Alabama lawmakers began their annual legislative session Feb. 7, and they’re wasting no time pushing bills through both the House and the Senate. While no bill has had time to pass the full Legislature just yet, just over a half dozen bills of the hundreds filed have made their way out of committee and are one step closer to being sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Following are descriptions of these pieces of legislation.
Senate Bill 60, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, would prevent the removal of historical memorials that are at least 50 years old. This legislation is a reaction to calls for the removal of Confederacy-related memorials across the state.
Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Sen. Dick Brewbaker, would end the practice of judicial override, taking from judges the authority to throw out the recommendation of a jury for a life or for a death sentence in a capital case.
House Bill 100, sponsored by Rep. Phil Williams, would prevent state funding of institutions found to be in violation of immigration law. The bill is likely a reaction to universities across the state expressing concern over President Trump’s Executive Order regarding immigration.
House Bill 24, sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo, would prevent the state from punishing adoption placement agencies that refuse to place children in settings that violate the agency’s beliefs. The bill is likely aimed at organizations concerned with being punished for refusing to place children in homes with same-sex couples.
House Bill 95, sponsored by Rep. Arnold Mooney, would allow any medical facility/personnel to refuse any service that violates their conscience. Similar legislation is already on the books.
House Bill 96, sponsored by Rep. Mack Butler, would unconditionally ban assisted suicide in the state.
House Bill 98, sponsored by Rep. Matt Fridy, would aim to bring to voters a constitutional amendment that would enshrine Alabama’s “commitment to the unborn” in the state’s governing document.
Other legislation likely to gain serious consideration includes that laid out by Gov. Robert Bentley in his State of the State address. Bentley said he’s committed to getting an $800 million bond issue to build new prisons in the state, to better funding Alabama’s award-winning pre-K system, to giving a 4 percent raise to state employees and (surprising to some) to repealing the state’s grocery tax.
In addition, the Legislature will also have to address a recent court decision invalidating several House and Senate districts because they unconstitutionally diluted minority voting power. Lawmakers will have to go back to the drawing board and redraw those districts and likely those around them.
However, the biggest challenge for lawmakers in Montgomery, as always, is passing the state’s multi-billion-dollar budget. Lagniappe talked to Sen. Tripp Pittman, who heads up the general fund budget, about the state’s fiscal woes just before the session started. When asked if he was ready for the legislative session, Pittman replied, “I’m as ready as you can be. We have to balance our budgets in Montgomery. We have a tough budget year, but we’ll get up there, and we’ll pass a budget.”
The Legislature can meet for only 30 days over about four months. The last possible day of the legislative session is May 22.