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Near-total abortion ban passes the House of Representatives

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill that would criminalize nearly all abortions in the state of Alabama.

House Bill 314 is sponsored by State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur.

“The heart of this bill is to confront a decision by the Court in 1973 that says that the child in the womb is not a human being,”  Collins said.

Collins said this, “Makes it a criminal offense to perform an abortion as a doctor. The woman would be held blameless.”

State Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, said that the bill challenges Roe v. Wade, going to the heart of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Wingo said that the abortion clinic in Tuscaloosa performs 3,500 abortions a year.

“There are more abortions in Tuscaloosa than births,” Wingo said.

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A pro-abortion protestor was arrested in the House Gallery by the Capitol Police after she threw paints at the glass and threw paint at Capitol Police.

As of press time, she was being held in the Montgomery County Jail. Her name has not been released.

The bill had 68 House cosponsors so passage was all but certain.

Democrats tried to filibuster the special order calendar, but new House rules passed in the organizational session in January limited that filibuster to just one hour.

The Budget Isolation Resolution estimated that the state would spend between $1 million and $2 million defending this bill in federal court over inevitable lawsuits.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, introduced an amendment asking for an exception for rape and incest.

Collins told Daniels, “I am not going to accept any amendments.”

Collins asked that the House table the Daniels amendment. The tabling motion passed 71 to 26.

State Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Midfield, introduced an amendment that would have required state legislators to foot the bill for defending the law. That amendment also failed 61 to 27.

After that, most of the House Democrats walked out.

State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, and the remaining handful of Democrats filibustered.

“Some children are just unwanted. You either kill them now or you kill them later in the electric chair,” Rogers said.

State Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham, read a poem, “If my vagina was a gun you would protect its rights……..”

Rogers said, “I may bring a bill to force all men to have vasectomies. That would end this whole debate. There would be no more abortions and eventually no more voters.”

Rogers said that as a Catholic he is personally pro-life, but that the Legislature should leave options open for women.

“Some parents can’t handle a child with problems,” he said. “It could be retarded. It might have no arms and no legs.”

House Bill 314 passed 74 to 3 with many Democrats having already left the chamber in protest.

A number of anti-abortion bills have been introduced across the South, with bills passing in Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia.

The ACLU has vigorously challenged those laws.

They immediately filed suits and have gotten federal judges to block these bans in Kentucky and Mississippi. The ACLU of Alabama announced that they are prepared to sue if the Alabama Legislature passes this ban.

“We are disappointed that the Alabama House passed HB314 despite the fact it would criminalize abortion and interfere with a woman’s personal, private medical decisions,” the ACLU wrote in a statement. “It is unfortunate that members of the House are putting their personal beliefs ahead of what’s in the best interest of our state. The people of Alabama are paying the bill for unconstitutional legislation and we hope that the Senate members will realize its detrimental impact and stop this bill from becoming law. Otherwise it will be challenged in federal court.”

Planned Parenthood President and CEO Staci Fox said the organization expected this vote to happen, and they are ready for a fight in the Senate

“Today’s floor debate made it crystal clear what Alabama lawmakers think about women,” Fox said. “It also revealed just how callous and flagrant they can be. They voted overwhelmingly to reject any exception for rape or incest. And, despite acknowledging that this bill will inevitably end in litigation, costing the taxpayers millions of dollars, they rejected the opportunity to ‘put their money where their mouth is,’ as Rep. Merika Coleman put it, and pay for that litigation themselves. Instead, they are forcing the people of this state to fund this political game they are playing, with Alabama women as their pawns.”

Collins said she was pleased the bill passed.

In November, Alabama voters, by a large margin, approved a constitutional amendment that would effectively outlaw abortions in this state if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Update: When HB314 passed the House only three representatives voted against it.  A number of Democrats who had left the chamber have since changed their vote to no, so the updated vote is 72 to 26.

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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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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Still work to be done on an Alabama gambling deal

Josh Moon

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A grand deal on gambling is possible in Alabama, but there’s still a long way to go. 

That was essentially the message that representatives from the Poarch Creek Indians and owners of non-Indian casinos around the state gave Friday to Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Gambling Policy. The 12-member group heard presentations, via Zoom, from representatives from all the tracks and casinos in the state, as it continues in its quest to put together a proposal that Ivey and state lawmakers can use to hopefully craft future gambling legislation. 

To move forward with almost any legislation will require an agreement of some sort between PCI, Lewis Benefield, who operates VictoryLand and the Birmingham Race Course, and Nat Winn, the CEO of GreeneTrack. The owners of smaller electronic bingo halls in Greene and Lowndes Counties will also have some input. 

The tug of war between these various entities has, over the last several years, prevented an expansion of gambling. It also has left the state in a weird situation in which casinos are operating on a daily basis but there are numerous legal questions and the state is making very little in the way of tax dollars from any of them. 

But with public support for lotteries, sportsbooks and even full casino gambling at all-time highs (even a majority of Republican voters surveyed said they support full casinos in the state), and with neighboring states rapidly expanding offerings, state lawmakers seem ready to push through legislation to make it happen. 

And now, it seems, the two sides in this fight — PCI and the track owners — are ready to make a deal. 

“I feel like there’s a plan out there that would benefit all of us,” said Benefield, who is the son-in-law of Milton McGregor, who passed away in 2018. “I’d like to see us put together something that gets these customers back from surrounding states. I just really feel like we can work together.”

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Benefield wasn’t alone in those feelings. 

“We stand ready to sit down and talk (about a grand deal) with anyone,” said Arthur Mothershed, who, as vice president of business development for PCI, handled the tribe’s presentation on Friday. 

Mothershed and Benefield have each said previously, and APR has reported, that the tribe and the non-Indian entities have held several discussions over the last few months in a quest to work out a deal. 

There is a new, old player involved, however. 

Former Gov. Jim Folsom, now a lobbyist, represented several Greene County electronic bingo entities, including GreeneTrack, during the conference. Folsom and others representing the bingo casinos told the group that bingo is essentially the financial lifeblood for their county, and that without it multiple county services could go unfunded. 

Ivey’s study group has met four times with the goal of providing state lawmakers with clear answers on questions of revenue, risks and options for gaming types. Any legislation approved by lawmakers would have to be approved by voters.

 

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