Legislative Report – February 18, 2022

Volume 23 Number 6 – February 18, 2022

Committee approves legislation to allow concealed handguns without permit

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday voted 8 – 5 to approve a bill that would do away with the current permit requirement for a person who carries a handgun under their clothes or in a purse or bag when they go in public. It would also do away with the current requirement for people without concealed carry permits to keep handguns unloaded and secured when driving.

The bill would not get rid of gun permits, which would still be needed in certain areas or when crossing state lines. It would also keep existing restrictions on carrying pistols on private property and at schools. A person with a concealed weapon would need the explicit permission of a private property owner to do so. But it would drop the legal liabilities for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

The bill has drawn strong support from gun access groups, who note that Alabama is already an open carry state and argue the permit requirement infringes on the Second Amendment. Law enforcement officials, the Association of County Commissions of Alabama and gun regulation groups oppose the measure, citing an increase in gun violence around the state and saying it would take away a tool used to detain people who have committed serious crimes.

The committee did approve an amendment from Rep. Rex Reynolds (R – Huntsville), a retired law enforcement officer, that would require individuals to declare that they had weapons upon questions from a law enforcement officer.

Eight Republicans – Rep. Dickie Drake (R – Leeds), Rep. Tracey Estes (R – Winfield), Rep. Tommy Hanes (R – Scottsboro), Rep. Phillip Pettus (R – Killen), Rep. Proncey Robertson (R – Mount Hope), Rep. Randall Shedd (R – Cullman), and Rep. Shane Stringer (R – Mobile) – voted for the bill. It was Rep. Shedd’s first day on the committee.

Rep. Allen Farley (R – McCalla) joined Rep. Chris England (D – Tuscaloosa) and three other Democrats – Rep. Thomas Jackson (D – Thomasville), Rep. Jeremy Gray (D – Opelika), and Rep. TaShina Morris (D – Montgomery) – in voting against the bill. Rep. Reynolds and Rep. Harry Shiver (R – Bay Minette) abstained.

Alternative teacher certification bill approved in committee

Under existing law, the State Board of Education may establish and issue alternative teaching certificates to qualified individuals who may not have graduated from an approved teacher education program.

HB 307 by Rep. Alan Baker (R – Brewton) would let those with alternative teaching certificates get a professional teaching certificate after teaching one full year, instead of the current three years. The bill also lets the Alabama State Department of Education create an approved list of private companies that provide alternative teaching certificates outside of traditional colleges.

The bill is intended to address the severe teacher shortage in Alabama. Alabama’s public colleges and universities graduated 1,817 education majors in 2020, a 25% drop since 2013, according to information from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

Discussions continue between lawmakers, the State Department of Education, and institutions of higher education to ensure that the playing field is leveled for in-state institutions who already offer teacher certification programs.

Social media censorship bill advances in committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that seeks to prohibit some large social media platforms from blocking a user in Alabama or deleting the opinions or information they share.

SB 10 by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) says if a “major interactive computer service” doing business in Alabama discriminates against users based on what they share, it “shall forfeit to the affected user $100,000 for each offense, and an additional $100,000 for each day of the continuance of the offense.”

Supporters say the bill protects the online freedom of speech of Alabamians but does not protect unconstitutional speech, defamation, or obscenity. Opponents of the bill say it takes tools away from social media platforms to curb problematic speech, such as hate speech, bullying, etc. and will lead to legal challenges.

Upcoming legislative schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 22, at 1:00 and 2:30 p.m., respectively.