The 2019 Alabama Legislative Session was one of the most controversial sessions in Alabama history so let’s look at what all was accomplished and what was left on the table this year.
A lot of bills saw their way to the Governor’s desk this year. Here are some of the notable ones.
Gas Tax Special Session
The session dealt with the Rebuild Alabama Act, which will raise the Alabama gas tax .10 per gallon by 2021. The bill also provided money that would improve the shipping channels in Mobile Bay.
The gas tax bill didn’t face much opposition and was passed just 5 days after the special session started.
A Near Total Ban On Abortions
An abortion ban bill sponsored by State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) put Alabama on display across the world. The bill, which passed strictly along party lines in both the House and the Senate would ban abortion even in case of rape or incest.
The bill faced extreme backlash outside of the state, with even President Trump distancing himself from Collins refusal to allow for rape and incest exceptions.
HB 314 is an attempt at overturning Roe v. Wade and has already been challenged in court by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.
Medical Marijuana… Sort of
A bill that would have legalized Medical Marijuana by early 2021 made it out of the Senate. However, once in the hands of the House, it changed drastically.
The bill now sets up a commission that will study the issue and make recommendations to lawmakers for the 2020 session. You can read everything about the substitute bill over here.
The Legislature approved a constitutional amendment that will allow voters to decide if they want to replace the board with an appointed commission and repeal the Common Core Standards. Should it pass, the Governor would have a lot more control over who is in charge of Alabama’s schools. The bill, SB 392, was sponsored by Del Marsh (R-Anniston).
Marriage Licenses Are No More
The Alabama Legislature voted to abolish marriage licenses in the state. The ending of marriage licenses comes as several probate judges across Alabama refused to issue any marriage licenses at all so that they do not have to give them to same-sex couples. Those probate judges made the changes shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in Obergfell v. Hodges.
Broadband Access For Rural Areas
Around 800,000 Alabama residents do not have access to high-speed internet access. Two bills passed this session that aims to fix that.
SB 90, sponsored by Clay Scofield (R-Arab), redefines the definition of broadband internet from 10 megabits per second download and 1 Mbps megabits per second upload to 25 megabits and 3 megabits, respectively. It requires that rural areas meet these standards by March 28, 2023.
The bill also increases grant funding available.
Say Goodbye To Beach Houses, Sheriffs
The era of Sheriffs using taxpayer money intended to feed prisoners to buy Beach Houses and other items outside of what the funds were intended for has come to an end.
SB 228, sponsored by Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), would increase the amount of the allowance paid to the sheriff by the state for feeding prisoners to $2.25 per day per prisoner. After that, the amount provided by the state would be increased by two percent each year commencing on October 1, 2021.
The bill would also establish a Prisoner Feeding Fund in the office of the sheriff of each county into which all allowances would be paid. The Prisoner Feeding Fund would only be used for feeding prisoners except at the end of each fiscal year 25 percent of the unencumbered balance may be used for jail operations or law enforcement purposes.
The bill would also make a continuing appropriation from the State General Fund to be used under certain conditions for emergency costs overruns in the counties.
Correctional Officers Receive Pay Raise
This bill would also allow individual officers and employees of the department to receive payment for any accrued and unused annual leave day over 480 hours, up to a maximum of 80 hours per year.
HB 468 would expand training programs to include the payment of bonuses for additional training achievements and certain milestones achieved by employees in specified classifications under certain conditions.
HB 468 would also revise the cap on the number of bonuses that may be paid to the officers under the program and would provide that the department may pay no bonuses after December 31, 2025.
I Pledge of Allegiance
HB 339, sponsored by Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), is a bill that requires every K-12 school in the state to recite the pledge before the start of school each day passed. The bill does not require participation for any student or teacher.
Despite the .10 gas tax increase to repair our ailing road infrastructure, toll roads are being pushed on Alabamians.
Also, a local constitutional amendment in Baldwin County will be on the ballot for voters to approve a toll road that will extend the Baldwin Beach Express all the way to I-65. The bill, HB 620, was sponsored by Steve McMillian (R-Bay Minette).
Third Grade Is More Important Now
HB 388, sponsored by Terri Collins (R-Decatur), will require that every child, outside of those in special education, have to read at a third-grade level or they will not be able to move on to fourth grade. Those that are held back will receive extra help.
Daily Fantasy Sports Is Now Legal Again
A few years ago, Attorney General Steve Marshall ran off Draft Kings and Fan Duel, along with smaller fantasy sports providers, after he declared that Daily Fantasy Sports were gambling.
HB 361, sponsored by Kyle South (R-Fayette), has now made this legal. Daily Fantasy Sports is now labeled a game of skill by the state, which separates it from gambling such as the lottery, meaning it does not need a constitutional amendment to become law.
The bill faced heavy resistance from religious leaders. One lawmaker, State Rep. Rich Wingo (R-Tuscaloosa), stated during the debate that the bill would “take people to a place where God doesn’t exist.”
Not everything sailed through as easily as the gas tax increase. Some bills never saw the House or Senate floor or simply failed after passing one or the other.
Medicaid expansion never saw the light of day. 13 hospitals across the state have closed since 2010, and many believe that expanding Medicaid will help not only provide insurance for those who currently do not have any, but the expansion would inject much-needed funding and prevent future hospitals from succumbing to the same fate.
The U.S. Justice Department was not kind to the state when they said that the State denied the constitutional rights of prisoners. The report they issued paints a picture of rampant physical and sexual violence
Lawmakers are hoping that the Governor calls a special session in the fall to deal specifically with prison reform.
The Lottery Failed. Again.
A bill that would allow a paper lottery failed after a core group of Republicans who are against any lottery combined with Democrats who want electronic machines, similar to the ones currently used by the Poarch Creek Indians at their Atmore, AL Casino, voted against the bill.
A bill that would make possession of fewer than 2 ounces of marijuana failed to pass a House Committee even after an amendment that called for smaller threshold. The bill faced opposition from law enforcement because repeat offenders would still be limited to just being fined.
Permit-less Concealed Carry
The bill would have allowed for anyone to conceal carry a firearm. Currently an individual is required to apply for a permit to conceal carry. The process involved a background check, a fee and final approval from the Sheriff.
The bill would have not gotten rid of the permit process but would not have required the need for one.
The bill was opposed by many Sheriffs across the state as well as gun control groups like Moms Demand Action.
So Much More That Isn’t Covered Here
We can’t possibly cover all the bills that passed and failed due to the sheer volume that are submitted each session. You can, however, go through each and every bill on our site and see what passed and failed.