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House committee changes bill to require cause for removal of library board members

Removing a library board member would require a two-thirds vote and the appointing authority to show cause.

Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, discusses his bill to remove local library board members before the House County and Municipal Government Committee. Jacob Holmes/APR
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When Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, drafted SB10, it would have allowed appointing authorities to remove library board members at will by a simple majority vote.

But after the amendments added in the House Committee on County and Municipal Governments on Wednesday, removing a library board member would require a two-thirds vote and the appointing authority to show cause for the action.

The first half of that change to the original language came in the Senate, thanks to an amendment from Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, to require the supermajority to vote.

Rep. Sam Jones, D-Mobile, brought on the second amendment Wednesday, forcing appointing authorities to give a reason that the appointee is removed.

Jones said the amendment protects library board members from being removed “on a political whim.” 

Elliott argued that requiring cause could open up the appointing authorities to lawsuits.

The amendment is a major gamechanger to the bill precisely because it keeps appointing authorities from removing board members on a whim. The bill has also been twice amended to require library boards to report to the legislative leaders and now their appointing authorities about actions taken to remove certain materials from their collections.

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All but one of the people packed into the small, unstreamed committee room spoke out against the bill Wednesday.

Many of the speakers were from Prattville, which has been at the epicenter of the debate over whether LGBTQ books are appropriate in children’s and young adult sections, and whether moving or removing those books constitutes censorship. The current policies at the Prattville Library prohibit the purchase of LGBTQ books aimed at minors 17 and under, and allow those books to be removed.

Andrew Foster, director at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library, said even Wednesday he had heard misinformation about what is and isn’t occurring at his library.

“When considering this bill, and considering all this legislation, please reach out to your local libraries, go speak to the directors, the boards, the employees, and communicate with them about both what is already being done to address these things that we’re having conversations about right now,” Foster said.

Lori Herring, another Prattville resident and representative of Eagle Forum, was the lone speaker in favor of the bill.

“This bill is not about the books that are present or not present in the library. It is not about the philosophy clash about what is censorship or isn’t censorship.” Herring said. “It deals with the powers of the local governments to be able to control their own appointments to their own boards.”

Elliott also attempted to downplay the controversy behind the bill, and called many of the public comments made about it “hyperbole.”

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Adam Rotenberry said library board members should not be removed because they don’t remove content that offends a certain person or group of people.

“What truly offends me is this government playing culture wars, instead of actual governing and trying to help people,” Rotenberry said.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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