This session is likely to be a sensitive one for most legislators. For at least 23 of them, it is their last session and for the rest, it is an election year. One must wonder what the legislators spending their last session will place their priorities on. The ones up for election must be careful not to trip over anything too controversial. It will be hard to do because this session is all about gambling, guns and other legislative issues.
As for gambling – it’s the proverbial elephant in the room. A gambling bill passed in the Senate last year but not in the House. If I were a betting person (and I’m not), I would lay you odds 10:1 the same thing will happen this year. If it passes, it will be on the ballot in November so call your legislator now and let your voices be heard if you don’t want it on the ballot.
As for guns, who in Alabama doesn’t own one? Very few. But should people be allowed to carry concealed weapons without a permit? That is the question and again, if I were a betting person, I would say the law enforcement community will lobby hard enough against it to make it a challenge to pass.
So, what may pass you ask. An abortion bill, titled the Alabama Heartbeat Act, has a lot of traction. It is modeled after a Texas bill that conservatives love. And what is the Alabama Legislature filled with? Conservatives – 25 in the House of Representatives alone have already co-sponsored the bill. This bill would make it illegal for medical providers to perform an abortion once cardiac activity is detected. This bill also makes it possible to file civil lawsuits and collect damages against anyone violating or assisting in violating the law.
Then there is the $1.5 billion Alabama is receiving from the federal government – the American Rescue Plan. How it will be used and whether the Legislature or the Governor allocates those funds will be an issue. The expansion of rural broadband and banning Critical Race Theory in our schools will also be hot topics.
I only hope education gets its proper place in the legislative debate. Our future and the future of our children depends on it. Ranking 52nd in third grade math is not acceptable. There is legislation to address this issue, hopefully it will offer a solution to this problem.
This column is full of questions which will start being asked on Jan. 11. The answers will only be known on April 25th. That is the last day this Legislature can meet in this, the last session of this quadrennium.
Beth Chapman is Alabama’s former State Auditor and 51st Secretary of State. Her statewide column, Around the Capitol can be read in newspapers and blogs across the state. She now owns and operates Beth Chapman & Associates, LLC. She can be reached at Beth@bethchapman.com.