Legislative Session: The Final Week at the State House

The last day of the 2021 Regular Session is over. And unlike some final days, this was not a quiet one.

In this week’s Top 6,  we’ve got all the big updates.

1. Balance of power/emergency order bill fails in dramatic fashion.

Going into the final day of session, SB97–a bill by Senator Whatley (R-Auburn) that would give the legislature a say in never-ending emergency orders–was ninth on an 18-bill-long calendar (the list of bills to be debated in a day). This meant it was likely to get a vote. A few hours into the day, the bill came up and narrowly passed a procedural motion that would allow a final vote. Opponents to the bill, however, protested because they had not read the most recent version of the bill even though it had been available on the legislature’s website since the end of April. Armed with a perception of “unknown consequences” to the bill’s passage, the vote to allow debate on the bill was reversed. After hearing this news, Senator Whatley was reportedly ready to filibuster or sine die (end the session), perhaps hoping to push the House to consider his bill again under threat of their bills not being approved in the Senate. Hours later, at 9:30 pm, a new House agenda with SB97 at the top of the list was released, giving the bill another chance at passage. The calendar was finally brought up for consideration around 10:50 pm (the first calendar was being worked through to this point), with Democrats promising to spend the full hour allowed by House rules to debate the calendar. That left nine minutes for the bill to be approved and quickly sent to the Senate for final passage. There was still a chance. But then, around 11:30 pm, the House decided to switch gears away from the second calendar, ending SB97’s dramatic last-day run. Many legislators, it appears, do not want to rebalance the balance of powers.

2. Ivey signs medical marijuana bill.

As legislators finished up the session Monday, Governor Ivey signed SB46, the bill creating a system of government-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivators. Based on the time it will take to establish the new government bureaucracy, medical marijuana will likely be available in the state in the fall of 2022.

3. Civil asset forfeiture reform wins final legislative approval. 

The House on Monday gave unanimous approval to the bill by Senator Orr (R-Decatur) and Representative Sorrell (R-Muscle Shoals) that would reform civil asset forfeiture, a process by which law enforcement can seize your property without due process, in the state. The Senate later concurred, sending the bill to the governor’s desk. 

4. Lawmakers approve born-alive abortion survivors bill.

The Alabama Senate unanimously approved Monday Rep. Ginny Shaver’s bill (R-Leesburg) that will require physicians to provide the same standard of care to children born during failed abortions as they would to a child born under other circumstances. Governor Ivey, who signed the 2019 near-total abortion ban, will soon see the bill on her desk for her signature.

5. Third grade reading law delayed.

Legislators Monday voted to delay a provision of the Alabama Literacy Act which will require students to meet 3rd grade reading level standards before moving onto the fourth grade by a vote of 68-27. Proponents of the bill, including the Alabama Education Association (AEA), argued that the pandemic had inhibited learning and that students and teachers needed time to get back to normal.  Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), who sponsored the Alabama Literacy Act, opposed the bill. It now goes to Governor Ivey who is said to be carefully considering it.

6. Transgender and gambling bills die after not being brought up.

While Monday’s legislative day was a full one, there were noticeable absences from the House’s schedule. The gambling and lottery bill did not appear on either the first or second special order calendar after negotiations failed last week to produce a measure that could pass. The bill banning transgender surgeries and hormone therapies for minors also could not get a final vote of approval yesterday, though it was included at the end of the second calendar (which was never adopted).

A few more things you might want to know:

  • The Alabama legislature Monday proactively banned curbside voting, a practice that has not been used in Alabama elections before.
  • The bill allowing yoga in public K-12 schools received final approval in the State House and now heads to the governor.
  • The legislature also banned “vaccine passports” in the state, prohibiting both private businesses and public entities from requiring customers to be vaccinated before entering a property or receiving a service. If Governor Ivey signs the bill, colleges and universities will not be allowed to ever add another vaccine to their entrance requirements for living on campus, even if the vaccine is approved by the FDA (current Covid-vaccines are only authorized by the FDA for emergency use, not fully approved like the flu shot). That is, unless the law is changed or repealed.
  • Though the Regular Session is over, legislators have more work to do this year. A special session on redistricting is likely to occur in the upcoming months. The governor might also call the legislature back in to address prisons or the gambling issue. Regardless, we’ll keep you updated.
Thanks for reading!
Parker Snider

Parker Snider

Snider is Director of Policy Analysis for the Alabama Policy Institute.

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