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Sen. Gerald Allen elected chairman of Joint Transportation Committee

Jessica Ballard

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Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, was unanimously chosen to serve as the chairman of the Joint Transportation Committee in the Legislature by its members.

During the March special legislative session, the Joint Transportation Committee’s mission was broadened due to Gov. Kay Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama infrastructure plan. The broadening was meant to create more accountability for the Alabama Department of Transportation. The committee members have increased to oversee ALDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, ALDOT’s long-range plan of road and bridge projects.

“I am honored to be chosen as chairman for this important committee — few things are as key to Alabama’s economic prosperity as a modern transportation network that features safe roads and bridges,” Allen said. “Alabama has a long way to go, frankly. In 2015, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Alabama’s roads a D-plus grade. Part of that is because we have been under-funded compared to other Southeastern states.”

Allen said this is why the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure plan is important. He also assured listeners he and the members of the Joint Transportation Committee would work to ensure all money allocated to transportation is spent wisely.

The committee is made up of 12 state representatives and 12 state senators, with a House and Senate member apiece for Alabama’s seven Congressional Districts and the five ALDOT regions.

“From my ongoing conversations with our congressional delegation in D.C., I understand that they and President (Donald) Trump’s team are working on the general outlines of a federal infrastructure package, too,” Allen said. “A lot will depend on Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and the Democrats, of course, but Alabama is in a great position to benefit should Congress approve a federal transportation package.”

Sen. Gerald Allen represents District 21 in the Alabama State Senate, which is comprised of all or parts of Tuscaloosa, Pickens and Lamar Counties. He is chairman of both the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee and the Joint Transportation Committee.

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ACLU of Alabama condemns bill banning transgender treatment for minors

Jessa Reid Bolling

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama has condemned a recently approved bill to prevent doctors from providing hormone replacement therapy or puberty suppressing drugs to people younger than 19 who identify as transgender.

House Bill 303, the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, would make it a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for doctors to prescribe puberty-blocking medications or opposite gender hormones to minors. The legislation would also ban hysterectomy, mastectomy or castration surgeries from being performed on minors.

The Alabama House Health Committee and the Senate Health Committee approved the bill on Wednesday in separate hearings, both drawing overflow crowds. The committee approval moves the bill in line for consideration by the full House. 

The ACLU of Alabama said in a statement that the bill targets transgender youth and puts their academic success and health in danger. 

“Transgender girls are girls, and transgender boys are boys,” said Dillon Nettles, policy analyst at the ACLU of Alabama. “Alabama lawmakers are considering legislation that runs counter to medical science, prevailing standards for the treatment of transgender youth and basic human dignity.

“The government shouldn’t threaten medical providers with jail for treating transgender kids and schools shouldn’t discriminate against them when it comes to participation in school sports. HB303 and HB35 are dangerous, discriminatory and put kids at risk.”

Multiple women’s sports advocacy organizations, including The National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation and Women Leaders in College Sports, support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports.

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A June 2019 report from the Trevor Project on mental health issues among LGBTQ youth across the United States found that 78 percent of transgender and non-binary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity in the past year. The report also found that 39 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year, with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered. 

The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that focuses on suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth. 

This is the second bill in the State House this year dealing with transgender youth. 

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Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, is sponsoring House Bill 35, titled the Gender Is Real Legislative Act, or GIRL Act. It would require student athletes in K-12 schools to participate as the gender listed on their birth certificate, preventing transgender athletes from competing as the gender they identify as.

 

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Alabama House passes bail reform bill named for Aniah Blanchard

Jessa Reid Bolling

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The Alabama House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly yesterday to pass legislation to give judges more discretion in denying bail to people accused of committing violent crimes.

The legislation, House Bill 81, is named for Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old Alabama college student who was kidnapped and murdered last year. The man charged with her murder, Ibraheed Yazeed, was out on bond for charges including kidnapping and attempted murder at the time he was arrested in connection with Blanchard’s case. 

Section 16 of the 1901 Constitution of Alabama currently requires that “all persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses, when the proof is evident or the presumption great; and that excessive bail shall not, in any case, be required.”

This bill would allow judges to deny bail in cases involving certain violent offences and it amends the Constitution to read: ”If no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to the accused, the public, or both, ensure the presence of the accused at trial, or ensure the integrity of the judicial process, the accused may be detained without bail. Excessive bail shall not in any case be imposed or required.”

Blanchard’s father, Elijah Blanchard, stepmother, Yashiba Blanchard, and mother, Angela Harris, were in the House gallery and received a standing after the bill passed by a vote of 104-0. 

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Chip Brown, R-Mobile, goes to the Alabama Senate next for consideration.

 

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Bill to change the process to implement occupational tax advances in the Senate

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Thursday, the Alabama Senate passed House Bill 147 which changes the process required to implement the occupational tax. The bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Sells, R- Greenville, was passed in the Senate by a vote of 27-7.

House Bill 147 would ensure protection for workers who live outside of the municipality they work and do not have a voice to be in support of, or to reject the occupational tax set forth by local government officials. This bill requires that the Legislature vote on the occupational tax rather than local leaders having the power to implement the tax on their own.

Senator Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, carried the bill on the Senate floor and praised it passage. 

“As was brought in the debate today, representation is fundamental in our country. Lack of representation is what moved our country toward independence. Being subject to an occupational tax without representation is no different. Passage of HB147 simply gives us that representation,” said Senator Chambliss.

Senator Andrew Jones, R-Centre, expressed his support for the legislation. 

“Today is a great day for hard working Alabamians. The occupational tax is harmful to economic development. I was proud to be one of the Senators who worked to raise this issue and bring it to the forefront and I think that our state will benefit as a whole thanks to its passage. I feel like Alabamians are better off now that the legislature has put accountability in place for these taxes,” said Senator Jones.

The legislation will not affect any municipality that enacted an occupational tax within their jurisdiction before February 1, 2020.  

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With its passage in the Senate, House Bill 147 will now go to the Governor for a signature.

 

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House passes bill allowing veterans, active-duty military to get free pistol permits

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday that would allow active-duty military and veterans who received an honorable discharge to pay nothing when they apply for a concealed carry permit

House Bill 208 is sponsored by State Representative David Standridge, R-Hayden.

Under existing Alabama law, it is a misdemeanor to carry a handgun concealed without a permit from your local sheriff’s pistol permits. Alabama law considers a firearm as being “concealed” if it is in a motor vehicle, covered by clothing, or in a purse or luggage. Alabama does not require a permit to open carry a handgun. Alabamians may carry long guns, including in their vehicle, without a permit. A handgun, however, must be unloaded and placed in a locked box away from reach in order for an Alabamian to have the gun in their vehicle unless that person has a concealed carry permit.

Standridge said that HB208 would exempt active-duty military and honorably discharged veterans from having to pay fees to get their pistol permits.

State Representative Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, said, “Thank you for doing something to reduce fees.”

Standridge added an amendment so that if an active-duty soldier loses their active duty status or are dishonorably discharged they would lose their pistol permit.

Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said, “Some poor county sheriffs could not survive without the pistol permits.”

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Rep. Thomas Jackson, R-Thomasville, said, “I got a problem with giving away free pistol permits even to veterans.”

Standridge replied, “This applies to less than ten percent of the adults in Alabama. That is the highest rate in the country.”

Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, asked, “What about those guys with PTSD?”

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“They still have to go through background checks,” Standridge said. “They would still have to go through the same process as anybody else they just haven’t don’t have to pay a fee.”

Rogers said, “A lot of these mass killers are military. Their wives hide their guns from them at night because they wake up after being in combat and they think they are still fighting.”

House Bill 208 has passed 95 to 0. The bill now goes to the Alabama Senate for their consideration.

HB208 was part of a broader package of military appreciation bills that the House passed on Tuesday. The legislature is making an effort to make the state of Alabama more military friendly in order to help the state retain and attract military installations and military. The state’s military bases have an enormous contribution to the Alabama economy.

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