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Legislation would toughen penalties on street racing

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The House Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved a bill to crack down on street racing, a legislative priority for some of Alabama’s largest cities.

Introduced by Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, House Bill 29 would impose criminal penalties for those participating in street racing activities, including vehicle burnouts, donuts, stunts, races and speed exhibitions.

During a recent meeting at the State House, Treadaway said that Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin had asked him to sponsor a bill targeting street exhibitions after a street race last year resulted in the death of a 14-year-old girl.

“The mayor was very emotional, one of these pop-up exhibition driving things that we’ve all seen on TV happened in Birmingham, and in this particular case a 14-year-old girl was killed,” Treadaway said.

“We looked at the current law on reckless driving, and they just did not go far enough. (This bill) also allows a law enforcement officer on the scene – unlike in a reckless driving situation – to make an arrest and tow the vehicle.”

Those convicted of violating the proposed law would be subject to a sentence of five to 90 days, and a fine of $25 to $500. A second conviction would net a sentence of ten days to six months and a fine of $50 to $500.

The bill would also impose harsher penalties if a street exhibition results in property damage or bodily harm. Property damage as a result of a street exhibition would result in a Class A misdemeanor, whereas serious bodily harm would result in a Class C felony. An exhibition that causes death would result in a Class B felony.

In addition, those found guilty under the proposed law could be prohibited from operating a vehicle on public highways for six to 24 months.

The bill ultimately received a favorable report from the committee.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, is sponsoring the same legislation, Senate Bill 58, in the Senate. The Senate’s version of the bill was scheduled to be read in the Senate Judiciary committee last week but was carried over when the meeting ran long.

In a written statement earlier this month, the Alabama Big 10 Mayors said they support legislation that prohibits and provides criminal penalties for exhibition driving.

Representing Alabama’s ten biggest cities – and with 75% of the state’s population living in their metro areas – the Alabama Big 10 Mayors came together to set a list of collective priorities.

“Policy decisions made in Montgomery have a direct impact on our cities. And with nearly three out of four Alabamians living either in or around our state’s 10 biggest cities, legislation that creates jobs and improves public safety in our communities benefits the vast majority of Alabamians,” the mayors’ written statement said.

Mayors’ other priorities

The mayors’ group also hopes the Legislature will help them revitalize neighborhoods and reduce blight by clearing existing red tape.

“The Big 10 mayors are supporting legislation that would slash that unnecessary burdensome red tape to allow local governments and land bank authorities to take control of vacant, abandoned property, properties that are meant to be tax-delinquent, and address them in a way that improves our cities and those communities that are experiencing blight,” Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox told Alabama Daily News. “We believe that this is a commonsense approach, and I know the Alabama Legislature agrees with cities that cutting red tape is a good thing for the people who pay our salary.”

As defined by AL Code 24-2-2, a property is considered blighted when it exhibits objectively determinable signs of deterioration sufficient to constitute a threat to human health, safety and public welfare.

Blighted properties are not a new issue in Alabama cities. In 2019, Maddox signed an executive order forming the Abatement of Blight, Crime and Debris (ABCD) Task Force. In Birmingham, Woodfin launched a campaign, known as “99 for the 150th: Taking Pride Where I Reside”, consisting of weekly cleanups to address blight.

Other legislative priorities include renewing and expanding the state’s economic incentives offered to potential employers, implementing state penalties on illegal “trigger activator” devices, such as a “Glock switch,” and increasing online sales tax transparency.

The Alabama Big 10 Mayors also include Ron Anders of Auburn, Tab Bowling of Decatur, Mark Saliba of Dothan, Frank Brocato of Hoover, Tommy Battle of Hoover, Paul Finley of Madison, Sandy Stimpson of Mobile and Steven Reed of Montgomery.

Alabama Daily News’ Alexander Willis contributed to this report.

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