Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, has pre-filed several bills that address an array of issues that the lawmaker believes are important to enshrine as law.
Included in the package are bills addressing people of color going missing, fat people being discriminated against, making Juneteenth a state holiday and a few more.
Two bills that Givan is introducing are the ebony alert bill and the bill to make Juneteenth a holiday. The ebony alert bill would create an amber alert system specifically for when Black youth, including a young woman or girl, is deemed missing, abducted or in danger by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Givan said this was important due to the differences when white people go missing opposed to Black people and how other states are also addressing the disparities when Black people go missing.
Givan added that she understood that the bill may be criticized in light of the Carlee Russell situation. Russell is a Black woman who lied about seeing a baby on the side of the road and being kidnapped in Hoover. Russell’s story made national coverage prior to it being unveiled as a hoax.
However, Givan said that Russell “came from privilege” unlike many other Black people who go missing and do not receive the same attention.
“Carlee Russell is a young lady who came from privilege living in Hoover, Alabama,” Givan said. “Hoover is one of those places that gives the facade that it is the safest city or one of the safest cities that you can live in not only in Alabama, but in America. And as a result, they were going to do whatever they needed to do.”
The Juneteenth legislation would make June 19 a state holiday in Alabama. June 19 symbolizes the celebration of the anniversary of the end of slavery being commemorated. In 2021, Gov. Kay Ivey signed a proclamation to observe the day as a “pivotal Emancipation Day”.
Givan believes the Juneteenth bill should be a no-brainer given that it has already been recognized by the state.
The third bill Givan is introducing pertains to weight discrimination in the workplace. Givan told APR this is important because many workers are often discriminated against due to their weight despite being qualified for jobs. Several studies and reports have shown that discrimination based on weight remains a problem across the country.
“So I think it’s a bill that says we don’t want any type of discrimination here in the state of Alabama,” Givan said. “Especially because they may be a person who may just happen to not be a size six or size 10…especially in the workforce it’s unacceptable.”
The fourth bill Givan is introducing will require rental properties to conduct background checks for persons who would have keys to access apartment rooms. The legislation is inspired by Florida legislation dubbed Miya’s law after Miya Marcano. Marcano was murdered in her apartment in September 2021 and Givan said legislation should be passed in Alabama to protect renters and make sure those with access to apartments are vetted properly.
Givan also has a maternal health bill to allow mother’s that work to use paid break time to “express breast milk” or pump. The bill will mirror federal legislation that already provides provisions for mother’s to pump while at the workplace. But the bill states that an employer is not required to provide break time, “if doing so would create an undue hardship on the operations of the employer.”
Givan also told APR about the “Clean Slate” bill that would give formerly incarcerated people to have their records cleared following a certain amount of time after they’ve been released. Similar legislation in New York hides the criminal record of people for certain crimes who are eligible. The bill Givan said would not be for Class A felonies or more serious crimes and offenses.
But Givan said the legislation was important to give people a second chance and allow for reform to actually occur.
“It’s very difficult for sentencing reform to take place,” Givan said, “If individuals who get out of prison and are trying to do their best to be productive citizens in society, are constantly penalized time and time again, over and over for a crime that they committed for which they did their time.”
Givan is optimistic that the bills will pass during this upcoming 2024 legislative session but says if select legislation doesn’t then at least a conversation was started and she’ll try during the next session.