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Several controversial bills “sine die” on the vine

The running clock also took out several other controversial bills that needed only one vote to reach the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey.

The Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Alabama.
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The last day of the legislative session is traditionally known as “sine die” day, as the Legislature adjourns “sine die”—a legal term meaning the body is adjourning indefinitely with no plans to meet again.

In order for a bill to pass out of the Legislature on sine die day, it must have already passed completely out of its house of origin and out of committee in its second house.

There were several controversial bills remaining on Thursday as the Legislature wrapped up its legislative session, primarily House bills awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. None had more attention than a gambling bill that briefly showed flickers of life before ultimately going nowhere during the session.

But the running clock also took out several other controversial bills that needed only one vote to reach the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey to become law.

One such bill was House Bill 385 by Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, that would have allowed librarians to be arrested if any individual challenged any book in their collection as obscene. The bill had a long journey to ultimately fall on the cutting room floor—APR reported in September 2023 that Clean Up Alabama had set the legislation as one of three major state legislative goals. 

Although the bill passed through a Senate committee last week, lawmakers indicated they were working with district attorneys on a floor amendment, presumably language they had referenced numerous times to make local DAs responsible for prosecuting the charges even though they would be misdemeanors. Sources also told APR that an amendment had been offered over the weekend to protect retailers after APR reported that the language of the bill changed obscenity law in such a way that any premises selling “material harmful to minors” could result in the premises being declared a public nuisance, even if the material was only being sold to adults.

The bill never appeared on any version of the Senate calendar Thursday.

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House Bill 111 by Rep. Susan DuBose, R-Hoover, did appear on the proposed calendar at some point Thursday, but a combination of filibusters derailed it and many other bills. Some Democratic lawmakers including Roger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, were specifically filibustering for this and other bills, while Republicans were filibustering over continued contentions with the House.

HB111, also dubbed the “What is a Woman Act,” would have redefined sex-based terms under Alabama state law including male and female. Under the law, the distinction would be based on the individual’s reproductive organs, and would serve to exclude transgender people from certain shared public spaces. The law could run afoul of new Title IX clarifications that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are sex-based discrimination.

House Bill 195, also by DuBose, had also been placed on the calendar but could not make it out of the upper chamber. The bill would require sex education providers to only teach “sexual risk avoidance” a rebrand of abstinence-only education and would prevent sex ed programs from using “sexually explicit” images, video or materials. It also would have prevented sex educators from demonstrating contraceptive use and was designed to prevent certain sex education providers from working in Alabama schools, such as the Alabama Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health. 

House Bill 130 by Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, would have extended the state’s existing “Don’t Say Gay” law through eighth grade, although the bill initially sought to extend the prohibition all through high school. The law prohibits teachers from instructing or leading discussion on sexual orientation or gender identity, and would have also prohibited teachers from displaying pride flags or insignias on school grounds. It never appeared on the Senate calendar Thursday.

House Bill 167 by Rep. Chris Sells, R-Greenville, to require porn filters to be turned on by default on phones and internet devices such as tablets appeared on the calendar Thursday but did not come up for discussion or a vote. Sells has brought the bill year after year to no avail, facing pushback from phone manufacturers and the telecommunications industry who say the legislation is unworkable. The Legislature did pass a bill earlier this session that originated as a pivot from Sells’ bill. That bill, now signed into law, requires pornographic websites to verify the ages of users.

Two bills by Sen. Chris Elliot, R-Josephine, have appeared dead for a long time after undergoing major changes, but both still technically could have made it across the finish line Thursday in the House. Senate Bill 77 would have restructured the board of the Department of Archives as apparent retaliation for the department holding a program that discussed LGBTQ history. Senate Bill 10 would have allowed local governments to replace library board members. Both bills were changes drastically including that members could only be removed “for cause.”

 

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

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