Legislative Report – February 25, 2022

Volume 23 Number 7 – February 25, 2022

Senate approves General Fund budget

On Thursday, the Senate approved the largest General Fund budget in state history. The $2.7 billion budget was approved in a 29-1 vote.

The budget will include a $20.8 million increase (35%), to $80.3 million, for the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which has come under criticism for sharply reducing its parole rate in recent years.

The Department of Mental Health would get an increase of $15.8 million (9.4%), to $182.3 million, under the bill. The increase includes $12 million to build two new mental health crisis centers in the state.

Alabama’s prisons would see an increase of $19.6 million (3.4%), to $594.6 million. That money would go toward hiring more corrections officers.

The bill also includes a 4% pay raise for state employees, pays off debt, and puts money in a reserve account. It now goes to the House Ways and Means – General fund committee.

House votes on three controversial bills

Concealed carry without permit

On Tuesday, the House included three controversial bills on their Special Order calendar and limited debate to two hours per bill.

The House voted 65 – 37 to approve legislation ending the requirement for a person to get a permit in order to carry a concealed handgun in public.

Gun rights advocates have championed the proposal they call “constitutional carry,” arguing that people should not have to get a permit, which requires a background check and paying a fee, to carry a handgun they legally own. Many state sheriffs and other law enforcement officials have opposed the legislation, arguing the permits provide a crucial tool to combat crime and enhance public safety.

Alabama currently requires people to get a concealed carry permit, which requires a yearly background check, to carry a handgun under their clothes or in a purse or bag when they go in public. The bill would do away with the requirement, but people could still choose to get a permit if they wanted. It would also do away with the current requirement for people without concealed carry permits to keep handguns unloaded and secured when driving.

It now goes to the Senate Judiciary committee.

Riot legislation

The House also approved a bill that would change the definition of rioting.

The bill would make a new crime of assault on a first responder, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and would change the definition of rioting. The state code currently defines rioting as when a person, with five other people, “wrongfully engages in tumultuous and violent conduct and thereby intentionally or recklessly causes or creates a grave risk of public terror or alarm.”

The bill would change the definition to “the assemblage of five or more persons engaging in conduct which creates an immediate danger of damage to property or injury to persons,” and would make it a crime when a person “intentionally participates in a riot” after “receiving an order to disperse by a law enforcement officer or in violation of a curfew.”

It would also provide a minimum 30 days in prison for anyone convicted under the statute.

It now goes to the Senate.

Transgender bathrooms

Finally, the House passed a bill to require Alabama public school students to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for the sex shown on their birth certificates. The bill was approved by a vote of 74 – 24.

The Alabama State Board of Education does not have a policy that regulates bathroom use by transgender students.

The sponsor, Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R – Hartselle) said some school districts are being asked to accommodate transgender students who request to use the bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Stadthagen said that is causing problems in schools in his district and around the state.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Upcoming legislative schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 1, at 1:30 and 2:30, respectively.