Legislative Report 042817
Volume 18 Number 10 – April 28, 2017
20th & 21st legislative days
House Passes Historic Monument Preservation Bill
After hours of debate on Thursday, the House passed a bill by a vote of 72 – 29 that will make it more difficult for cities and counties to remove historic monuments.
The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act would make the removal of any monuments on public land subject to approval by the Committee on Alabama Monument Protection, a body that the bill would create.
Several Democrats said the bill was offensive because it helps preserve Confederate monuments. They pointed out that the legislation was first introduced after then-Governor Robert Bentley removed the Confederate flag from the state Capitol.
Rep. Mack Butler (R – Rainbow City), the House sponsor of the bill, stressed that the legislation does not only cover monuments but also “architecturally significant buildings,” such as the state Capitol.
The House made changes to the bill, so it will have to go back to the Senate for concurrence.
House Holds Public Hearing on Gun Permit Bill
Uniformed law enforcement officers packed the Capitol Auditorium on Wednesday for a public hearing on a bill to end the requirement for pistol permits in Alabama.
The House Public Safety Committee heard from five supporters and five opponents to the bill, which would make it optional to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun.
The committee did not vote on the bill and the committee chairman, Rep. Allen Treadaway (R – Morris), said he was not certain when a vote would take place.
All five opponents of the bill who spoke during the hearing were from law enforcement. They said the permit requirement is an important enforcement tool, such as during traffic stops when police spot guns being carried illegally in vehicles.
Four of the five proponents of the bill were from gun rights groups – two from Bama Carry, one from the National Rifle Association and one from the National Association for Gun Rights. They said the requirement to buy a permit was an infringement on Second Amendment rights.
The bill has already passed the Senate.
New Legislative Map Changes 91 Districts
State lawmakers leading the effort to redraw some legislative districts before next year’s election said proposed plans will affect 25 of 35 Senate districts and about 66 of 105 House districts.
Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, co-chairman of the reapportionment committee, said the new plan would fix the problems found in a dozen districts by a federal court but also affect many more districts.
In January, a three-judge federal court ordered the Alabama Legislature to redraw nine House districts and three Senate districts, finding that the Legislature improperly used race in those districts when it drew the maps in 2012.
The state Constitution requires the Legislature to redraw districts after every 10-year census. The maps drawn in 2012 were used for the 2014 legislative elections. All 140 seats are up for election again next year.
The court-ordered changes resulted from lawsuits challenging the districts that were filed by the Alabama Democratic Conference, the Alabama Black Legislative Caucus and others.
The three-judge federal court approved the maps in 2013, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that ruling and sent the case back, resulting in the ruling earlier this year.
Dial said he expects bills proposing the new House and Senate maps to begin moving through the legislative process next week, including committee meetings and public hearings.
Dial said the goal is to have a plan ready for the court to review by May 25.
Dial said a major focus of the new plans was to avoid splitting counties and precincts to the extent possible. He said a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling also factored into the committee’s work.
Rep. Randy Davis, R-Daphne, is the co-chairman of the reapportionment committee for the House.
Davis said he planned to hold a public hearing a vote on the bill next week in committee and have it in position for consideration by the House as early as Wednesday.
The Senate plan would reduce the number of senators representing Jefferson County from eight to seven.
Sen. Cam Ward’s district would no longer reach into the county. Ward, a Republican from Alabaster, said about 11,000 people in his district, less than 10 percent of the total, were in Jefferson County.
He said he would not oppose the change.
With the change, his district would include all of Bibb County and about half of Chilton and Shelby counties, he said.
Each Senate district has about 137,000 people and each House district has about 45,000.
The new maps allow population deviations between districts of up to 2 percent.
Roy Moore Running for U.S. Senate
On Wednesday, Roy Moore announced he is resigning as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to run for United States Senate in the special election to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat. Former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange currently holds the seat.
Last week, a special Alabama Supreme Court upheld the decision suspending Moore from his position as Chief Justice for the remainder of his term. The Court of the Judiciary found that Moore violated judicial ethics by telling probate judges in a January 2016 administrative order that they still had a duty to uphold Alabama’s laws against gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage in June 2015.
The Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from the Chief Justice’s office in 2003 for refusing to follow a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument Moore had placed in the state judicial building.
Voters returned Moore to the chief justice’s office in 2012. His term was to end in 2019.
Governor Ivey appointed Lyn Stuart as Chief Justice following Moore’s resignation. Stuart had served as acting chief justice since Moore’s suspension from the position. Ivey will now be able to appoint a new associate justice to give Alabama’s highest court its full nine members.
Others that have announced they will run for the Senate seat include State Rep. Ed Henry (R – Hartselle) and Dr. Randy Brinson, President of the Christian Coalition of Alabama. Luther Strange has also said he will run.
The deadline for candidates to qualify is May 17. The party primaries are scheduled for August 15. A runoff, if needed, will be September 26, 2017. The general election is December 12.
Upcoming Legislative Schedule
The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., respectively.