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Weekly Legislative Session Report: Week Three

Beth Lyons

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The Alabama Legislature met in session for Day 5 of the annual Regular Session on Tuesday, February 18. Twenty-eight committee meetings were held during the week to consider legislation. Both Houses met in session on Thursday, February 20 for Day 6.

535 bills have been introduced so far this Session.

The Legislature will return to Montgomery on Mardi Gras for Day 7 of the Session with the House convening at 1:00 p.m. and the Senate convening at 2:00 p.m..

DURING THE WEEK

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on SB165 by Senator Tim Melson. The bill, named the “Compassion Act,” creates an appointed nine member medical cannabis commission to oversee regulations and licensing for medical cannabis cultivators, processors, and dispensaries, and requires a statewide seed-to-sale tracking system for all medical cannabis in the state. The bill does not allow for the smoking or vaping of marijuana or edible forms of the drug. However, treatment in the form of pills, gelatinous cubes, gels, orals or creams, transdermal patches, and nebulizers will be allowed.

Patients would receive a state issued Medical Cannabis Card and a patient registry would be established. Medical conditions are enumerated in the bill, including Crohn’s Disease, HIV/Aids Related nausea, cancer-related chronic pain, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Proponents and opponents spoke on the bill. After several amendments were adopted by the Committee, the bill was given a favorable report.

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The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a public hearing, but did not vote, on HB79 by Representative Tim Wadsworth that would authorize a judge of probate, district judge, or circuit judge to carry a pistol openly or concealed in a courtroom, courthouse, courthouse property, and within his or her office.

Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) Director Lance LeFleur and staff briefed the Mobile and Baldwin delegations on the structure and timeline of the containment, clean up, and monitoring of the Barry Steam Plant Coal Ash Deposit in Mobile County.

The Senate confirmed nine of the Governor’s board and commission appointments this week including Leslie D. Sanders to the Board of Human Resources, Representative Rod Scott to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, and Wendall Wilkie Gunn to the University of North Alabama Board of Trustees.

BILLS PASSED BY HOUSE:

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HB46 by Rep. Hollis HB66 by Rep. McClammy
HB84 by Rep. Hill HB140 by Rep. Baker

BILLS PASSED BY SENATE:

SB53 by Sen. Burkette
SB106 by Sen. Barfoot

To prohibit the smoking of tobacco products or vaping in a motor vehicle when a child aged 14 or under is in the vehicle.

To authorize a municipality or county to establish a local redevelopment authority for property that is contiguous to an active US Air Force military installation.

To limit mayoral pardons in relation to convictions for domestic violence.

To provide that landfills covered by substances other than earth are included within the definition of a landfill.

To authorize a municipality or county to establish a local redevelopment authority for property that is contiguous to an active US Air Force military installation.

To authorize the formation of charter schools near military installations with a focus on serving military dependents.

HOUSE:

HB35 by Rep. Pringle
HB69 by Rep. Rich
HB74 by Rep. K. Brown

To prohibit public K-12 schools from participating in, sponsoring, or provide coaching staff for interscholastic athletic events at which athletes are allowed to participate in competition against athletes who are of a different biological gender (House State Government Committee).

To increase the fees for issuing permits in the regulation of of the manufacturing, sale, display of fireworks, and for the use of pyrotechnics before an audience with 5% of the total fee going to the Alabama Firefighters Annuity and Benefit Fund (House Insurance Committee).

To prohibit the operator of a motor vehicle from using a wireless communication device in any manner that would require the operator to physically hold the device (Amended in House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee).

SIGNIFICANT FLOOR ACTION THIS WEEK

NOTEWORTHY BILLS REPORTED FROM COMMITTEE THIS WEEK

HB81 by Rep. C. Brown
HB110 by Rep. C. Brown
HB113 by Rep. C. Brown HB209 by Rep. McMillan
HB233 by Rep. Reynolds
HB272 by Rep. Weaver

SENATE:
HB147 by Rep. Sells
SB59 by Sen. Ward
SB60 by Sen. Ward SB177 by Sen. Gudger
SB183 by Senator Sessions

A proposed Constitutional Amendment to provide that a person charged with a Class A felony, when the proof is evident or the presumption is great, and if no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm, be denied bail before conviction (Amended in House Judiciary Committee).

To designate the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Alabama Aquarium as the official Aquarium of Alabama (House State Government Committee).

To provide for additional offenses that would require mandatory denial of bail (Amended in House Judiciary Committee).

To permit a pet dog in an outdoor dining area of a food service establishment under certain conditions (House County and Municipal Government).

To allow a municipality to use electronic records and signatures in the conduct of its affairs (House County and Municipal Government Committee).

To revise deadlines for candidates to qualify for the November 3, 2020 general election to accommodate the dates of the 2020 Republican National Convention (House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee).

To prohibit a municipality that does not already have an occupational tax from imposing an occupational tax unless authorized by local law (Senate Governmental Affairs).

A proposed Constitutional Amendment to provide that all individuals are entitled to reasonable bail prior to conviction, except for offenses enumerated by the Legislature by general law (Substituted by Senate Judiciary Committee).

To provide for additional offenses that would require mandatory denial of bail (Substituted by Senate Judiciary).

To provide that former public employees may resume employment with their former employer or with another public employer during the 2 year prohibition against lobbying or otherwise representing clients before the government body for which he or she had worked (Amended in Senate Fiscal Responsibility ond Economic Development Committee).

To authorize any county to issue bonds to refund certain bonds previously issued by the county, and to ratify and confirm the validity of any refunding bonds originally issued prior to January 1, 2011 (Amended in Senate Banking and Insurance Committee).

SB196 by Sen. Williams

To provide the Department of Agriculture and Industries with exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of working animals; to provide a reporting and investigation process for alleged violations of animal cruelty (Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee).

SIGNIFICANT INTRODUCTIONS THIS WEEK

A proposed Constitutional Amendment that would authorize municipalities to levy and collect ad valorem tax for the purpose of paying debt service on bonds, and the costs of public capital improvements (House County and Municipal Government Committee).
To specify that the definition of gross receipts, for the purposes of municipal business license taxes, does not include any excise tax imposed by the federal, state, and local governments (House County and Municipal Government Committee).

To exempt slot machines manufactured prior to 1960 from the crime of possession of a gambling device under certain circumstances (House Judiciary Committee).

To create the Alabama Church Protection Act to provide for the justification for a person to use deadly phycial force in self-defense or in the defense of another on the premises of a church in certain circumstances (House Judiciary Committee).

To require each public school senior to legibly print and sign his or her name in cursive writing as a requirement for graduation from high school (House Education Policy Committee).

To provide that if a person is convicted of boating under the influence, the person’s boating license and driver’s license will be suspended (House Judiciary Committee).
To authorize the adoption of local legislation authorizing wagering on professional, collegiate, and amateur sports contests and athletic events (House Judiciary Committee).
To prohibit a medical procedure on or medication to a minor child that is intended to alter the minor child’s gender or delay puberty (House Health Committee).

HOUSE:

HB253 by Rep. Ball
HB258 by Rep. Crawford
HB260 by Rep. C. Brown
HB263 by Rep. Greer
HB270 by Rep. Sells
HB284 by Rep. Shaver
HB301 by Rep. Rogers
HB303 by Rep. Allen
Page 4 of 6

SENATE:

MSB194 by Senator Waggoner
SB217 by Sen. Whatley
SB219 by Sen. Shelnutt
SB110 by Sen. Figures

To revise deadlines for candidates to qualify for the November 3, 2020 general election to accommodate the dates of the 2020 Republican National Convention (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee).

To require a municipality or county that levies a motor fuel tax to use the proceeds for road and bridge construction and maintenance with certain exceptions (Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee).

To prohibit a medical procedure on or medication to a minor child that is intended to alter the minor child’s gender or delay puberty (Senate Healthcare Committee).

To repeal Act 2019-189 making abortion or attempted abortion a felony (Senate Judiciary Committee).

 

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Longtime State Rep. Alvin Holmes has died

Montgomery Fire and Rescue responded to a call at Holmes’ residence on Saturday afternoon, and they found the 81-year-old unresponsive. 

Josh Moon

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State Rep. Alvin Holmes

Alvin Holmes, a 44-year veteran of the Alabama Legislature and one of the state’s most outspoken proponents for racial inclusion, has died. Montgomery Fire and Rescue responded to a call at Holmes’ residence on Saturday afternoon, and they found the 81-year-old unresponsive. 

Over a four-decade-plus career in the Alabama House of Representatives, Holmes was a lightning rod for criticism from his fellow white lawmakers and the white voters who elected them, as he repeatedly challenged the status quo and went headlong at biases and racism that prevented more Black Alabamians from serving in positions of power in the state. 

Holmes was a foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery and led the charge on getting the Confederate battle flag removed from Alabama’s Capitol building. Holmes fought many of his battles, especially the early ones, by himself, and while to his friends he would admit that standing alone wasn’t always pleasant, he never showed such hesitation outwardly, seeming to revel in the hateful words and personal attacks from other lawmakers and the public. 

Many of the fights Holmes began were later finished in federal courtrooms, and they most often led to further advancements for Black Alabamians.

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Alabama Legislative Black Caucus holds meetings on racism in wake of George Floyd death

Eddie Burkhalter

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State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, is the chair of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus.

Members of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus in recent months have been meeting with Gov. Kay Ivey, state law enforcement officials and others to voice their concern over systemic racism in Alabama, the group said in a statement Friday. 

Alabama Legislative Black Caucus members in June met with Ivey, and in follow-up meetings with other state officials and leaders of higher education, members discussed what they believe needs changing to battle racism in Alabama, according to the press release. 

“We are very appreciative of Governor Ivey and all of the officials with whom we have met thus far,” said State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, chairwoman of the ALBC, in a statement. “Our dialogues have been very substantive and productive as the Caucus presented our concerns and recommendations. Our goal is to get to the root of and eradicate racism and anything that communicates hatred, bigotry or divisiveness within the State of Alabama. The tragic and senseless death of George Floyd caused us all to take a closer look at the systemic racism at work here in Alabama.”

ALBC members met with officials from Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Sheriffs Association, the Alabama Association of Police Chiefs and Katie Britt, president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama along with BCA’s Executive Leadership Committee.

Members also met with The University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John, and Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University. 

In the statement, ALBC members applauded the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees for voting unanimously to rename Nott Hall — named for Josiah Nott, a doctor who believed in white superiority — Honors Hall. 

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“The University of Alabama had already started this endeavor before our meeting with them this past Tuesday,” said State Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Gallion, vice chairman of ALBC, in a statement. “That was a great first step and strong leadership was shown. We are looking forward to the other institutions of higher learning in Alabama to do the same as well. The Caucus also hopes that all members of the Alabama Legislature have been inspired to adopt and make meaningful changes in legislation that governs our state.”

Figures said the group of elected senators and representatives are holding these talks, with plans for others, “so that people will stop focusing on Alabama’s sordid past, and instead see a beautiful Alabama present, and the makings of a bright future for all Alabamians.” 

“During each of these meetings, our members have had the opportunity to voice what we feel the necessary changes should be. I just hope this openness to positive change continues throughout the upcoming 2021 Alabama Legislative Session,” said State Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, in a statement. 

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State senator calls for Rep. Dismukes to resign over celebration of former Klan leader

“Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative,” Chambliss wrote in a tweet. “He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people in District 88.” 

Eddie Burkhalter

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State Sen Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, on Monday called for the resignation of Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville.

State Sen Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, on Monday called for the resignation of Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, after posting to social media about attending a birthday celebration for Nathanial Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Dismukes posted a photo of himself on Sunday speaking at Fort Dixie outside of Selma on Saturday, the same day that late Congressman and Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, was honored in Selma. 

“Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative,” Chambliss wrote in a tweet. “He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people in District 88.” 

“The post is bad enough, the timing is even worse, but the real problem is that an elected official in 2020 would attend a celebration of the life of someone that led a group that terrorized and killed other human beings,” Chambliss continued in the tweet. “He has had 24 hours to understand why people are so upset, but his interview on WSFA a few moments ago confirms that he is lacking in understanding and judgment — he should resign immediately.” 

Dismukes in the WSFA interview told a reporter that he hadn’t thought about the memorial for Rep. Lewis and connected it to his attendance at the celebration for the Klan leader. 

Dismukes told WSFA that he won’t apologize for his family’s service in the “war between the states” that he said wasn’t primarily fought over slavery, that he’s not a racist but that he doesn’t see the need for the current racial reconciliation. 

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“We no longer drink from separate water fountains, and we no longer have segregated schools,” Dismukes told WSFA. “You know there’s abundant work opportunities for all colors, there’s abundant scholarship opportunities for all colors. So what are you asking that needs to be racially reconciled?”

Chambliss may be the first Republican lawmaker in Alabama to call for Dismukes’ resignation, but others have expressed concern over his social media post and attendance at the event. 

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan issued a statement addressing the post, and said he believes voters should decide whether Dismukes keeps his office. 

“While Rep. Dismukes has released a statement attempting to clarify his actions as a private citizen attending a celebration of the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, Alabamians hold their elected officials to a high standard of actions. So does the Republican Party,” Lathan said in the statement. 

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“Rep. Dismukes offered no explanation for why he participated in a birthday celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Additionally, I find his statement to be shallow in understanding why his activities are deeply offensive to so many Alabamians. His constituents will be the final decision-makers of his political future.”

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Republicans are concerned by Rep. Dismukes’ Confederate social media posts

Brandon Moseley

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Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, is facing criticism for attending a birthday celebration for the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, on Monday released a statement in response to a recent social media post by State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, who was in Selma Saturday celebrating Confederate General and Ku Klux Klan leader Gen. Nathan Bedford Forest’s birthday over the weekend. This was while much of the rest of the state was celebrating the life of Alabama native and Civil Rights Movement legend Congressman John Lewis.

“The Alabama Republican Caucus is comprised of 75 men and women, each of whom have their own beliefs and principles that guide their lives,” Ledbetter said. “The personal beliefs expressed by any one member do not reflect the beliefs of the others, and their activities outside the Legislature should be considered their own, as well.”

“Several of our Republican Caucus members have reached out to me with concerns about the content and timing of a recent social media post by State Rep. Will Dismukes, and I, as a House member, share those concerns,” Ledbetter continued. “We live in a nation that guarantees each citizen the right to express the ideas they wish to share, and in the case of a public official, voters will ultimately decide if they agree with those ideas.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, also released a statement regarding the controversial social media post.

“The Alabama House cannot police the beliefs, statements, and activities of its members outside the Legislature as that is a job best assigned to voters in each House district across the state,” McCutcheon said. “It is important to note, however, that I and many other members of the House devoted our weekend toward honoring an Alabama native and civil rights icon who dedicated his life to securing freedom, liberty, and equality for all Americans.”

“While Rep. Dismukes has released a statement attempting to clarify his actions as a private citizen attending a celebration of the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, Alabamians hold their elected officials to a high standard of actions. So does the Republican Party,” said Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan. “Rep. Dismukes offered no explanation for why he participated in a birthday celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Additionally, I find his statement to be shallow in understanding why his activities are deeply offensive to so many Alabamians. His constituents will be the final decision-makers of his political future.”

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“The Alabama of today was on full, honorable display as we paid humble tribute this weekend to the life of Congressman John Lewis,” Lathan continued. “That is the Alabama that we are proud of — showing the nation and world that we are one in the common goals of equality for all of our citizens.”

“It is one thing to honor one’s Southern heritage, however, it is completely another issue to specifically commemorate the leader of an organization with an indisputable history of unconscionable actions and atrocities toward African-Americans,” Lathan concluded. “I strongly urge his constituents to contact Rep. Dismukes to articulate and share with him their thoughts on his personal actions.”

On Sunday, Dismukes shared several pictures from the celebration of Gen. Forest’s birthday, with the caption: “Had a great time at Fort Dixie speaking and giving the invocation for Nathan Bedford Forrest annual birthday celebration. Always a great time and some sure enough good eating!!”

After the comments became a social media firestorm that has garnered press attention, Dismukes attempted to explain his position.

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“First and foremost, my post yesterday was in no way related to disrespecting the passing of Rep. John Lewis,” Dismukes said. “That wasn’t even a thought in my mind. That is not who I am as a person. I am a transparent person. To the point that as a public official I lay it all there for the people to see for better or for worse at times. My post yesterday was as usual me sharing a previous days events. The post was in no way intended to seem as if I was glorifying the Klan or any party thereof. The very atrocities and actions they committed are a disgrace to our country.”

“Also, we are all individual members that make up our legislature. I made a post independent of my colleagues,” Dismukes continued. “I made a post independent of my colleagues. My regret is that I have allowed them to be put in a negative light. If you disagree with me and my beliefs do not hold them under the same umbrella. I can live with a dislike for me, but not fellow members, or members of my own personal family. Our body as a whole is made up of some of the finest people I have ever had the honor of knowing and working with, both Democrat and Republican. I close by reiterating that my post was in no way glorifying the Klan or disrespecting the late Rep. John Lewis.”

The Alabama Democratic Party had already come out and demanded that Dismukes resign months ago when it became known that he, a minister, was chaplain for a Sons of the Confederacy chapter in central Alabama.

Dismukes is serving in his first term in the Alabama House. He briefly was a congressional candidate in Alabama’s 2nd District but dropped out of the race before the Republican Primary.

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