The Alabama Legislature met for Day 14 of its annual Regular Session on Tuesday, April 30. Thirty-one committee meetings were held throughout the week to consider legislation. Both Houses met on Thursday, May 2 for Day 15. 943 bills have been introduced to date.
The Legislature will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, May 7 for Day 16 of the Session with the House convening at 1:00 p.m. and the Senate at 3:30 p.m.
DURING THE WEEK:
On Tuesday the House passed the bill that would make it a felony to perform an abortion; the only exception is when the woman’s life is in danger. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB314 by Representative Terri Collins].
The House Health Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on another abortion bill that would require a physician to exercise reasonable care to preserve the life of a child born alive after an abortion or attempted abortion. The committee is expected to vote on this bill next week [HB491 by Representative Ginny Shaver].
The Senate substituted and passed the $7.1 billion Education Trust Fund Budget. The budget is a 7 percent increase over the $6.6 billion budget passed last year for the current fiscal year. The pre-K program received the largest increase (30 percent). The bill also includes funds for a 4 percent pay raise for K-12 employees provided for in SB192 by Senator Orr which also passed. With the pay raise and recent COLA increase, beginning pay for teachers in Alabama now exceeds $40,000 per year. The bills are now pending in the House Ways and Means Education Committee [SB199 by Senator Arthur Orr].
The House Judiciary Committee debated a bill that would make possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a violation, as opposed to a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine. The bill was assigned to a subcommittee for further consideration [HB96 by Representative Laura Hall].
The House Judiciary Committee amended and passed a proposed Constitutional Amendment which would allow bail unless a person is charged with a capital offense or a Class A felony and proof of guilt is evident or the presumption of guilt is great, and would allow bail to be denied if no condition of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm. The bill now goes to the full House [HB282 by Representative Chip Brown].
A bill which would require hospitals and health care facilities to report non-accidental gunshot wounds to law enforcement was amended and passed by the House. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB288 by Representative Adline Clarke].
SIGNIFICANT INTRODUCTIONS THIS WEEK:
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would require the Department of Public Health, instead of the Department of Mental Health as currently required, to provide education and services regarding care of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or related diseases to those individuals, their families, and the general public. The bill is pending in the Senate Healthcare Committee [SB330 by Senator Greg Albritton].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would reduce the number of signatures required for certain political parties and independent candidates for statewide office to gain ballot access from 3 percent to 1.5 percent of the qualified electors who cast ballots for the office of Governor in the last general election. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee [SB336 by Senator Cam Ward].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would further provide for the process of issuing notice to pay a toll and would authorize the non-renewal of the vehicle registration for vehicles whose owners fail to pay the required toll and administration fees. The bill is pending in the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee [SB347 by Senator David Sessions].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would require a municipality to receive approval from the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) prior to being authorized to use automated traffic enforcement systems. The bill is pending in the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee [SB348 by Senator Gerald Allen].
A bill was introduced in the House that would increase the number of years a person must be admitted to practice law before he or she can qualify to be appointed or elected to a circuit or district court judgeship. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee [HB529 by Representative David Faulkner].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would provide for a delivery service permit that would allow the permittee to contract with certain licensed retail establishments to deliver sealed alcoholic beverages directly to Alabama residents who are at least 21 years of age for their personal use. The bill is pending in the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee [SB368 by Senator Shay Shelnutt].
A bill was introduced in the Senate that would provide a procedure for aftercare of certain patients discharged from a hospital, the designation of a family caregiver, and notice and instruction to a patient and caregiver. The bill is pending in the Senate Healthcare Committee [SB376 by Senator Vivian Davis Figures].
SIGNIFICANT COMMITTEE ACTION THIS WEEK:
The Senate Judiciary Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a House bill that would require retailers of alternative nicotine products, to obtain a tobacco license, prohibit certain advertisements, prohibit the sale to minors, and require the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to regulate retail sales of alternative nicotine devices as with sales of tobacco products. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB41 by Representative Shane Stringer].
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee gave a favorable report to a proposed Constitutional
Amendment that would provide that only a citizen of the United States has the right to vote. The bill now goes
to the full Senate [SB313 by Senator Del Marsh].
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would require the Alabama Historical Commission to commission monuments for Rosa Parks and Helen Keller to be located on the Capitol grounds. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB287 by Representative Laura Hall].
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee gave a favorable report to a House bill that would authorize the Judge of Probate to appoint up to 2 high school or college students to work as unpaid student interns at each polling place in the county on election day. The bill now goes to the full Senate [HB186 by Representative Alan Baker].
The House Health Committee gave a favorable report to a Senate 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 full House [SB213 by Senator Jabo Waggoner].
The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on a bill that would require a person convicted of a sex offense involving a person under the age of 13 to undergo chemical castration as a condition of parole [HB379 by Representative Steve Hurst].
The House Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would establish the crime of female genital mutilation. The bill now goes to the full House [HB421 by Representative Rod Scott].
The House Judiciary Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would criminalize the act of recording or attempting to record any image or video of private, intimate body parts of another person without that person’s consent. The bill now goes to the full House [SB26 by Senator Clyde Chambliss].
The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a Senate bill that would authorize an organization, winery or brewery to obtain a license from the ABC Board to hold a wine or beer festival where wineries or breweries may provide tastings and sell their products for on-premises or off-premises consumption. The bill now goes to the full House [SB269 by Senator Andrew Jones].
The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would authorize licensed manufacturers of alcoholic beverages within an entertainment district that conduct tastings and samplings to sell beverages for consumption outside the premises. The bill now goes to the full House [HB474 by Representative Neil Rafferty].
The House Education Policy Committee gave a favorable report to a Senate 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 bill now goes to the full House [SB258 by Representative Steve Livingston].
The Senate Tourism Committee amended and gave a favorable report to a bill that would exclude certain places or spaces for tent camping, marine slips and recreational vehicles from the state transient occupancy (lodging) tax. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB308 by Senator Gerald Allen].
The House Commerce and Small Business Committee substituted and gave a favorable report to a bill that would allow a licensed wine manufacturer to obtain a wine direct shipper permit to ship directly to residents for personal use. The bill now goes to the full House [HB350 by Representative Terri Collins].
The Senate Transportation and Energy Committee substituted and gave a favorable report to a bill that would provide further for the exemptions of the Alabama Toll Road, Bridge and Tunnel Authority from state and local taxation. The bill now goes to the full Senate [SB154 by Senator Chris Elliott].
The House Economic Development & Tourism Committee and the Senate Tourism Committee each met on bills that would protect the electronic bingo games currently being played at VictoryLand in Macon County in the event the “paper only” lottery bill passes [HB422 by Representative Pebblin Warren and SB322 by Senator Billly Beasley].
SIGNIFICANT FLOOR ACTION THIS WEEK:
The House amended and passed a bill that would require municipal fire departments provide supplemental insurance coverage to pay the claims of a career firefighter who has served 12 consecutive months and has been diagnosed with cancer under certain conditions. The bill is now pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund [HB360 by Representative Phillip Pettus].
The House amended and passed a bill that would allow qualifying seasonal sales, use and lodgings taxpayers the option to file these taxes on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis. The bill is now pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee [HB383 by Representative Steve McMillan].
The House passed a bill that would provide a two-step salary increase for certain employees in specified classifications of the Department of Corrections, and would allow certain officers and employees to receive payment for accrued, unused leave. The bill is now pending in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee [HB468 by Representative Chris England].
The House amended and passed a Senate bill that would establish a Prisoner Feeding Fund in each county, increase the allowance paid by the state for the feeding of prisoners in county jails, provide for excess funds, and provide for audits by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts; the bill would not require a change in procedure in counties where funds are paid directly into the general fund of the county prior to the effective date of this act. The Senate concurred in the House amendment and the bill is now pending action by the Governor [SB228 by Senator Arthur Orr].
The Senate passed a House bill that would authorize the county commission of a wet county to permit and regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday. The bill is now pending action by the Governor [HB168 by Representative Reed Ingram].
The Senate passed a bill that would update the amnesty and class action provisions of the Simplified Sellers Use Tax (SSUT), and clarify transactions for which the tax cannot be collected and remitted. The bill is now pending in the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee [SB153 by Senator Tim Melson].
The Senate carried over 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 [SB268 by Senator Arthur Orr].
The House amended and passed a bill that would provide that a person commits the crime of assault in the second degree if the person causes physical injury to a journalist or other in the performance of the journalist’s duties. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB312 by Representative Prince Chestnut].
The House amended and passed a bill that would phase in the requirement that each public K-12 school offer courses in computer science. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB216 by Representative David Faulkner].
The House substituted, amended and passed a bill that would authorize the placement, construction, installation, operation and use of broadband and other advanced communication capabilities and related facilities within electric easements by electric providers. The bill now goes to the Senate [HB400 by Representative Randall Shedd].
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.
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.
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.”
Marsh’s budget hearing compared to revenge porn
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has scheduled a general fund budget hearing for early July — purportedly to prepare for the 2021 Legislative Session that begins in February.
But that is not the real reason for the budget hearing, according to Senate insiders who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid provoking Marsh. The actual purpose of public hearings, according to multiple sources, is to try to find a way to embarrass Gov. Kay Ivey.
In a press release from his office, Marsh says the budget meetings will focus on funding prison reform and rural broadband.
However, an agenda circulated for a July 9 budget committee meeting obtained by APR makes no mention of broadband and focuses entirely on the Ivey administration’s spending.
In the press release, Marsh said that the budget hearing is needed to address “a potential $2 billion-dollar prison reform proposal.”
But according to the Governor’s Office and published reports about Ivey’s prison reform plan, there is no mention of a $2 billion proposal as Marsh claims.
He also states that the other reason for the hearings is to address “a stunning lack of rural broadband investment.” However, broadband is not an item on the agenda.
Marsh’s enmity toward Ivey was on full display in the days after the governor revealed his “Wish list” in May, to spend federal relief money on a variety of projects only vaguely related to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to those who regularly interact with the Senate, he is still angry that Ivey exposed his plan to appropriate nearly $1.9 billion in federal relief money to finance pet projects, which included spending $200 million on a new State House.
The money the state received under the CARES Act was to be allocated to shore up business, citizens’ interests and institutions ravage by the shutdown due to the spread of COVID-19.
First, Marsh denied the existence of a “wish list,” then he said Ivey asked for it, and finally, he took ownership of the list and said he thought $200 million for a new State House is a “good idea.”
For weeks after the debacle, Marsh aided by some Senate Republicans tried to spin what happened without success.
Marsh had also wanted to use $800 million in CARES Act funds to build out rural broadband and had reportedly hoped to use the budget meeting to push his broadband plan forward.
Ivey blocked his plan to use CARES Act funds for pork projects and convinced the Legislature to reject Marsh’s preferred budget in favor of Ivey’s executive amendment.
“First Ivey made him look greedy and foolish and then she turned most of the Legislature against him,” said one of APR‘s sources.
Recently, Ivey was once again a step ahead of Marsh when just days after he announced his July budget hearings to consider broadband expansion, Ivey released her plan to spend $300 million on rural broadband, stealing his thunder.
According to APR‘s Senate sources, Ivey’s latest move was another blow to Marsh’s ego.
“Del, [Marsh] has power, but he’s never had to deal with a governor who knows how to counter him,” said another Senate insider.
Another regular observer of Marsh said, his latest move to hold budget hearings is akin to “revenge porn.”
“She dumped him, and now he wants to get even, sounds a lot like revenge porn to me,” the source said.
At the July hearing, Ivey Administration officials will be questioned on CARES Act spending, budgets for the department of corrections and pardons and parole.
Finance Director, Kelly Butler, will testify to what CARES funds have been spent and what remains.
ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn will be queried on several issues, including hiring, overtime pay, prison construction, and Holman prison’s status and personnel.
Pardons and Paroles Commissioner, Charles Graddick, will face the committee to discuss personnel costs, equipment purchases with an “emphasis upon computers, software, vehicles, office furniture and other substantial expenditures,” according to the document.
Lastly, the committee will question Personnel Department Director, Jackie Graham, to give an account for DOC and ABP&P personnel growth plans.
While it is wholly within the Legislature’s purview to approve and exercise oversight of government spending, this is not what the budget hearings are about according to APR’s sources.
According to several Senate insiders and others with knowledge of Marsh’s thinking, this is a move to paint Ivey’s administration as “out of control on spending.”
“This is a trap Marsh hopes to use for PR, but what if there’s nothing to see, how does he spin it,” asked an individual with close ties to the administration. “She’s kicked his tail before; she’ll likely do it again,” the source said.
Senate pro tem requests general fund committee begin hearings in July
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.
Part-time employee in lieutenant governor’s office tests positive for COVID-19
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.