Legislative Report 042117

Volume 18 Number 9 – April 21, 2017

18th & 19th legislative days

Governor Moves U.S. Senate Election to August

Earlier this year, former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions vacated his Senate seat to become U.S. Attorney General. Following his resignation, former Governor Robert Bentley appointed then-Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate seat. When Strange was appointed, Governor Bentley said the election for the Senate seat would coincide with the next state general election in November 2018.

On Tuesday, Governor Kay Ivey announced that the special election would be moved to August of this year.

The Alabama Legislative Black Caucus, Secretary of State John Merrill, State Auditor Jim Zeigler and others contended that state law required the election to be sooner than November 2018.

Bentley argued that the dates he chose complied with the law. The former governor also expressed concerns about the cost of a special election.

During Ivey’s first press conference as governor last week, she said she was concerned about the cost of holding a special election, estimated to be a total of about $15 million for all three rounds, primary, runoff and general.

Tuesday, the Governor said she had spoken with the state finance director and determined that expenditure would not impede any major functions of state government. Ivey noted that the cost would be spread over two fiscal years, 2017 and 2018.

Code of Alabama, Section 36-9-8, says that if a vacancy occurs in a Senate seat more than four months before a general election, the governor is to call a special election “forthwith.”

Bentley interpreted that to mean that he had to announce the election date “forthwith,” rather than that the election had to be held “forthwith.” The Legislative Reference Service determined the election should be held sooner than November 2018.

Following the announcement of the date change, several people announced their interest in running for the seat. Senator Strange will, of course, run as will Rep. Ed Henry (R – Hartselle).

The following is a list of those who may run for the seat:

  • Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R – Anniston): He said he would make a decision on running this week.
  • Perry O. Hooper, Jr.: The former Republican legislator and Trump campaign chairman in Alabama sought the appointment from Bentley. Hooper said he is considering a run.
  • Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore: On Wednesday, a special Supreme Court upheld Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s suspension from his position for the remainder of his term. At a press conference, Moore said he would announce his intentions next week.
  • Trip Pittman (R – Montrose): Pittman said he would announce a decision in the coming weeks.
  • U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R – Haleyville): Aderholt’s Chief of Staff said the Congressman is considering a run.

The primary will be held on August 15 with a runoff, if necessary, on September 26. The general election will be December 12.

House Unanimously Approves Autism Mandate Bill

On Thursday, House lawmakers unanimously approved a bill to mandate coverage of applied behavioral therapy for children with autism.

The bill included two committee amendments. The first, proposed by Rep. Jack Williams (R – Vestavia), added caps for coverage based on the child’s age. Although intended to contain costs, the caps are unenforceable and are in conflict with the federal Mental Health Parity Act.

The second amendment, proposed by Rep. Anthony Daniels (D – Huntsville), expanded the coverage to include children on Medicaid.

The bill now goes to the Senate. It has not yet been assigned to a committee, but it is likely to go to the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance.

Senate Passes Bill to Eliminate Pistol Permit Requirements

After voting to cut off debate, the Senate voted on Tuesday to approve a bill to eliminate the requirement to obtain a pistol permit from the county sheriff to carry a concealed handgun.

The bill passed 25 – 8 with all Democrats voting against it.

Sen. Gerald Allen (R – Tuscaloosa), the sponsor of the legislation, said people should not have to buy a pistol permit to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

People would still have the option of purchasing a concealed carry permit if they plan to travel over state lines to states that recognize Alabama’s concealed carry law.

The bill now goes to the House.

Day Care Licensing Bill Passes House

Representatives voted 88 – 9 on Thursday to approve a bill that would add protections for children in unlicensed daycare facilities.

Initially, the bill required all childcare facilities to get licensed. After pushback from conservative groups and lawmakers, Rep. Pebblin Warren (D – Tuskegee) introduced a substitute bill on the floor removing the licensing requirement, but calling for annual inspections for facilities that are currently not inspected.

The Alabama Department of Human Resources currently regulates childcare facilities, but those affiliated with churches are exempt from licensing and inspection. DHR says about half of day cares in the state are uninspected.

Under the bill, if a childcare facility receives state or federal funds, they would have to meet licensure requirements, which would impact 497 currently license-exempt facilities, according to Warren.

DHR-licensed facilities currently are required to undergo annual inspections and must meet minimum health and safety standards including criminal background checks and CPR training for staff, certain staff-to-child ratios, and facility requirements like properly maintained playground equipment.

The bill also calls for new requirements for the remaining 459 facilities that are currently license-exempt but do not receive state or federal funds. Even though they would not have to become licensed, they would still have to comply with health and safety requirements and would be required to submit annual reports to and be inspected annually by DHR.

The bill requires all license-exempt day care facilities to be inspected annually by DHR. Additionally, DHR would have the authority to inspect a facility if it believes the facility is not in compliance or if a child’s safety is at risk.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Upcoming Legislative Schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., respectively.