The Alabama Legislature met for Day 10 of its annual Regular Session on Tuesday, April 16. Thirty-one committee meetings were held throughout the week to consider legislation. Both Houses met on Thursday, April 18 for Day 11.
To date, 803 bills have been introduced.
The Legislature will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, April 23 for Day 12 of the Session with the House convening at 1 p.m. and the Senate at 3 p.m.
DURING THE WEEK:
More than 30 Sheriffs from around the state attended the public hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose a bill that would allow the carrying of a firearm without a concealed pistol permit. Representatives from Bama Carry and the National Rifle Association spoke in favor of the legislation. The committee will vote on the bill next week [SB4 by Sen. Gerald Allen].
A public hearing was held in the House Health Committee on a bill that would make performing of an abortion, unless the pregnant woman’s life is in danger, a felony. Fourteen people spoke either for or against the bill. The bill’s proponents predict the legislation will be declared unconstitutional in the lower courts but hope to spur a national debate and ultimate Supreme Court decision overruling the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade. The ACLU tweeted during the hearing that previous legislation requiring abortion physicians to have local hospital admitting privileges was struck down as unconstitutional in 2017, and the State was ordered to pay the plaintiff ACLU $1.7 million. The bill was given a favorable report [HB314 by Rep. Terri Collins].
Legislation to prohibit cities and counties from regulating or restricting plastic, paper, styrofoam and other litter was on the House Special Order Calendar for Thursday, but the House adjourned before it could be considered [HB346 by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter].
SIGNIFICANT INTRODUCTIONS THIS WEEK:
A bill was introduced in the House that would require the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to designate the words “registered voter” on driver’s licenses and nondriver’s identification cards. The bill is pending in the House State Government Committee [HB440 by Rep. Thad McClammy].
A bill was introduced in the House that would authorize local boards of education to offer yoga to students in grades K through 12. The bill is pending in the House Education Policy Committee [HB449 by Rep. Jeremy Gray].
A bill was introduced in the House that would authorize a municipality to increase the minimum wage set by the federal government. The bill is pending in the House State Government Committee [HB482 by
Rep. Napoleon Bracy].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would provide for the operation of shared micro-mobility device systems and would require the consent of a county or municipality prior to the use of the system in the county or municipality. The bill is pending in the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee [SB312 by Sen. Rodger Smitherman].
SIGNIFICANT COMMITTEE ACTION THIS WEEK:
The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a bill that would expand online sales transactions which could be taxed through the Simplified Sellers Use Tax and provide for a calculation of the combined average state and local sellers use tax rate by using the state, county and municipal sellers use tax rates. The bill now goes to the full House [HB418 by Rep. Rod Scott].
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would update the amnesty and class action provisions of the Simplified Sellers Use Tax and clarify transactions for which the tax cannot be collected and remitted. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB153 by Sen. Tim Melson].
The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would provide for a $10 million allocation of motor fuel excise taxes to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to facilitate growth of inland ports and transfer facilities, and for the coordination of a transportation system for inland waterways. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB268 by Sen. Arthur Orr].
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee substituted and gave a favorable report to a bill that would create the Women’s Tribute Statue Commission to fund, commission and place monuments for Rosa Parks andHelen Keller on the Capitol grounds. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB265 by Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison].
The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on a bill that would authorize courts to issue ex-parte gun violence protection orders if the court finds that the respondent poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to self or others [HB265 by Rep. Merika Coleman].
The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on a bill that would establish the Alabama Court Cost Commission who would review existing laws imposing court costs and make recommendations to the Legislature as to whether existing laws should be amended, repealed or left unchanged and to review and approve any proposed legislation before introduction to the Legislature [HB377 by Rep. Matt Simpson].
The House State Government Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a bill that would provide for the registration of certain fantasy sports operators, require the implementation of procedures for consumer protection and exempt fantasy sports contests from the state prohibition against gambling. The bill now goes to the full House [HB361 by Rep. Kyle South].
The House Commerce and Small Business Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on a bill that would allow a licensed wine manufacturer to obtain a wine direct shipper permit to ship directly to residents for personal use [HB350 by Rep. Terri Collins].
The House Agriculture and Forestry Committee gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would authorize the taking of whitetail dear or feral swine by means of bait when a person purchases a baiting privilege license from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The bill now goes to the full House [SB66 by Sen. Jack Williams].
The Senate Transportation and Energy Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a bill that would provide the procedure for depositing of material from the dredging of the inlets of the state. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB215 by Sen. David Sessions].
The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would provide that the surviving spouse and dependents of a law enforcement officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty on or after Jan. 1, 2018, will continue to receive worker’s compensation benefits. The bill now goes to the full House [HB187 by Rep. Matt Fridy].
SIGNIFICANT FLOOR ACTION THIS WEEK:
The Senate passed a House bill that would provide circumstances under which an individual acting as an economic development professional is not considered a lobbyist. The bill now goes to the governor [HB289 by Rep. Alan Baker].
The Senate substituted, amended and passed a bill that would provide that the police jurisdiction of a municipality would not be extended beyond its current limits after the effective date of this act. The bill now goes to the House [SB23 by Sen. Chris Elliott].
The Senate passed a bill that would allow the state and its political subdivisions to utilize waiver valuations, in lieu of an appraisal, to determine the value of real property for the right-of-way acquisitions. The bill now goes to the House [SB139 by Sen. Billy Beasley].
The House amended and passed a bill that would require county sheriffs and the Department of Corrections to provide feminine hygiene products for female prisoners under certain conditions. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB308 by Rep. Rolanda Hollis].
The House and Senate each passed a bill that would require that the pledge of alliance to the US flag be conducted at the beginning of each school day in public K-12 schools. The bills now go to the second House [HB339 by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter and SB258 by Sen. Steve Livingston].
The Senate substituted and passed a House bill that would provide specific provisions concerning the payment and collection of state and local taxes on the leasing and rental of tangible personal property. The bill now returns to the House for action on the Senate substitute [HB155 by Rep. Steve Clouse].
The Senate amended and passed a bill that would require a county or municipality to include a schedule of all of the debt obligations of the county or municipality with the bond financing agreement documents. The bill now goes to the House [SB202 by Sen. Arthur Orr].
The House substituted, amended and passed a bill that would establish a new procedure for collecting funds other than child support and other exempt income and property paid to a person convicted of a specified crime and authorize a crime victim to apply for civil compensation and other remedies relating to the crime.
The bill now goes to the Senate [HB180 by Rep. Proncey Robertson].
The House amended and passed a bill that would establish the Alabama Board of Genetic Counseling, provide that the practice of genetic counseling without a license is a criminal offense, exempt physicians and other medical professionals from licensure and provide that genetic counselors are not authorized to practice medicine. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB313 by Rep. Danny Garrett].
Opinion | On the Nov. 3 ballot, vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1
On Nov. 3, 2020, all Alabama voters should vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1. Vote no on Amendment 1 because it could allow state law changes to disenfranchise citizens whom the Legislature does not want to vote. Because Amendment 1 has no practical purpose and because it opens the door to mischief, all voters are urged to vote no.
Currently, the Alabama Constitution provides that “Every citizen of the United States…” has the right to vote in the county where the voter resides. Amendment 1 would delete the word “every” before citizen and replace it with “only a” citizen.
In Alabama, the only United States citizens who cannot vote today are most citizens who have been convicted of a felony of moral turpitude. These felonies are specifically identified in Ala. Code 17-3-30.1.
Without Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution now says who can vote: every citizen. If voters approve Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution would only identify a group who cannot vote. With Amendment 1, we, the citizens of the United States in Alabama, thus would lose the state constitutional protection of our voting rights.
In Alabama, no individual who is not a United States citizens can vote in a governmental election. So, Amendment 1 has no impact on non-citizens in Alabama.
Perhaps the purpose of Amendment 1 could be to drive voter turnout of those who mistakenly fear non-citizens can vote. The only other purpose for Amendment 1 would be allowing future Alabama state legislation to disenfranchise groups of Alabama citizens whom a majority of the legislature does not want to vote.
In 2020, the ballots in Florida and Colorado have similar amendments on the ballots. As in Alabama, Citizens Voters, Inc., claims it is responsible for putting these amendments on the ballots in those states. While Citizens Voters’ name sounds like it is a good nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), it has secret political donors. One cannot know who funds Citizen Voters and thus who is behind pushing these amendments with more than $8 million in dark money.
According to Citizen Voter’s website, the stated reason for Amendment 1 is that some cities in several other states allow non-citizens to vote. My understanding is that such measures are rare and only apply to voting for local school boards.
And why would a local government’s deciding that non-citizens can vote for local school boards be a state constitutional problem? Isn’t the good government practice to allow local control of local issues? And again, this issue does not even exist in Alabama.
The bigger question, which makes Amendment 1’s danger plain to see, is why eliminate the language protecting “every” citizen’s right to vote? For example, Amendment 1 could have proposed “Every citizen and only a citizen” instead of deleting “every” when adding “only a” citizen. Why not leave the “every” citizen language in the Alabama Constitution?
Amendment 1 could allow Alabama new state legislation to disenfranchise some Alabama citizens. Such a change would probably violate federal law. But Alabama has often had voting laws that violated federal law until a lawsuit forced the state of Alabama not to enforce the illegal state voting law.
The most recent similar law in Alabama might be 2011’s HB56, the anti-immigrant law. Both HB56 and Amendment 1 are Alabama state laws that out-of-state interests pushed on us. And HB56 has been largely blocked by federal courts after expensive lawsuits.
Alabama’s Nov. 3, 2020, ballot will have six constitutional amendments. On almost all ballots, Amendment 1 will be at the bottom right on the first page (front) of the ballot or will be at the top left on the second page (back) of the ballot.
Let’s keep in our state constitution our protection of every voters’ right to vote.
Based on Amendment 1’s having no practical benefit and its opening many opportunities for mischief, all Alabama voters are strongly urged to vote “no” on Amendment 1.
Opinion | Amendment 4 is an opportunity to clean up the Alabama Constitution
The 1901 but current Alabama Constitution has been amended about 950 times, making it by far the world’s longest constitution. The amendments have riddled the Constitution with redundancies while maintaining language and provisions — for example, poll taxes — that reflect the racist intent of those who originally wrote it.
A recompilation will bring order to the amendments and remove obsolete language. While much of this language is no longer valid, the language is still in the document and has been noted and used by other states when competing with Alabama for economic growth opportunities.
The need for recompilation and cleaning of Alabama’s Constitution has been long recognized.
In 2019, the Legislature unanimously adopted legislation, Amendment 4, to provide for its recompilation. Amendment 4 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot will allow the non-partisan Legislative Reference Service to draft a recompiled and cleaned version of the Constitution for submission to the Legislature.
While Amendment 4 prohibits any substantive changes in the Constitution, the LRS will remove duplication, delete no longer legal provisions and racist language, thereby making our Constitution far more easily understood by all Alabama citizens.
Upon approval by the Legislature, the recompiled Constitution will be presented to Alabama voters in November 2022 for ratification.
Amendment 4 authorizes a non-partisan, broadly supported, non-controversial recompilation and much-needed, overdue cleaning up of our Constitution.
On Nov. 3, 2020, vote “Yes” on Amendment 4 so the work can begin.
Opinion | Auburn Student Center named for Harold Melton, first Auburn SGA president of color
The year 1987 was a quiet one for elections across America but not at Auburn. That was the year Harold Melton, a student in international studies and Spanish, launched and won a campaign to become the first African American president of the Auburn Student Government Association, winning with more than 65 percent of the vote.
This was just the first of many important roles Harold Melton would play at Auburn and in an extraordinarily successful legal career in his home state of Georgia, where his colleagues on the Georgia Supreme Court elected him as chief justice.
Last week, the Auburn Board of Trustees unanimously named the Auburn student center for Justice Melton, the first building on campus that honors a person of color. The decision was reached as part of a larger effort to demonstrate Auburn’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
In June, Auburn named two task forces to study diversity and inclusion issues. We co-chair the task force for the Auburn Board with our work taking place concurrently with that of a campus-based task force organized by President Jay Gogue. Other members of the Board task force are retired Army general Lloyd Austin, bank president Bob Dumas, former principal and educator Sarah B. Newton and Alabama Power executive Quentin P. Riggins.
These groups are embarking on a process that offers all Auburn stakeholders a voice, seeking input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, elected officials and more. It will include a fact-based review of Auburn’s past and present, and we will provide specific recommendations for the future.
We are committed to making real progress based on solid facts. Unlike other universities in the state, Auburn has a presence in all 67 counties through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Our review has included not only our campuses in Auburn and Montgomery but all properties across our state. To date, we have found no monuments or statues recognizing the history that has divided our country. We will continue our fact-finding mission with input from the academic and research community.
Our university and leadership are committed to doing the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time. We believe now is the right time, and we are already seeing results.
In addition to naming the student center for the Honorable Harold Melton, we have taken steps to highlight the significant role played by Harold Franklin, the student who integrated Auburn. We are working to enhance the historical marker that pays tribute to Mr. Franklin, and we are raising its visibility in campus tours as we pay homage to his contributions as our first African American student. Last month, we awarded Mr. Franklin, now 86 and with a Ph.D., a long-overdue master’s degree for the studies he completed at Auburn so many years ago.
We likewise endorsed a student-led initiative creating the National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza, which will recognize the contributions of Black Greek organizations and African American culture on our campus.
In the coming months, Auburn men and women will work together to promote inclusion to further enhance our student experience and build on our strength through diversity. The results of this work will be seen and felt throughout the institution in how we recruit our students, provide scholarships and other financial support and ensure a culture of inclusion in all walks of university life.
Our goal is to identify and implement substantive steps that will make a real difference at Auburn, impact our communities and stand the test of time.
Naming the student center for Justice Melton is but one example. In response to this decision, he said, “Auburn University has already given me everything I ever could have hoped for in a university and more. This honor is beyond my furthest imagination.”
Our job as leaders at Auburn is more than honoring the Harold Meltons and Harold Franklins who played a significant role in the history of our university. It is also to create an inclusive environment that serves our student body and to establish a lasting legacy where all members of the Auburn Family reach their fullest potential in their careers and in life.
Opinion | Alabama lags behind the nation in Census participation with deadline nearing
The United States Census is starting to wind down around the country with a Sept. 30 deadline for the national population to be completed. However, a United States District Court has recently ruled that the date may be extended another 30 days to allow more time for the census to take place.
Regardless of the deadline, Alabama has work to do when it comes to the census.
To date, the national average for participation around the country has been almost 65 percent for the census.
Unfortunately, Alabama residents are providing data to the census at a lower percentage, around some 61 percent of the state population.
There is already concern among state leaders that if that number does not reach above 70 percent, then the state will lose a seat in Congress, a vote in the electoral college and millions of federal dollars that come to the state every year.
The percentage of participation has varied widely around the state, from a high of 76 percent in Shelby County to a low of 36 percent in neighboring Coosa County.
State leaders are making a final push to request Alabama residents fill out the census in the last month before it is closed.
We will find out later this fall if Alabama passes the national average of participation in the census compared to other states to retain both its future representation and share of federal dollars.
In the meantime, Alabamians need to fill out their census forms.
The state is depending on it.