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Alabama Legislature update: School security, racial profiling and the Ten Commandments

With the end in sight for the 2018 legislative session, the Alabama House of Representatives wrapped up a long day Thursday that included debates over school security, racial profiling and the Ten Commandments.

The session is scheduled to conclude next week.

Here is a roundup of Thursday’s action in the Legislature:

The big story: After a proposal to allow teachers in certain cases to carry guns in schools failed, a school safety bill sailed through the state House of Representatives.

The bill, which would let schools draw from the Advancement and Technology Fund to pay for school security upgrades, passed 96-4. According to AL.com, about $41 million will be available for schools, based on their enrollment.

Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) said school systems could buy security cameras, make entrances more secure and other security-related measures.

“Any tool we can add to the toolboxes that schools have to keep the premises safe is critical,” he said.

Lawmakers voted down a proposed amendment by Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery) to prohibit the funds from being used to buy guns for teachers. Poole said he did not think the amendment was necessary, according to AL.com.

Poole said the bill would have made schools safer.

“If they have some security needs, whether those are security cameras or improving door lock systems or alert systems or whatever the case may be, the local districts will have the flexibility to point these resources to those specific needs,” he said.

The legislation now returns to the Senate, where it passed in a different form.

Racial profiling: The Alabama House of Representatives rejected a bill to ban racial profiling by police and require law enforcement agencies to keep track of statistics on traffic stops, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

The House killed the bill by voting 53-34 against a procedural maneuver necessary to bring the legislation to the floor.

Democrats who pushed the idea reacted angrily.

“I guess we are sending a message that ’Bama is still backwards,” Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Pleasant Grove) told the newspaper after the vote.

But Rep. Connie Roe (R-Jasper) expressed concerns that officers in rural areas assigned to patrol areas dominated by one race or another might unfairly get tagged with profiling, according to the Advertiser.

“I wouldn’t want that young fellow who got a job, for their career to be damaged,” said Rowe, a retired police chief.

Ten Commandments: Alabama voters will get a chance to decide whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed in public schools and state-owned buildings, according to Associated Press.

The House of Representatives approved the proposed constitutional amendment 66-19 after an hour and half of debate.

Alabama voters will vote it up or down in the November general election.

Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Birmingham), the House sponsor of the bill, said private lawyers would defend the state against inevitable legal challenges, according to AL.com.

But the website reported that Rep. Marcel Black (D-Tuscumbia) dismissed the proposal as a political ploy, “an old trick” designed to boost Republican turnout on Election Day.

Black argued that school systems that display the Ten Commandments would expose themselves to lawyers’ fees if they get sued and lose.

Churches and guns: A proposal to extend Alabama’s Stand Your Ground law ran into a stumbling block Thursday when a state senator’s threat of a filibuster forced a vote delay, according to the Associated Press.

Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said that the legislation is encouraging people to get “trigger happy.”

Some lawmakers argue the bill is unnecessary and that the Stand Your Ground law already protects people’s right to self-defense inside a church.

But supporters pointed to deadly church shootings and said members need the legal protection to respond to a threat. The bill would make clear that people have a right to use deadly force to protect a church member or employee.

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@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”