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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.

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.

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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:

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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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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House

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

Staff

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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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