it,” state Representative Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville, said. “I used to live in Connecticut for 8 years where they had this and it worked real well.”
“I ride in the left hand lane because the big trucks tear up that right lane so bad that you go bumpity bumpity bump,” said state Representative Mary Moore, D-Birmingham.
Pettus said, “The DOT says that they are going to spend $25.000 on advertising.”
“I called some of these people that are smarter than I am, and I gave them this equation,” said state Representative Artis A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston. If there was one car lawfully driving 70 miles per hour and they were passing a person lawfully driving 68 miles an hour, how long would it take to pass. The calculation came that it would take three miles to overtake and pass.
Pettus said that his bill would not apply if there was congestion.
“I come through Birmingham every week and it is always congested,” Pettus said. “Nobody is running the speed limit there because it is so congested.”
“Most people, if they see law enforcement coming up behind them, are going to get over,” Pettus explained.
“When I am in the fast lane I want that slow driver to get out of my way,” state Representative John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said.
“As long as you are passing, you can drive in that left lane from Huntsville to Mobile,” Pettus said. “Interstates are set up for the movement of traffic.”
Rogers asked, “How are you going to enforce this?”
“I am a retired trooper, it is easier to enforce than what we have now,” Pettus answered. “If everybody would ride in the right lane there would be no tickets and that would be perfect.”
“Why don’t you create HOV lanes?” state Representative Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, asked, “I don’t profess to be the brightest cookie in the jar; but I am asking these questions. You say that it is a simple bill; but it is not because of the unintended consequences.”
Pettus said that HOV lanes are for high occupancy vehicles. That is more used in urban areas. This bill applies more to rural areas. “This is probably not going to get enforced in Birmingham because it is so congested there.”
Pettus said that this bill would combat road rage. “People are much shorter tempered than they were 30 years ago. My goal is not to get everybody tickets, but to get everybody in compliance.”
State Representative Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores, offered an amendment that exempts this if a vehicle is traveling through a construction zone.
“I think it is a very good amendment,” Pettus said. “I think it makes the bill better.”
The friendly amendment passed 82 to 0.
The bill itself passed 61 to 24.
Pettus said that if his bill passes there would be a sixty day grace period before it is enforced to make the public aware of the change.
“This would be a misdemeanor,” Pettus said. A citation for this would be a $20 fine plus court costs.
“This left lane issue is very very important,” said Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia. Travelling in the left lane, it can be a hazard. Traffic starts backing up and people start getting impatient.”
The bill now goes to the Senate.
Alabama lawmaker pre-files legislation to allow removal of Confederate monuments
If passed, the measure would permit counties and cities to relocate historic monuments currently located on public property.
Alabama State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, introduced legislation this week in advance of the 2021 legislative session that, if passed, would permit counties and cities to relocate historic monuments currently located on public property. Givan’s bill, HB8, would also provide for the relocation of historic memorials to sites appropriate for public display.
“Across the state of Alabama, citizens are calling for the removal of prominently placed statues and monuments that are insensitive or offensive to the communities that surround them,” Givan said. “City and county governments must be able to address the demands of their citizens. This legislation provides a tool for local governments to safely remove these artifacts so that they can be moved to a site more appropriate for preserving or displaying the historical monument.”
Removing the monuments and historical markers is currently illegal under Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act, which the state Legislature passed in 2017. Givan has been an outspoken opponent of that Republican-sponsored legislation. In 2018, Givan introduced a measure to repeal the bill that barred the removal of monuments.
“I believe HB8 can achieve bipartisan support,” Givan said. “My bill seeks to balance the wishes of the people. It respects the will of communities that want the monuments removed. It also respects those who wish to preserve history. With this legislation, Confederate monuments could be relocated to a public site, like Confederate Memorial Park, whose purpose and mission is to interpret and tell these stories. When the Legislature convenes, I hope to have the support of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.”
If enacted, HB8 would permit county and municipal governments to remove memorial monuments, including permanent statues, portraits and markers, located on public property in their jurisdictions. It would require a transfer of ownership of the removed monuments to the Alabama Department of Archives and History or the Alabama Historical Commission. Finally, the bill would instruct Archives and History or the Historical Commission to maintain and display monuments removed by local authorities in a location accessible for public display.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of Confederate monuments and memorials across the country, released an update to its Whose Heritage report, which tracks symbols of the Confederacy on public land across the United States. They report at least 30 Confederate symbols have been removed or relocated since George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.
These include 24 monuments removed, 5 monuments relocated and the Mississippi state flag replaced. Since the Charleston church shooting in 2015, 115 total symbols have been removed from public spaces. These include 87 monuments that have been removed or relocated from public spaces. At least 78 monuments were removed and nine were relocated.
SPLC says there are still nearly 1,800 Confederate symbols on public land, and 739 of those symbols are monuments. The SPLC has prepared an “action guide” to help community activists target Confederate historical markers and memorials for removal.
President Donald Trump has denounced what he calls “cancel culture” that seeks to remove historical monuments and statutes.
“There is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for, struggled, they bled to secure,” Trump said. “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.”
Senate pro tem requests general fund committee begin hearings in July
Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, announced today that he has asked Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Range, to begin holding General Fund Committee meetings in preparation for the next session.
In an effort to be better prepared because of uncertainty in state revenue as a result of COVID-19 pandemic Senator Albritton has agreed with Senator Marsh and has invited Legislative Services, the Department of Finance, Pardons and Paroles, Corrections and the Personnel Department to provide updates to the committee.
“Typically, we begin this process closer to sessions however because of uncertainty about state income and possibility of special sessions, we felt like it was important to get started much earlier than usual in this process,” Senator Albritton said. “The Legislature has done an excellent job managing our budgets over the past few years. So much so that Alabama was able to weather the storm of the COVID-19 shutdown this year with little impact to our vital state services. We understand that we will not have final revenue projections until after July 15th, but we must continue to do our due diligence and ensure that we use taxpayer money sensibly.”
“We want to make sure that all public money is being used wisely, now and in the future,” Senator Marsh said. “We have many pressing issues facing the state such as a potential $2 billion-dollar prison reform proposal and a stunning lack of rural broadband investment which need to be addressed whenever the Legislature is back in session and it is our duty to make sure we are prepared and kept up to speed on these matters. Furthermore, the taxpayers deserve a clear and transparent view of how their money is being used.”
The hearings are scheduled to begin July 9 in the Alabama State House.
Part-time employee in lieutenant governor’s office tests positive for COVID-19
A part-time employee in Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth’s office, who the office said works only a handful of hours each week, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, according to a press statement.
The employee, whose work area is separated from the rest of the staff, last worked in the office on the morning of Thursday, June 18.
All members of the office staff have been tested or are in the process of being tested for COVID-19 in response, and, thus far, no additional positive results have been reported.
In addition, the State House suite has been thoroughly cleaned and will remain closed until all employees’ test results have been returned.
Employees are working remotely from home, and phones are being answered in order to continue providing services to the citizens who need them.
Three workers at ADOC headquarters among latest to test positive for COVID-19
Sixteen more Alabama Department of Corrections employees, including three at the department’s headquarters in Montgomery, have tested positive for COVID-19.
The department’s latest update, released Monday evening, puts the total of confirmed cases among employees at 99, with 73 cases still active.
Five more inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 as well, including inmates at the Donaldson Correctional Facility, the Easterling Correctional Facility, the Kilby Correctional Facility, the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women and the St. Clair Correctional Facility.
18 of 27 confirmed cases among inmates remained active as of Monday, according to ADOC.
Of the department’s 28 facilities, there have been confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff or inmates in 21. Of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates, 214 had been tested as of Friday.
Areas inside numerous state prisons are under quarantine, with ADOC staff either limiting inmate movements to those areas or checking for symptoms regularly and conducting twice daily temperature checks, according to the department.