It’s that exciting time of the year when our state legislators begin pre-filing bills for the upcoming session.
OK, maybe it’s not all that exciting so far. Looking through what’s there right now is mostly pretty wonky stuff. There are bills about workers compensation, occupational diseases and taxation issues regarding the construction of storm shelters. I guess if you’re building a storm shelter that last one might be more interesting.
But there are a few that caught my eye as having the potential to stir things up a bit — provided the gas tax and Medicare debates don’t suck all of the oxygen out of the room.
Two bills related to texting and driving have been filed already that would attempt to clamp down even more on distracted driving. Sen. Jim McClendon’s bill goes the furthest, essentially banning most touching or handling of a cellphone while driving. For instance, you couldn’t even check out your text messages or punch in an address on Google Maps while sitting at a red light.
The fines aren’t too Draconian — they start at $50 for the first offense. But some parts of the bill seem pretty tough to enforce, like only being able to legally press one button on your phone, but not two. Imagine trying to prove that one.
Still, reducing texting and driving is a valid goal. Maybe throw in some prohibitions against interacting with your car’s computer screen as well, Jim. Those may be more distracting than the phone.
Sen. Tim Melson’s bill that would allow the teaching of elective Bible study courses in grades 6-12 is bound to get some national airtime if it gets any kind of traction on the senate floor. The bill would also allow for the display of “artifacts, monuments, symbols and text” related to Bible study. Of course this bill will bring with it all the arguments about the separation of church and state and whether or not it’s OK to discuss the Bible in a public school.
If it passes I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be a huge lawsuit. You also have to wonder how many school districts would be interested in going down the road to offering such a course anyway. If they did, Roy Moore might be the perfect person to teach the course and also represent the school system in court since he has experience in this area.
Another of Sen. Melson’s pre-filed bills made my heart jump at bit with glee, as it is aimed at the scourge of the Cellphone Era — the scumbag telemarketers who call using spoofed local numbers. This has become a constant irritation for most cellphone users. Get on the wrong list — as I have, apparently — and it’s not unusual to get four or five calls a day from telemarketers using numbers that make it look as if they’re local.
Right now there are no penalties for attempting to mislead people by using a “spoofed” number — essentially tricking caller ID into displaying a different name or phone number than the actual originator. This bill would not only make that illegal in Alabama, but also make doing so a violation of the Deceptive Trades Practices Act.
I really hope this thing passes because I can’t wait to tell Brad from Theodore the next time he calls about my mortgage or Suzie from Fairhope the next time she calls to tell me about an exciting cruise opportunity.
These types of calls have become so frequent I often don’t answer calls from local numbers I don’t know. This has caused me to miss calls from the robot at the pharmacy, my dentist’s office and the kids’ school, to name a few. I’m tired of living in fear of having to talk to another person on a recorded line telling me there are problems with my bank account.
It’s hard to imagine how this one won’t sail through the Legislature, except for one point: The bill dumps the responsibility for enforcement off on the district attorneys. It’s hard to imagine they’ll be super excited about adding phone scammers to the list of things they handle daily. Hopefully most of them have been personally badgered enough to care.
A few others are worth mentioning as well. Sen. Gerald Allen either has some inside knowledge or just has a warm spot for the college athletes, because he’s introduced legislation to allow sports agents to pay “certain expenses” of their clients and clients’ families. I’m not certain exactly what that means and the bill is pretty nebulous as well. But I get the feeling a lot of people involved in college athletics will know exactly what it means. If you know what I mean.
Then there’s Rep. Tommy Haynes’ bill to restrict the governor from giving salaries and raises to Cabinet members and other staffers that exceed the merit system’s pay plan. It’s a nice idea worth talking about, but I’d imagine it’s dead on arrival.
One thing that hasn’t been pre-filed yet that I hope will be is a bill to legalize hemp-derived CBD oil in Alabama. Right now there’s a lot of confusion about the legality of the very popular supplement. Attorney General Steve Marshall even went out of his way to offer his opinion recently that all CBD is illegal in the state, but so far that does not seem to have led to widespread enforcement.
CBD, put simply, is one of the compounds produced by cannabinoid plants like marijuana and hemp. THC is the fun one that gets folks high. CBD has no recreational use, but is being widely used by people who suffer from a wide array of ailments — including seizure disorders, arthritis, anxiety and depression. Right now it is readily available in many local shops, as well as for purchase online. Unfortunately its relationship to weed still has some people freaked out.
The FDA approved CBD for an anti-seizure medication last year, so it’s passed the smell test. But while Alabama has passed its usage for children suffering from seizures, Marshall says that doesn’t apply to the rest of the citizenry.
When I asked some state legislators about it last year, a couple of them were under the impression they had already legalized CBD and were confounded to hear Marshall saying otherwise. It would be a good thing to clarify that legally for those who need its help.
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