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Archives clawback bill unlikely to pass in five-day special session

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A handful of bills outside the scope of the special session on redistricting were introduced Monday, including expected legislation clawing back funding from the Department of Archives and History from a dustup over an LGBTQ history lunch program in June.

But that bill, authored by State Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Baldwin County, might not move through the process with legislative leaders wanting to finish the special session by Friday.

“Our goal is a five-day session, which would end on Friday the 21st,” said Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed off the Senate floor. He didn’t rule out the possibility of non-redistricting legislation from gaining the two-thirds vote necessary to come up, but said passing the new congressional map is the priority.

“I think there’s a continued focus for the legislative body, certainly the Senate, to stay focused primarily on redistricting. That’s why we’re here.”

Upon its introduction in the Senate, Elliott’s SB-1 was assigned to the Finance and Taxation Education Committee, which has jurisdiction over funding for Archives. There is no meeting scheduled for that committee Tuesday, meaning the bill won’t in position to take the next step in the legislative process needed for final passage.

Elliott’s bill, SB-1, would rescind $5 million in supplemental funding the Legislature appropriated to Archives in this year’s regular session. He argues state-funded departments shouldn’t be talking about anything related to sexual orientation and says his bill is intended to send a message to agencies to stay away from controversial topics. Archives Director Steve Murray has spent the last week explaining to lawmakers that the event in question was a monthly topical lunchtime discussion and that the department’s mission and that the history of LGBT Alabamians is legitimate historical inquiry. 

Reed acknowledged that multiple senators were unhappy with the situation at the Archives, but couldn’t say whether the bill would move.

“That’s a topic of significant concern. You’ve got members who feel like the Department of Archives were a little outside their scope with some of the things they’ve done, but we’ll have to see,” Reed said.

Elliott told ADN that the issue will likely return the next time the Legislature meets.

“The whole point was to get their attention and I certainly think that’s been done one way or the other,” Elliott said. “Unfortunately for Archives and History, they are on members radar and I expect something much more impactful in the regular both budgetary and organizational.

“What I was proposing was minor compared to what’s coming.”

A House version of the clawback bill was filed by State Rep. Ernie Yarbough. House Bill was referred to the State Government Committee, which is scheduled to meet at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday. The bill is not on the agenda.

Other bills outside the governor’s call were also filed Monday.

Senate Bill 3 from Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, is a constitutional amendment that would allow local bills to be singed and transmitted before the Legislature has passed basic appropriations. It has been assigned to the Confirmations Committee.

Senate Bill 4 from Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would allow retired police officers to serve as school resource officers or corrections officers without having their retirement suspended. It has been assigned to the Confirmations Committee.

Senate Bill 7 from Sen. Gerald Allen would make a supplemental appropriation of $10 million to the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

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