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Wide variety of bills filed for 2014 sessioncomment (0)

January 16, 2014


Alabama senators and representatives returned to the state’s capital Jan. 14 with the launch of the 2014 legislative session.

At press time, House members had pre-filed 152 bills, while there were 92 pre-filed bills in the Senate.

Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), said he would be monitoring all bills dealing with alcohol, tobacco, other drug and gambling-related issues.

He also plans to keep an eye on House Bill (HB) 40, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham.

“This bill calls for a constitutional amendment to repeal the constitutional amendment passed in 2006 by over 80 percent of Alabama voters declaring marriage as being between one man and one woman,” Godfrey said.

ALCAP opposes HB 40 but has joined Alabama Pro-Life Coalition Education Fund Inc. and others in support of HB 31, sponsored by Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, and Rep. April Weaver, R-Alabaster.

HB 31 would guarantee the rights of health care providers to decline to perform services that violate their consciences, Godfrey explained. 

“Of course, ALCAP and other pro-life groups will be advocating to keep embryonic stem cell research as a part of the protections for health care providers who want to decline services in that area,” he added.

ALCAP also will be monitoring Senate Bill (SB) 38, sponsored by Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery. 

“This bill will protect private, nonpublic and church schools from possible regulations that may be imposed by the Alabama Department of Education,” Godfrey said.

Other bills filed in advance cover a broad range of issues.

In a Jan. 7 news report for Alabama Political Reporter (www.alreporter.com), Lee Hedgepeth highlighted a few in each house as well as those filed in both houses.

Pre-filed in both houses was a bill that would allow for the display of the Ten Commandments in certain areas, including public schools — HB 45, Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley; SB 26, Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville.

Other bills in the House include:

HB 4, Nordgren — would require that employees who intentionally shield an employee from child support obligations be personally liable for the debt.

HB 14, Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford — would allow for the physical castration of some convicted child sex predators.

HB 39, Todd — would increase the cigarette tax.

HB 76, Todd — would reduce the penalty for marijuana possession to a fine.

HB 48, Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan — would provide a tax credit for families who adopt children intrastate.

Other bills in the Senate include:

SB 47 and SB 63, Sen. Jerry Fielding, R-Sylacauga, and Sen. Tripp Pittman, R-Daphne — both concern drug testing for recipients of public assistance based on reasonable suspicion or past drug conviction.

“In addition to the legislation listed above, many proposed bills are floating around. … Examples include a resolution supporting Duck Dynasty’s Phil by Fielding, bipartisan legislation that would legalize the use of marijuana-derivative drugs in patients with neurological problems and a bill creating a new AAA-like scholarship grant program,” Hedgepeth reported. 

Also taking place the week before the session opened were legislative priority announcements by Gov. Robert Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange.

Bentley said pay increases for teachers and funding for pre-kindergarten programs will be among his highest priorities.

Bentley would like raises for teachers to be included in the 2015 budget, according to www.abc3340.com.

Strange is pushing for major criminal justice reforms, specifically asking legislators to strengthen the death penalty appeals process and provide better investigative tools to fight crime.

HB 113, Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, is the bill filed to address the “cumbersome and inefficient appeals process.” 

Another bill, not yet filed, would provide protections for schoolchildren and others who are vulnerable by expanding classifications for killings that may be prosecuted as capital offenses.

Strange’s two other bills would enable law enforcement to monitor phone communications among criminals and make the system for immunity from prosecution for witnesses more efficient.

Missing from Strange’s legislative package is a bill he promoted for the past two years related to illegal gambling penalities. 

The bill, which failed in the last two legislative sessions, would have increased the penalty for promoting, conspiring to promote or possessing an illegal gambling machine from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony for those making profits over $10,000.  

“In each session of the Legislature for the past three years, I’ve urged the Legislature to pass simple and commonsense legislation to increase the penalty for illegal gambling from a misdemeanor to a felony,” Strange said. “That one, simple change would put an end to the problem of illegal gambling in Alabama.  

“Unfortunately, the sad truth is that as long as we have a group of legislators who prevent this legislation from being voted on, this legislation has no chance of passing.”

To see a list of the bills filed so far, visit www.legislature.state.al.us. To contact your senator, call 334-242-7800. To contact your representative, call 334-242-7600.

(TAB)

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