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Legislative Session: Week Four at the State House

It’s that time again – time for your weekly legislative recap! Let us know what you think of what’s going on in Montgomery.

In this week’s Top Five, we get an update on the governor’s mask mandate, the transgender surgery bill, and more!

1. Governor Ivey extends coronavirus restrictions and mask mandate another month.

Though not strictly related to the legislative session, the news and musings of what Governor Ivey would do after watching Texas and Mississippi announce they would soon fully reopen animated most Alabama politicos this week. After a day of calls to fully reopen (started by API’s call followed by that of Lt. Gov. Ainsworth and the Alabama Senate), most, including reporters with “inside information,” on Wednesday night and Thursday morning were planning on the governor’s ending of restrictions. A spokeswoman for the governor even released a statement that Governor Ivey “prefers personal responsibility to government mandates”. But on Thursday, when Governor Ivey stepped up to the microphone, she bucked the trend of our neighbors and extended the mask mandate for the last time, she said. The order will finally end on April 9th. Hear our reaction to this news on the 1819 Podcast by clicking here.

2. Bill banning transgender surgeries on minors passes Senate.

The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which we’ve been updating you on the past few weeks, won approval in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 23-4. The House has already approved a version of the bill in committee, leaving it to the full House to pass the bill as is or send its amended version back to the Senate.

3. Did you know that the Medical Association gets to pick the State Health Officer? One senator wants to change that.

Alabama is the only state in the nation where the top health organization is not led by someone appointed by the governor or a board that is appointed by the governor. Instead, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, a private entity with lobbyists, chooses the State Health Officer. As you probably can tell, this is a really weird system in which a private organization was given state power. A bill by Senator McClendon (R-Springville) with 17 cosponsors that would make the post a governor-appointed cabinet position passed the Senate Healthcare committee Wednesday. The full Senate is its next step.

4. Movement and a hiccup on measure to allow legislature to call itself into session.

In typical Montgomery-fashion, the bill that would allow the legislature to call itself into session got both good news and bad news this week. The good news is that the Senate version of the bill (SB259), which has 15 cosponsors, passed the Senate Governmental Affairs committee Tuesday. The bad news is that the House version (HB21) failed in committee in part because of worries that the legislature could become a full-time body. The fact is, however, that 2/3 of the legislature would have to approve the special session for it to occur, a high hurdle regardless of the issue at hand. The future of this important measure is unknown.

5. Crazy uncles everywhere beware.

Do you remember the scene in Beauty and the Beast where Gaston convinces the villagers that Maurice, Belle’s father, is lying about the Beast and insane, locking him away in a carriage bound for an “Asylum for Loons”? A bill filed (and approved by the House Judiciary Committee!) could bring that kind of lack of due process and fourth amendment rights to Alabama. The bill (HB284), sponsored by Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy) would allow law enforcement the ability to take into custody anyone 19 or older that they have “reasonable cause” to believe is suffering from a mental illness. In a world where people think others are mentally ill because of different opinions, this bill has serious potential for abuse.

Other things that you might want to know about:

  • A change to the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act that would give local governments more flexibility in taking down monuments failed in committee this week. After the committee meeting, the bill sponsor accused those who voted against the measure of racism.
  • Bills to ban paying any entity per vote cast and curbside voting passed in committee this week. We’ll update you if these move further.

Til next week!

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