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Weekly Legislative Session Report: Week Five

Beth Lyons

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The Alabama Legislature met in session for Day 9 of the annual Regular Session on Super Tuesday, March 3. Twenty-seven committee meetings were held during the week to consider legislation. Both Houses met in session on Thursday, March 5 for Day 10.
695 bills have been introduced so far this Session.

The Legislature will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, March 10 for Day 11 of the Session with the House convening at 1:00 p.m. and the Senate convening at 2:00 p.m.

DURING THE WEEK

Governor Ivey appointed a task force to oversee efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Alabama. State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris is to lead the task force. Members include Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo of the UAB School of Medicine, Dr. John Vande Waa of the University of South Alabama School of Medicine, and Dr. Don Williamson, the President/CEO of the Alabama Hospital Association.

The Senate confirmed several board appointments made by Governor Ivey including Ben Stimpson, Daryl H. Dewberry and Horace H. Horn to the Alabama State Port Authority, and Bobby Junkins, Alyce Manley Spruell, Fred D. Gray and Leigh Davis to the Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on SB1 by Senator Gerald Allen that would repeal certain restrictions on the carrying and possession of a firearm on certain property or in a motor vehicle by persons with or without a concealed pistol permit. Several proponents and opponents spoke to the committee. The bill was given a favorable report by a vote of 6 to 4.

The Governor’s Study Group on Gaming held their initial meeting at the Alabama State House. The group, chaired by former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, received an overview of the status of gaming in Alabama.

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They anticipate holding a hearing for the public in April. The group is charged with investigating what other states are doing and what the benefits are as well as the costs. A lottery, table games, electronic bingo, slot machines, and sports betting will be researched and reviewed.

On Thursday the House and Senate convened in a Joint Session of the Legislature to honor the Tuskegee Airmen. Three surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen attended the ceremony.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on SB47 by Senator Randy Price that would authorize the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to create a standardized process by which concealed carry permits would be issued, and create a state concealed carry permit information system. Members of the Alabama Sheriffs Association spoke in opposition. The bill was given a favorable report.

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The House Education Policy Committee debated HB235 by Representative Jeremy Gray that would allow local boards of education to offer yoga to students in grades K-12 . Yoga has been banned from public schools since 1993. The bill was given a favorable report.

BILLS PASSED BY HOUSE:

HB110 by Rep. Brown HB164 by Rep. Hill
HB209 by Rep. McMillan HB276 by Rep. Lovvorn SB140 by Senator Singleton

BILLS PASSED BY SENATE:

HB140 by Rep. Baker SB112 by Senator Figures
SB153 by Senator Livingston
SB172 by Senator Orr

SIGNIFICANT FLOOR ACTION THIS WEEK

To designate the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Alabama Aquarium as the official Aquarium of Alabama.

To provide that, for purposes of 2020 municipal elections, candidates for municipal office must file their statement of economic interests simultaneously with the date they qualify to run for office.

To permit a pet dog in an outdoor dining area of a food service establishment under certain conditions.

To establish an income tax credit for the construction, acquisition, or installation of a qualified storm shelter.

To provide for a Statewide Emergency Notification System.

To clarity existing law and the definition of “cover” as it relates to alternative cover for solid waste landfills.

To authorize the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue to temporarily waive requirements associated with the International Fuel Tax Agreement and the International Registration Plan during a declared state of emergency or disaster.

To prohibit any health care facility or health care professional from instituting a do not attempt resuscitation order without the written or oral consent of at least one parent or legal guardian of a qualified minor patient.

To expand the right of some wireless providers to install their facilities on public rights-of-way, exempt these providers from certain zoning reviews and approval procedures, establish maximum rates and fees for permits, and exempt certain governmental entities which have ordinances or agreements regarding the industry.

SB183 by Senator Sessions 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.

SB219 by Senator Shelnutt 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.

BILLS CARRIED OVER IN THE SENATE:

SB45 by Senator Ward
SB124 by Senator Marsh

To further provide for the crime of unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure by prohibiting the operation of an unmanned aircraft system, or drone, to conduct surveillance of, gather evidence or collect information about, or photographically or electronically record a critical infrastructure except under certain conditions.

To provide that any Class 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 municipality that does not create and adopt a municipal plan or is not executing its plan in good faith is ineligible to receive grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

HOUSE:

HB114 by Rep. Chestnut
HB213 by Rep. Whitt
HB214 by Rep. Rich
HB263 by Rep. Greer

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 House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee).

To require all campaign finance reports and statements be filed electronically with the Secretary of State, including candidates for municipal offices, without exception (House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee).
To create the “Teacher Bill of Rights,” granting teachers the right to use appropriate discipline, remove persistently disruptive students, and be treated with civility and respect, among others.

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).

NOTEWORTHY BILLS REPORTED FROM COMMITTEE THIS WEEK

HB268 by Rep. Ingram
HB284 by Rep. Shaver
SB53 by Senator Burkette
SB67 by Senator Holley
SB111 by Senator Orr

SENATE:

HB66 by Rep. McClammy
SB242 by Senator Orr

HOUSE:

HB365 by Rep. Collins
HB377 by Rep. Dismukes

To establish a new defined benefit retirement plan for any public employee who is hired on or after October 1, 2020 (House Ways and Means General Fund Committee).

To provide that if a person is convicted of boating or driving under the influence, both the person’s boating license and driver’s license would be suspended (Amended in House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee).

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 (House Ways and Means General Fund Committee).

To prohibit a person from leaving a domestic animal in a motor vehicle unattended in a manner that creates an unreasonable risk of injury or harm to the animal (Substituted and amended in House Judiciary Committee).

To prohibit the manufacture, marketing, sale, distribution, use, and possession of synthetic urine or a urine additive to defraud an alcohol, drug, or urine screening test (House Judiciary Committee).

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 (Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee).

To authorize the Alabama Public School and College Authority to sell and issue $1.25 billion in bonds for capital improvements for public schools, community colleges and public institutions of higher education (Amended in Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee).

SIGNIFICANT INTRODUCTIONS THIS WEEK

To allow a licensed wine manufacturer to obtain a direct shipper permit to allow the permittee to ship limited quantities of table wine directly to Alabama residents (House Economic Development and Tourism Committee).

To remove teachers and administrators of public K-12 schools from the Legislative Double Dipping Prohibition Act which prohibits legislators from being employed by any state agency or department (House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee).

HB381 by Rep. Coleman
HB382 by Rep. Greer
HB390 by Rep. Reynolds
HB403 by Rep. Poole
HB404 by Rep. Sorrell
HB407 by Rep. Isbell

SENATE:

SB259 by Senator Scofield
SB264 by Senator Waggoner
SB267 by Senator Singleton
SB269 by Senator What;ey

To provide for an extreme risk protection order which would prohibit potentially violent defendants from possession of firearms, ammunition, or a pistol permit (House Judiciary Committee).

To establish a procedure for the establishment of tourism improvement districts by counties and municipalities, excluding Class 2 municipalities (House Economic Development and Tourism Committee).

To exempt airport authorities from sales and use taxes, and provide for a certificate of exemption (House Ways and Means Education Committee).

A proposed Constitutional Amendment to establish the Alabama Court Cost Commission to review all existing laws providing for the imposition of a court cost, and review a potential new court cost, to determine if it is reasonably related to the court system and to the amount expended in adjudicating the matter in question (House Judiciary Committee).

To eliminate the need for a person to obtain a concealed carry permit in order to carry a pistol, and to revise certain restrictions on the carrying and possession of firearms at certain locations (House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee).

To provide for a delivery service license issued by the ABC Board to allow delivery of sealed beer and wine from certain retail establishments directly to individuals who are at least 21 years old (House Economic Development and Tourism Committee).

To prohibit a public works contract for roads and bridges from containing a provision requiring a party to indemnify another entity for damages caused by the conduct of the other party (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee).

To provide for a delivery service license issued by the ABC Board to allow delivery of sealed beer and wine from certain retail establishments directly to individuals who are at least 21 years old (Senate Tourism Committee).

To amend the crimes of unlawful possession of marijuana in the first and second degrees and revise the penalties imposed (Senate Judiciary Committee).

To remove the requirement that third grade students who fail to demonstrate sufficient reading skills not be promoted to fourth grade (Senate Education Policy Committee).

SB275 by Senator Allen
SB277 by Senator Figures SB282 by Senator Albritton

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 (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee).

To specify that Robert E. Lee Day would be observed on the second Monday in October (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee).

A proposed Constitutional Amendment to establish an Alabama Education Lottery, establish an Alabama Gaming Commission to supervise the conduct of bingo, charitable bingo, pari-mutual wagering and casino-style games, and enter into a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to operate 2 casinos in the state (Senate Tourism Committee).

 

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Corruption

Former State Sen. David Burkette pleads guilty, avoids jail

Josh Moon

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Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette

Former State Sen. David Burkette will avoid jail time and be sentenced to a 30-day suspended sentence as part of a plea deal reached on Monday. 

Burkette, who pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act, will also have to pay a $3,000 fine and serve 12 months of probation as part of the deal. He was sentenced in Montgomery Circuit Court on Monday after being charged two weeks ago with failing to deposit more than $3,600 in contributions into campaign accounts — a misdemeanor.

He also resigned his seat in the Alabama Senate as part of the plea deal. 

“I’m just happy to still be here,” Burkette told the court following his sentencing, according to multiple media reports. 

The former senator suffered a stroke in 2018 and has been confined to a wheelchair since. His current health status played a role in his sentence considerations. 

The charges against Burkette stem from a series of complaints filed against him with the Alabama Ethics Commission — all of them related to various issues during his time on the Montgomery City Council. The charge for which he pleaded guilty occurred in 2015.

The Ethics Commission referred numerous charges to the Alabama attorney general’s office, according to sources familiar with the investigation of Burkette, but the attorney general’s office elected to charge Burkette with only the misdemeanor as part of the deal that saw him resign. 

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“Candidates for public office at the state, county and municipal levels must comply with the State’s Fair Campaign Practices Act,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall. “Personally profiting from campaign funds erodes public confidence in the system and will not be tolerated.”

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Legislature

Former state senator arrested on charges of violating campaign finance laws

Josh Moon

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Former State Sen. David Burkette

David Burkette has been officially arrested. The former state senator from Montgomery, who resigned on Tuesday as part of a plea deal with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, was formally charged on Thursday with a single misdemeanor count of violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act. 

According to a press release from the AG’s office, Burkette’s charge stems from him depositing campaign donations into his personal account instead of into his campaign accounts, as required by the FCPA. The alleged crimes occurred in 2015 and 2016 when Burkette was serving on the Montgomery City Council. 

The complaint alleged that, in 2015 and 2016 while running for the Montgomery City Council, Burkette intentionally failed to deposit $3,625.00 in campaign contributions into his campaign checking account, and instead, deposited or cashed those contributions into or against his personal bank account,” the AG’s release stated. 

The single misdemeanor charge is surprising given the lengthy list of allegations against Burkette submitted to the Alabama Ethics Commission. APR obtained a copy of the original report, which was submitted in October 2018. 

In addition to more than $40,000 in allegedly improperly spent council discretionary funds that were flagged by auditors for the city of Montgomery, Burkette was also accused of inappropriately donating tens of thousands more to suspect charities and two sororities, including his wife’s.

The Ethics Commission referred Burkette’s case to the AG’s Office in October 2019.

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Legislature

Pro-Growth Conference kicks off with Doug Jones, discussions on COVID impact and a living wage

Josh Moon

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Sen. Doug Jones speaks on the floor of the U.S. Senate. (VIA CSPAN)

What happens if you just give impoverished citizens $500 per month — no strings attached? Good things, it turns out. The people use that income to buy food, medicine and basic necessities for life. They take a day off work if they’re sick and actually get treatment. They quit a second, hourly-wage job that they are overqualified for and instead work towards obtaining a better, higher-paying primary job. 

These are things that the city of Stockton, California, has learned in its year-long living wage program.

The program, while limited in size — only 125 people — has proven to be a larger success than city officials had hoped, and it has opened their eyes to a new, more proactive style of governance, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs told Alabama elected officials. 

Tubbs was the featured speaker on Tuesday at the first day of the Pro-Growth Policy Conference, a three-day forum for Alabama elected leaders with guest speakers from around the country offering tips and best practices. 

The first day of the conference began with an opening talk from Sen. Doug Jones, who pressed the need for Medicaid expansion and how expansion has aided other red states. Jones also highlighted the need for broadband expansion and talked about a bill he has in the Senate that would create a broadband main office and dish out about $20 million in money for affordable access.

“Now (with COVID), we know how needed it really is,” Jones said. “We see the homework gap that we have. We know there’s a need for more telemedicine. My bill would consolidate in one office all of the monies for broadband … and provide affordable access.”

Jones said the current COVID pandemic has highlighted just how badly we need better access to broadband in Alabama, and a major area of concern right now is healthcare. 

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Highlighting that point, Brandon Garrett, the chief operating officer of the National Minority Quality Forum, and Dr. LaTasha Lee, the vice-president of social and clinical research, demonstrated the many ways in which inequality in health care and health care options is harming impoverished communities. 

A number of factors play into that inequality, but a lack of access to updated means of communication and tools is one of the biggest. 

“(Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) said that, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane because it results in physical death,’” Lee said. “That’s what we’re seeing currently with COVID-19 and sickle cell disease. These two diseases are affecting the minority community and causing death, and they make a great argument that such health care disparities really are a social justice issue.”

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Correcting such issues was one of the goals of Stockton’s living wage experiment. Now, Tubbs said, a working person can afford to stay home or get tested if they’re feeling symptomatic, whereas before that person — scared of missing a paycheck or losing the job altogether — might come to work with the virus and infect an entire workplace. 

That alone, Tubbs said, has restored dignity to a number of residents. 

“This is not easy, especially with budgets the way they are,” Tubbs said. “But I don’t know how we continue to live with the status quo as it is.

“I think part of being a leader, as we are, is having the courage to do something about what we’re seeing. We have to be able to do that.”

The Pro-Growth Policy Conference will run both Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Wednesday’s round of conferences will focus on state grants, economic development around the state and what the 2021 legislative session might look like. 

On Thursday, the event will wrap up with talks by the Equal Justice Initiative’s Bryan Stevenson and Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

 

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Elections

Russell Bedsole wins Republican runoff in HD49

Brandon Moseley

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House District 49 Republican nominee Russell Bedsole

As of press time, it appears that Russell Bedsole has won a narrow victory over Mimi Penhale in the special Republican primary runoff election in Alabama House District 49.

At press time, Bedsole had a 166-vote lead in unofficial results on the secretary of state’s website.

“We won,” Bedsole declared on social media.

Bedsole is an Alabaster city councilman and a Shelby County Sheriff’s Department captain.

“Sadly, tonight did not turn out in my favor. Despite the loss, I feel like God truly used this opportunity to help me grow in my walk with Him, and gave me the opportunity to increase my testimony,” Penhale said. “I feel so incredibly blessed by the people I have met on this campaign and the experiences I have had. I am disappointed in the outcome, but what an honor it is to have the confidence of 1,183 people across House District 49! Thank you!!”

Russell Bedsole had 1,249 votes, or 51.36 percent, to Mimi Penhale’s 1,183, or 48.64 percent, to win the House District 49 Republican primary runoff.

There were just 2,432 votes cast in the special primary runoff election. Shelby County was the decisive factor in the election. Bedsole won Shelby County with 762 votes, or 71.42 percent, to Penale’s 305 votes.

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Penhale carried Chilton and Bibb Counties, but could not overcome Bedsole’s strong performance in Shelby County.

The provisional ballots will be counted on Sept. 8, 2020, and certification of votes will occur on Sept. 16, 2020.

Bedsole will face Democratic nominee Sheryl Patton in the special general election on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.

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The vacancy in House District 49 was created when State Rep. April Weaver announced her resignation to accept a presidential appointment as a regional director in the Department of Health and Human Services.

In a statement, the Alabama Republican Party thanked “each of the candidates that qualified for offering themselves up for service in the Alabama State House of Representatives.”

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