7 Things: Merrill’s political career torpedoed by salacious affair admission, Ivey reaffirms end to masks, Biden ready to move on gun control executive orders and more …
7. Bill to limit election law changes too close to elections passes
- New legislation which bans any changes to election laws and procedures up to six months before a general election has passed the Alabama House of Representatives. State Representative Jim Carns (R-Vestavia Hills) sponsors the bill that would be a constitutional amendment.
- The purpose of the bill is to protect future elections and prevent doubt in elections moving forward, such as in places like Pennsylvania in the 2020 general election. The bill passed 75-24 with strong Democrat opposition.
6. You can now be exempt from ‘so help me God’
- The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office will now allow people to opt-out of the voter declaration oath that states “so help me God” after a lawsuit from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) challenged the phrase.
- There will now be an option to check a box that says, “OPTIONAL: Because of a sincerely held belief, I decline to include the final four words of the oath above.” FFRF has said this is a “huge constitutional victory for secular voters in Alabama.”
5. Medical marijuana is advancing
- The Alabama House Judiciary Committee has approved the medical marijuana bill by State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence), and after debate over adding some amendments to the bill, the approval was determined by a voice vote. If Alabama legalized medical marijuana, it’d be the 37th state to do so.
- The bill will have to go to the House Health Committee next before it can move to the full House. Melson has expressed confidence in the bill’s future with the Health Committee, but he said for the full House “we’ll just see what happens.”
4. Lottery debate has started, seems unlikely to move forward
- Legislation by State Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) that would legalize a lottery in Alabama has started being debated in the State Senate. The bill is a constitutional amendment, so voters would have the final say on whether it becomes law.
- Some opposition to the bill has been focused on how this does nothing to curb illegal gaming in the state. For example, State Senator Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) has said, “It is time that we start acting as the grown-up in the room and take charge of it.”
3. Biden taking action on gun control today
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki has indicated that President Joe Biden on Thursday will be signing an executive order on gun control, or at least announcing executive action. Psaki didn’t discuss any details on what would be included in this action by Biden.
- Previously, Biden has said that there should be a ban on large magazines and “assault weapons,” but he’s yet to define what an “assault weapon” is. It’s unclear what Biden could do through executive order, since most bans would require Congress.
2. Mask mandate is ending; ‘Safer Apart’ until May 5
- The mask mandate in Alabama will officially expire on April 9, as Governor Kay Ivey has announced and now confirmed. Ivey also released details on the new health order, “Safer Apart,” which will expire on May 5. The “Safer Apart” order still requires that people who are coronavirus-positive quarantine, and there will still be a limit on how many people can visit patients at hospitals and nursing homes. Most other precautions have changed to recommendations instead of requirements. The Governor also said she has no plan to forbid employers from mandating a coronavirus vaccine as a term of employment.
- U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) says this still isn’t over yet and he will keep wearing his mask. He advised, “I’ll continue to wear a mask for a long time on airplanes. I haven’t had a cold since I’ve been wearing one of these and I fly all the time. And I think it’s helping.” Tuberville added he wants people to get vaccinated.
1. Merrill won’t be running for U.S. Senate, is asked to resign
- Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill released a statement to confirm that he won’t be a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2022, saying that this came “After much prayer, reflection, and conversations with my wife, Cindy.” Merrill also confirmed, though, that he carried out an extramarital affair with Cesaire McPherson out of Montgomery.
- There have been text messages, a recording and photos released through the NationalFile in a report on the affair. Merrill said that he’s “disappointed in myself,” adding, “I’m also disappointed that I allowed my family to be embarrassed by this action.” Merrill has not indicated that he’ll resign from his position. Alabama Democrats want him to resign over allegations that he called black people “coloreds.” Governor Kay Ivey weighed in by stating that Merrill made “poor decisions and bad choices.”