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State legislature recap: Bills on license plate scanners, dogs at restaurants, historic renovation tax credit pass their respective chambers

MONTGOMERY – Both chambers of the Alabama State Legislature met on Thursday for the ninth day of its 2021 regular session.

The Senate met for around 90 minutes in the morning and moved quickly through a limited calendar, much of which was left over after a filibuster prematurely ended the chamber’s Tuesday business.

Most notably, the upper chamber passed a bill regulating the use of license plate scanners by law enforcement, as well as legislation updating the standards required of local school board members.

The House spent much of the day in session, dealing with sunset bills in the morning before passing legislation extending a popular tax credit and a bill allowing dogs to be brought to the outdoor portions of restaurants.

Alabama Senate

Sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), SB2 would more closely regulate the use of license plate recognition systems by law enforcement agencies.

It would require that agencies keep confidential all data gathered from the scanners and destroy it after five years. Among other holdings, law enforcement agencies would have to adopt and publicize their policy governing use of the data gathered.

Another impactful bill passed by the upper chamber on Thursday was SB170 from Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile). The legislation would establish a new set of standards, training and discipline for local school board members.

The bill would have the State Board of Education adopt a model code of conduct for school board members. Local boards would be allowed to implement their own codes of conduct, but they would have to include at minimum the standards provided by the state.

Members not following the code of conduct would be subject to censure, sanction and removal from their position.

A similar measure, HB338 sponsored by Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield), was considered in the lower chamber on Tuesday. It did not receive a vote after the sponsor asked for it to be carried over following a lengthy debate.

Both SB2 and SB170 were passed unanimously.

The Senate’s full activity from Thursday is accessible here.

Alabama House

After slogging through numerous sunset bills, the first major legislation passed by the House on Tuesday was HB220 from Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville).

The legislation would shift the authority to build and renovate on the grounds of certain educational institutions from the Department of Finance’s Division of Construction Management to the institutions themself. More simply, educational institutions with their own governing boards would have more authority to build or renovate on their respective grounds.

HB 220 passed with a vote of 96-1.

House members also passed an extension of the popular Alabama Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. Sponsored by Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), HB281 would extend the tax credit through 2027 if the bill is enacted. It also passed 96-1.

In one of the chamber’s more genial efforts, a bill to allow pet dogs to accompany their owners at the outdoor dining sections of restaurants passed the House on Thursday.

HB235 from Rep. Steve McMillan (R-Gulf Shores) allows the owner of any restaurant to set the establishment’s policy on dogs, but it does overrule some county and city level statutes that prevented any non-service animal from joining their owner for a meal.

Only restaurants whose outdoor space is accessible without walking through the indoor dining area are eligible to allow pets under the proposed law.

A full record of the House’s activity on Thursday is available here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@new-yhn.local or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.