On Tuesday, Alabama Arise held a zoom meeting discussing successes and shortcomings related to the end of the 2023 Legislative Sessions.
Alabama Arise is a non-profit member-led organization focused on improving the lives of impoverished, marginalized Alabamians by advancing policy changes. The 2023 Legislative Wrap-Up included Arise staff, organizers and members across the state.
During the legislative session Arise openly advocated strongly for a number of bills, perhaps chief among them the grocery tax bill. Carol Gundlach, Senior Policy Analyst for Arise, stated that while the bill did not have everything the organization hoped to see it was a step in the right direction.
The organization also supported the passage of the driver’s license suspension bill or SB154. Akiesha Anderson, Arise’s Policy and Advocacy Director, explained how the suspension of driver’s licenses was harmful and affected primarily poor people who further struggled. Anderson said the law was a good piece of criminal reform legislation.
Anderson also added that the organization was disappointed that HB229, the Second Chance bill, did not pass the legislature. The bill would have given older incarcerated individuals with a good behavioral record the chance for a judge to hear their case and potentially change their prison sentence.
There were also a number of bills Arise was fighting hard to prevent. Anderson stated that Arise was pleased that HB209 did not pass because it would have criminalized absentee ballot voting assistance. But Anderson did warn that the bill could potentially come back next year as it is a voting year.
David Stout, Legislative Affairs Coordinator for Arise, commended the leadership of both parties in the legislature for not being caught up in the “culture war”. Stout said that although some bad bills made it through the legislature, the 2023 session was one of the most efficient he had ever seen in Alabama.
Issues like Medicaid expansion were also discussed in the meeting and will continue to be major policy points for Arise going forward.
Arise members made over 10,000 contacts with lawmakers during the session advocating for several issues including voting rights, the grocery tax cut, criminal justice reform and more.