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House Judiciary Committee considers red flag law

Brandon Moseley

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The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing Wednesday for House Bill 265, which would allow a court to order law enforcement to seize a person’s guns if there is evidence that they are a danger to themselves or the community.

HB265 is sponsored by State Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham.

Coleman said the legislation creates a tool by which a family member, school officials or law enforcement can act if they believe that someone poses a danger.

Coleman said she is a member of the bipartisan group Americans State Legislature for Gun Violence Prevention.

“This is one of the issues that came up,” Coleman said. “This is model legislation that has passed in other states.”

“It is not a gun control bill, it is a gun safety bill,” Coleman continued.

Coleman said that she is a gun owner.

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Coleman said a family member, school officials or law enforcement member could petition a court to remove the guns from the home for a year. The judge would rule based on the preponderance of the evidence. A hearing would be held 14 days after the guns were seized. If the gun owner is unable to convince the court that the guns do not pose a threat the court can hold the guns for up to a year. At that time, the respondent could get their guns back, but they would have to pass an extensive background check and pay a fee for the cost of storing his or her weapons.

Coleman said that the fee would have to be paid by the respondents, not the petitioner.

Coleman also said in other states that have this the average respondent has seven guns in the home.

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“We don’t allow the government to infringe on someone’s constitutional rights without clear and compelling evidence,” saidState Rep. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo.

Fridy, who is an attorney, said that the preponderance of the evidence, “That is a very low standard for the state to step in and be depriving someone of their constitutional rights.”

“These orders have also been shown effective to prevent suicides,” Coleman said.

Fridy said, “The burden of proof should be on the state, not the citizen,” Fridy said.

“This is a tool in the toolbox. 14 other states have passed this,” Coleman said.

State Rep. Alan Farley, R-McCalla, said he was concerned by the lack of due process.

“There will be a hearing 14 days after the guns are seized,” Coleman said.

Five members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense Alabama spoke in favor of the bill. No one came to the public hearing to speak in opposition to the bill.

Leantra Vaughn from Auburn said, “My husband and I are gun owners, and I am a victim of gun violence.”

“On New Years 1997, my mother took her parents’ gun and killed herself,” Vaughn said. “If Alabama had had a red flag law, I would have petitioned the court to have my grandparents guns seized and she would be alive today.”

“HB265 can prevent tragedies like this,” Vaughn said. “It can also prevent mass shootings like Parkland.”

Vaughn said there are 59 deaths per day from suicide with guns.

“Red flags laws are a proven way to intervene before a firearms suicide or a mass shooting,” Karen McClure said.

McClure said after passing a red flag law in Indiana, gun suicides declined by 7.5 percent, and after Connecticut began enforcing their red flag law, gun suicides declined by 14.7 percent.

“Red flags can and do prevent mass shootings,” McClure said.

Due to the controversy with Fridy and other legislators about the level of proof needed to seize a citizen’s guns, Coleman requested that the bill be assigned to a subcommittee for them to work on it.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Hill, R-Odenville, agreed with Coleman, and the committee voted to refer the bill to a subcommittee.

The subcommittee will have to decide what changes to make, if any, before it can be brought back to the House Judiciary Committee for a vote.

The bill to allow Alabama citizens to carry their guns concealed without a concealed carry permit, Senate Bill 4, was before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, as well. That was a heavily attended public hearing with law enforcement, the Alabama Sheriff’s Association and Moms Demand Action all opposed to the bill, while the National Rifle Association and BamaCarry both supported the bill.

SB4 is sponsored by State Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on SB4 next week.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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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.

Brandon Moseley

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A Confederate monument in Birmingham's Linn Park was removed. As have monuments and memorials in Mobile and on the campus of the University of Alabama.

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.

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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.”

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Senate pro tem requests general fund committee begin hearings in July

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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.

 

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Part-time employee in lieutenant governor’s office tests positive for COVID-19

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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.

 

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Three workers at ADOC headquarters among latest to test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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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.

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