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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.

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.

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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.

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Alabama Legislature plans to return to work briefly March 31

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Alabama Senate is planning to get to only a few big, constitutionally mandated items before calling an end to the year’s legislative session amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but whether they’ll get those tasks accomplished remains to be seen. 

Senate leadership is advising lawmakers who fall into “at-risk” categories because of their age or pre-existing medical conditions to not attend the Senate’s meeting when it resumes.

Among the items legislators tentatively plan to tackle before gaveling the session closed sometime in the future are the passage of the Education Trust Fund budget and the General Fund budget, which is the Legislature’s only constitutionally mandated duty.

And “other bills deemed necessary.” 

The state Senate’s Plan of Action, obtained by APR Friday, states that the Senate will meet at 2 p.m. on March 31 for its 14th legislative day. 

“The intent for this legislative day is to advance only essential attendance items and then to adjourn to a date certain for the 15th Legislative Day. April 28 has been discussed with the House,” the plan reads. 

The State Senate’s plan: 

“As leaders, it is imperative that we demonstrate that the business of this state carries on in an orderly and systematic fashion while adhering to the recommendations of our public health officials.

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The Alabama Senate will meet on Tuesday, March 31 at 2:00 pm at the Statehouse in the Senate Chamber as scheduled. This will be the 14th Legislative Day.

The intent for this legislative day is to advance only essential attendance items and then to adjourn to a date certain for the 15th Legislative Day. April 28 has been discussed with the House.

Below is a draft agenda for Tuesday, March 31.

  • Gavel In
  • Pledge and Prayer
  • Roll Call
  • Excuse all Senators
  • Points of Personal Privilege
  • President Pro Tem Marsh
  • Majority Leader Reed
  • Minority Leader Singleton
  • Adjourn to date certain for 15th Legislative Day.

“It is highly recommended that any Senator that falls into any of the at-risk categories stay away from the March 31 Legislative Day,” the plan advises. “However, each Senator’s personal wish will be accommodated.”

Any Senator or staff member that is ill, has been ill, or has been in the same room of anyone that has had any symptom of illness in the 72 hours preceding the March 31 Legislative Day must stay away from the March 31 Legislative Day, according to the Senate’s leadership.

A disinfecting station will be provided under the canopy of the second-floor rear entrance for each senator to disinfect hands and cell phones as they enter the State House and as they leave the Statehouse.

“We must ensure that we practice all Health Department recommendations while at the Statehouse,” the plan reads.

Social distancing will be accomplished by having senators report to their offices by 1:45 p.m. They will then walk into the chamber as the roll is called and then go back to their offices.

“As much separation as possible is required therefore greetings must be verbal only from a distance of 6 feet or greater,” the plan reads.

The remainder of the session will be held possibly Tuesday, April 28 through Monday, May 18.

This timeframe includes three weeks of the session plus the last day of May 18.

A specific plan for meeting more days than normal will be developed and provided prior to the next legislative meeting date.

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$200,000 in campaign finance penalties deposited into State General Fund

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Act 2015-495, which went into effect beginning with the 2018 Election Cycle, allows the Secretary of State’s Office to issue penalties to Political Action Committees (PACs) and Principal Campaign Committees (PCCs) that fail to timely file campaign finance reports.

As of today, the Office of the Secretary of State has collected $202,504.20 which has been deposited into the State General Fund to benefit the people of Alabama.

Conversations with the Senate and House General Fund Chairmen are currently underway to determine the best way to allocate these resources to counties.

Anyone who receives a campaign finance penalty is able to appeal their penalty to the Alabama Ethics Commission who has the authority to overturn a penalty.

“When I campaigned for this office in 2014, I made a promise to the people of Alabama that I would work to see that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat in this state. Since then, we have worked to make the electoral process more fair and transparent through requiring the honest reporting of all PACs and PCCs,” stated Secretary of State John H. Merrill.

Anyone who suspects an individual may be in violation of the Alabama Election Fairness Project is encouraged to report suspicious activity to StopVoterFraudNow.com.

 

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Economy

Daniels: We have to get help to those who need it most

Josh Moon

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There is not enough help coming fast enough to the people struggling the most. 

That was the message from Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, who was asked on the “Alabama Politics This Week” podcast about the efforts of Alabama’s state government to address the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“If you’ve never been poor, you don’t fully comprehend how things like this affect the poor and the unique problems the poor people face,” Daniels said. “I commend Gov. (Kay) Ivey and her staff for working to try and address this crisis the best they can, but I just think there’s a lack of understanding among all of us in some cases of how people need help.” 

To address those issues, at least in part, Daniels is writing a series of letters to different entities, including Ivey, to explain how they can best help the state’s most vulnerable. 

Daniels plans to ask the Alabama Supreme Court to order lower courts to halt foreclosure proceedings and evictions for those affected by coronavirus job losses and illnesses. He also will ask Ivey to intervene with banks on behalf of customers who are falling hopelessly behind on mortgage, car loans and other installment loans. And he will seek additional assistance from the state for borrowers with overwhelming student loan debt. 

“I want people to understand that I’m not criticizing what’s being done or trying to take control, I just hear from these folks on a daily basis and believe there are some better ways to help people,” Daniels said. “President Trump has addressed student loan debt by knocking the interest of those loans, but what does that really do for a person who just lost a job? Or someone who’s had hours and pay cut? We need to pause those payments and give people substantial forgiveness. 

“Otherwise, it’s going to be ugly.”

Democrats in the House also have been putting together potential legislation that could be passed to help the state’s poorest citizens and those who have been laid off from jobs. The specifics of those pieces of legislation weren’t available, but Daniels said they would have the same focus — providing real help for those who need it most. 

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If those bills are anything like the measures taken during the last economic downturn, you can expect a relaxing of rules on social programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and unemployment assistance programs. 

One of the first moves could be overturning a measure passed during the last legislative session that cut the number of weeks of unemployment pay in the state from 26 to 14. State Sen. Arthur Orr sponsored that legislation, and critics argued at the time that a downturn, such as the one that occurred in 2008, could suddenly leave thousands in the state without jobs and job prospects. It passed anyway.

 

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House

Alabama House cancels March 25 committee meetings due to coronavirus

Jessa Reid Bolling

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The Alabama House of Representatives announced on Monday that committee meetings scheduled for Wednesday, March 25 will be cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The legislative day on March 26 has not technically been cancelled but the House is not expected to have a quorum for that day.

A “quorum” is the minimum number of House members that must be present at any meeting to make the proceedings of that meeting valid. If there are not enough members present, then the meeting cannot proceed and House rules state that the speaker of the House is allowed to set a new date for the meeting. 

The Legislature is currently on an annual spring break. The House and Senate are both expected to reconvene on March 31. According to the statement from the House, a joint decision will be made regarding the future legislative meeting days.

The full statement reads:

“The leadership of the Alabama House of Representatives has made several changes to the upcoming meeting calendar because of the coronavirus crisis in the state.

House committees that were scheduled to meet on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 have been cancelled.

The House is scheduled to meet on Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. but no quorum is expected that day.

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Under House Rule 5(b), if there’s no quorum to conduct business during a state of emergency declared by the governor, the speaker of the House is allowed to set the date and time of the next meeting day. 

Both the House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 and at that time a joint decision will be made as to future legislative meeting days.”

 

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