1 week ago

What Alabamians need to know about the latest activity on Goat Hill — April 7, 2021

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature on Tuesday convened for the 19th day of its 2021 regular session.

In addition to both chambers convening into the evening hours, there were important committee meetings held earlier in the day.

Here’s a rundown of the day’s proceedings:

Alabama Senate

The upper chamber’s day began with Senate Education Policy meeting at 10:45 a.m. The agenda was led-off by Sen. Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) SB 365. In a public hearing, a speaker each from the School Superintendents of Alabama and the Alabama Association of School Boards spoke in opposition to the bill, which would create the Open Schools Act of 2021.

Alabama is one of only three states in the nation that do not have a statewide law or policy relating to open enrollment. Marsh explained that the bill would simply have local school systems adopt their own policies relating to open enrollment; this could include certain school systems choosing to adopt the policy of not offering open enrollment at all. The senator advised that open enrollment allows students in relatively underperforming districts the hope of being able to attend better schools. He stressed that state elected officials need to take a big picture approach and take “blinders” off if they want to move Alabama out of the bottom when it comes to statewide education rankings.

Ultimately, SB 365 received a favorable report in a 7-3 vote. While concerns were raised regarding language in the bill, that language was drafted by relying heavily on longstanding open enrollment laws from other states, such as Colorado’s existing law.

At 1:00 p.m., Senate Governmental Affairs considered a full slate, starting with a public hearing on House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter’s (R-Rainsville) HB 220. Ultimately, the bill was advanced on an uncontested voice vote.

Rep. Wes Allen’s (R-Troy) HB 285 to ban curbside voting, Rep. A.J. McCampbell’s (D-Linden) HB 411 and Sen. Gerald Allen’s (R-Tuscaloosa) SB 358 to establish the Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act were also all given favorable reports, among others. SB 358 was the only roll call vote of the meeting, resulting in a 6-2 approval. Sens. Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham) and Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) were opposed. Givhan called the bill “unconstitutional on its face.”

The Senate convened at 2:30 p.m. and met for almost three hours.

During that time, the upper chamber concurred with the House-passed version of SB 126, which is sponsored by Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills). This bill to legalize the home delivery of alcohol in Alabama now moves to the governor’s desk.

The Senate also passed as amended HBs 130 and 131, which together would comprise Aniah’s Law. The bills head back to the House for concurrence or nonconcurrence.

One important bill to receive final passage by the Senate on the day was HB 408, sponsored by Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) and carried in the Senate by Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville). The bill now heads to the governor.

View the Senate’s full daily activity here.

Alabama House

At 12:30 p.m., the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee met and gave a favorable report to SB 264, sponsored by Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva). The legislation — which passed the Senate last week as amended — would allow the licensed hunting of feral hogs and coyotes at night. The House companion version of this bill has already moved through the lower chamber.

The lower chamber gaveled in at 1:00 p.m. and met almost six hours.

During that time, the House took up two special order calendars, beginning with a one-bill calendar of HB 510. That bill — which only applies to Jefferson County — ultimately passed 24-2, with 57 abstentions. Cloture had to be filed to reach that point.

The second special order calendar featured several bills, but HBs 388 and 90 ate up most of the remainder of the working day.

When all was said and done, HB 388 had passed while HB 90 as amended was defeated by one vote.

View the House’s full daily activity here.

Looking ahead

Wednesday will see both chambers convene in for the 20th day, which is the two-thirds mark of the regular session. The Senate is expected to take up a lottery bill; it remains to be seen if other forms of gaming are added on the floor. The House is set to take up a 10-minute calendar.

A long slate of committee meetings will also be held prior to gaveling in.

On the Senate side, Judiciary will kick things off at 8:30 a.m. The agenda will be led-off by Rep. Jeremy Gray’s (D-Opelika) HB 246, which would legalize yoga in public schools. The bill last week failed to advance from committee but was carried over after a vote to reconsider. Judiciary will also take up, among others, HB 404, sponsored by Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette).

At 9:15 a.m., Tourism will consider HB 437, the direct wine shipment bill by Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur).

Health at 11:30 a.m. is scheduled to take up Rep. Ginny Shaver’s (R-Leesburg) HB 237, the born-alive abortion bill.

This will be followed at 1:00 p.m. by Banking and Insurance considering an agenda that concludes with Sen. Tom Butler’s (R-Madison) SB 227, which was torn apart in a public hearing last month.

On the House side of the committee equation, Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections at 9:30 a.m. will take up HB 500, which is Rep. Becky Nordgren’s (R-Gadsden) second attempt this session to pass a bill allowing the legislature to call itself into a special session.

Another meeting to especially watch will be Education Policy at 1:00 p.m. Three bills have a public hearing called before the committee: HBs 9, 440 and 559.

HB 9 would ban Chinese Confucius Institutes on Alabama public school campuses; HB 440 would eliminate the usage of curriculum standards commonly known as the Common Core State Standards; and HB 559 would better allow contributors to Alabama Accountability Act scholarship granting organizations to be able to claim corresponding state tax credits.

Judiciary has an agenda that starts with SB 46, Sen. Tim Melson’s (R-Florence) medical marijuana bill.

At 2:00 p.m., Public Safety and Homeland Security will hold its second meeting of the same day. This latter agenda will exclusively include Sen. Randy Price’s (R-Opelika) SB 308, which would create the Alabama Uniform Concealed Carry Permit Act.

“The United States Constitution affords the American people the right to keep and bear arms, and this is a freedom we must work hard to preserve,” said Price when the bill passed the Senate as amended last week.

The Senate will gavel in at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, while the House will convene at 4:00 p.m.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘Shameful’ Pelosi blocking Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act — ‘Simply supporting infanticide’

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) on Wednesday released a scathing statement regarding House Democrats blocking consideration of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

Rogers announced that he has signed onto a discharge petition that would force Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to bring this legislation — H.R. 619 — up for a vote in the House.

“As a father of three children and a Christian, this legislation is so important to me,” stated Rogers, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

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All six Alabama Republicans in the U.S. House are cosponsors of H.R. 619, which was was introduced by Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) in January. The bill would ensure any baby born that survives an abortion would receive the same standard of medical care as a baby born under normal circumstances.

“I will never understand how any human would not support caring for a tiny, living baby that survives an attempted abortion,” he continued. “Anyone who is okay with not helping these babies is simply supporting infanticide. I will always stand up for the rights of the most innocent among us, and it’s shameful that Nancy Pelosi will not even bring this critical legislation up for a vote.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Alabama Senate passes bill banning biological males from competing in female sports

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed HB 391, which would would prohibit biological males from competing in public school female sports — and vice versa.

The legislation, which only applies to public K-12 schools, would prohibit competition by one gender against another, unless the event specifically is intended to include both genders.

HB 391 was carried in the Senate by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and is sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle).

“A public K-12 school may not allow a biological female to participate on a male team if there is a female team in a sport. A public K-12 school may never allow a biological male to participate on a female team,” says the amended version of the bill passed by the Senate.

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In sports where there are not separate competitions for females and males, such as football, both genders would still be able to participate together.

“This bill is significantly important to protecting the integrity of women’s sports,” stated Gudger. “Our sisters, daughters and granddaughters deserve to compete in fairly organized sports without being put at a disadvantage. I appreciate Representative Stadthagen for having me carry this bill in the Senate, and I commend him for his diligent work on this critical issue.”

More than a dozen states are considering similar restrictions on high school athletes to prevent what they view as an unfair advantage in competition.

The Senate’s vote on HB 391 was on party lines, 25-5. This comes after two Democrats supported and one Democrat abstained in a committee vote on the bill just two weeks ago. View a tweet thread from Thursday’s Senate debate here.

HB 391 now heads back to the House for concurrence or nonconcurrence. It originally passed the lower chamber in a bipartisan 74-19 vote.

“It is unreasonable for biological males to compete against females in high school sports,” Stadthagen commented. “Allowing this to happen does not put female athletes on a fair and level playing field with their biological male counterparts, and that is what this bill aims to resolve. I was pleased to hear that my colleagues in the upper chamber value the integrity and justness of female sports, and I thank Senator Gudger for handling this bill in the Senate.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Senate passes Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed SB 358, which would create the Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act.

Sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), the bill would outlaw state and local governments — including law enforcement agencies thereof — from enforcing any federal firearms act, law, order, rule or regulation that becomes effective after January 1, 2021.

The party-line vote by the Senate was 22-5.

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“I took an oath of office when sworn into this body to defend the Constitution of this country and this state,” stated Allen. “As an elected official, I will do everything in my power to preserve the rights of Alabamians, especially those granted by the Second Amendment, and I will always push back on any proposals that seek to limit the freedoms bestowed upon us.”

“The Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act ensures the people of Alabama are protected from any unnecessary overreach by the federal government and is meant to be a check on proposals that infringe on our right to self-defense coming from the Biden Administration or the Democratic controlled Congress,” he continued. “SB358 is about safeguarding our God-given rights to protect our families and homes. The Second Amendment says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed upon, and with this piece of legislation, Alabamians can feel confident that their rights are being protected.”

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) argued that SB 358 would violate the Supremacy Clause. The Democrats said the act, as a result, would ultimately be ruled unconstitutional by the judicial system after costing the State of Alabama significant money to defend it in court.

“We don’t need a ‘Second Amendment Preservation Act’ in the state of Alabama,” said Singleton. “The constitution does that already.”

He noted “the bill really does no harm,” before adding that he does not like the message it sends.

You can view a tweet thread on Senate debate regarding SB 358 here.

The Alabama Senate’s vote came after President Joe Biden last week began rolling out executive orders on gun control.

RELATED: Speaker Mac McCutcheon: As Biden attempts to roll back Second Amendment freedoms, Alabama House Republicans stand in the breach to protect them

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Tim Vines confirmed as newest Auburn University trustee

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama CEO Tim Vines as an at-large member of the Auburn University board of trustees.

He will complete the final three years of the unexpired term of Gen. Lloyd Austin, who resigned from Auburn’s board in January after he was confirmed as the nation’s secretary of defense.

Vines has worked at BCBS of Alabama since 1994. He rose through the management ranks at Blue Cross until he was elected to his present position in 2018. The LaFayette native graduated from Auburn’s Harbert College of Business in 1988 with a degree in finance. He was also a member of the Auburn baseball team.

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“In addition to his business and management credentials, the Trustee Selection Committee nominated Tim Vines for the position because of his dedication to Auburn University and its students,” stated Wayne Smith, who serves as board president pro tem.

This dedication includes Vines giving an annual scholarship to the Harbert College of Business. He is an Auburn Alumni Association lifetime member, a member of the James E. Foy Loyalty Society and a member of the 1856 Society. The Birmingham Auburn Club awarded Vines its 2019 Distinguished Auburn Alumnus Award.

He also served as the 2018 Auburn University summer commencement speaker, where he encouraged graduates, “Serve well by serving others. In life or in your chosen profession, ask what you can do to help others. … Whatever you do, make sure you do it with excellence.”

Vines’ term will expire on February 8, 2024.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Alabama State Parks launching historic corporate giving, improvement campaign

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday joined the Alabama State Parks Foundation, local corporate leaders and other stakeholders at Oak Mountain State Park to announce unprecedented efforts aimed at investing millions of dollars into park improvements.

The governor spoke about an $80 million bond issue for park improvements that must be approved by voters through a constitutional amendment in the 2022 general election if the state legislature approves it this session. House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) are sponsoring this legislation, which passed the House on Tuesday and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“Alabamians love and cherish the State Parks, and we must make sure they are maintained and available for generations to come,” Ivey remarked. “I support the use of state bonds to make the needed enhancements throughout the state parks system.”

Additionally, the non-profit Alabama State Parks Foundation (ASPF) on Thursday announced the launch of its corporate giving campaign with a goal of raising an additional $14 million in the next five years for needed park improvements.

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ASPF kicked off this campaign with pledges of $250,000 by Buffalo Rock Company and $100,000 from the Alabama Power Foundation.

“Since the creation of the Alabama State Parks Foundation in 2018, we have worked to improve and enhance our State Parks, and our corporate giving campaign is another significant and important step for our organization,” ASPF president Dr. Dan Hendricks stated. “I also applaud and thank Governor Ivey for her visionary leadership and support of the State Parks system.

“We believe this innovative public-private partnership will maximize our efforts to help the Alabama State Parks system maintain its place as one of the state’s true treasures,” he added.

The prospective bond issue and ASPF’s fundraising would fast-track projects to expand campgrounds, add cabins and improve internet connectivity, among other priorities.

A majority of funding for Alabama State Parks – 80-90% annually – is generated through user fees for rental, lodging, golf and other amenities in the parks. The system’s finances can also be impacted unexpectedly, such as the tornado that damaged Oak Mountain last month, Hurricane Sally damaging Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores last fall, and another tornado wreaking havoc on the campground and day-use areas at Joe Wheeler State Park in December 2019.

State parks attracted a record 6.27 million visitors in fiscal year 2020, and enhancing facilities or building additional ones should help that number continue to grow.

“Our state parks system is run as efficiently as ever, but there are plenty of needs in every one of the 21 parks — both the small and larger parks,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation. “What Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Parks Foundation have done is create a funding framework for how we can modernize and enhance an already dynamic State Parks system and make it better than ever.

“We plan to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, as well as funds so generously donated by the corporate community,” he concluded. “Our state parks offer so many amazing outdoors adventures for all Alabamians, and we appreciate so many people working so hard to help us continue that legacy.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn