By KIM CHANDLER Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers return to Montgomery on May 17 for the final day of the 2021 session.
Legislators could decide a number of controversial issues on the last day including a gambling bill, a proposal to ban gender-affirming treatment for minors and a bill to forbid local police officers from enforcing any new federal gun restrictions.
A number of bills have already fallen by the wayside this session. Those include a bill to allow no-excuse absentee voting and another to change the state law protecting Confederate and other longstanding monuments.
Here is a look at some of the measures that are pending on the final day of the legislative session and some that are already dead for the session.
The Senate-passed proposal would allow a state lottery and nine casino locations in the state. However, negotiations in the House of Representatives fell apart leading to finger-pointing over who was responsible and an unsuccessful effort by Republicans to switch the bill for a GOP-backed lottery proposal. Lawmakers could try again on the final day of the Alabama legislative session. However, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said he believes the outlook for the bill is “doubtful.”
The bill would make it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a doctor to prescribe puberty-blockers or hormones or perform surgery to aid in the gender transition of people 18 or younger. Arkansas earlier this year became the first state to enact such a measure. The Alabama bill cleared the state Senate in early March and awaits a vote in the House of Representatives. Opponents, including parents and trans youth, say such measures interfere with medical decisions and target trans individuals for the sake of politics. Sponsors counter that they are trying to protect children from decisions that should wait until adulthood. If approved, it would almost certainly face a legal challenge.
OPPOSING FEDERAL GUN LAWS
The Alabama Senate approved legislation to make it a crime for local police officers to enforce any new federal gun restrictions, part of a wave of GOP nullification proposals to try to resist any new gun control measures. Senators voted 21-5 for the bill by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa. The bill is awaiting a vote in the Alabama House of Representatives. Republicans in several states are pushing such measures. Opponents of the bill argued that the U.S. Constitution already protects gun rights and that Republican lawmakers are going to get the state embroiled in a costly lawsuit that they will ultimately lose.
THIRD GRADE READING PROMOTION REQUIREMENT
After COVID-19 disrupted two school years, Alabama lawmakers are weighing a pause in an upcoming state requirement for third-graders to pass a reading test before moving up to the fourth grade. The Senate-passed bill by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, that would delay the promotion requirement, now set to take effect next year, by two years. Smitherman and others said it would be unfair to force the requirement on students who were out of the traditional classroom for long stretches during the pandemic. Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the original law creating the requirement, said she would prefer to wait until after spring test scores are in before deciding if a delay is needed.
NO EXCUSE ABSENTEE VOTING
Legislation by Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, would have done away with requirement to have an excuse, such as being ill or out of town, in order to vote by absentee ballot. The bill did not get out of committee. Hall said allowing people to vote early by absentee ballot would be a convenience to busy voters who may have difficulty getting to the polls during the 12-hour window on election day. Hall said people were happy with the expanded opportunity to vote by absentee in November, and it is something the state should continue.
CHANGES TO CONFEDERATE MONUMENT PROTECTIONS
The House Judiciary Committee rejected legislation by Democratic Rep. Juandalynn Givan of Birmingham that would repeal the state law protecting Confederate monuments and instead allow cities and counties to move unwanted monuments and give them to state archivists for preservation. Another bill to up protections for the monuments did not get a vote. The bill by Republican Rep. Mike Holmes of Wetumpk would have boosted the fine for removing monuments from a flat $25,000 to $10,000 a day. During discussions on the bill, Holmes drew criticism by maintaining the Civil War was not about slavery, a view contrary to most historians.
A Senate committee did not act on a House-passed bill to stiffen penalties for participating in riots and traffic-blocking demonstrations. The bill’s sponsor said the legislation is needed to crack down on violent behavior, but advocacy groups and Black lawmakers said they feared it would be used to jail and intimidate peaceful demonstrators. The GOP-dominated House of Representatives voted 74-25 for the bill.