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Legislative Briefs for April 4

Distracted driving bill carried over following vocal opposition

After much opposition and discussion that lasted more than two hours Tuesday, a bill that would ban mobile phone use while driving failed to pass and was voted by the Alabama House to be carried over. The bill could potentially be brought back for a vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, House Bill 8 would prohibit any physical use of mobile phones while operating a vehicle, with violators subject to a two-point violation on their driving record and a fine of up to $100 for first offenses. The bill would make physically handling a phone while driving a primary violation, meaning law enforcement would be permitted to conduct a traffic stop on drivers who violate the proposed law.

More than nine House representatives expressed their concerns with the bill on the House floor, with the majority of concerns being related to increasing the frequency of traffic stops.

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, said that she held concerns with the “impact these penalties have on poor people especially,” given that drivers with older vehicles may not have wireless phone connectivity capabilities.

Others, like Reps. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, John Rogers, D-Birmingham, Napoleon Bracy, D-Saraland, and Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, expressed concerns that the bill could increase instances of racial profiling.

Of the bill failing to pass, Woods told Alabama Daily News that it was disappointing.

“Kind of disheartening after you’ve worked this hard on a bill and this long,” Woods said. “This bill was designed to save lives first and foremost without a shadow of a doubt. Let’s hope and pray that no one gets hurt or killed from doing this.”

Bill that expands education employee sick leave for adoptive parents passes House

A bill that would permit full-time education employees to use up to eight weeks of earned sick leave to tend to an ill child who is either adopted or pending adoption saw unanimous approval in the Alabama House on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Reps. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, and Terri Collins, R-Decater, House Bill 103 would extend education employees’ ability to use their sick leave to care for their ill children to apply to adopted children and children for which an adoption petition has been filed.

The bill went on to receive unanimous approval, and received 90 co-sponsors. Baker called his bill a partial extension of the adoption process streamlining bill that passed in March, and said that the Senate version of the bill will be carried by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre.

Vaping, smoking ban in vehicles with children passes House

With some opposition, a bill that would ban smoking or vaping in a vehicle when a child under 14 is present passed the Alabama House with a vote of 84-15, with two abstaining.

Sponsored by Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham, House Bill 3 would impose up to a $100 fine for those who violate the proposed law. Under the bill, law enforcement would not be permitted to conduct a traffic stop based solely on observing a driver smoking or vaping with a child present, and would only be permitted to charge or investigate individuals violating the proposed law as a secondary violation.

Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, expressed concerns on the House floor over the bill “creating a mechanism for our people – especially in the African American black community – being stopped” by police.

Others, like Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, praised the bill, calling it a measure to protect “the welfare of our children.”
Hollis said that Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, had expressed interest to her in carrying a Senate version of the bill.

Bill gives counties authority to set speed limits on their roads within municipalities

Municipalities will not be allowed to set speed limits on county owned and maintained roads within their limits under a bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 33, by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, is supported by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama. 

Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the ACCA, previously said there are many roads inside city limits that are maintained by and the responsibility of counties. 

The bill was amended in a committee last month to say that a city can set the speed limit if it conducts engineering and traffic investigations and receives approval from the county engineer as a result of that investigation.

The bill received a 29-0 vote in the Senate. Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, is sponsoring the same bill in the House. It has not yet received a committee vote.

Female parolee center bill advances

Plans for a residential training and rehabilitation center for female parolees and probationers got closer to final passage on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 52, sponsored by Sen. Linda Madison-Coleman, D-Birmingham, would put into law the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles ability to operate a residential center for women. The agency has plans for such a place at its site in Thomasville. 

It was previously a men’s center and Ingram State Technical College has educational offerings there.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously with little discussion on Tuesday. A House version of the bill is pending in that chamber.

Election bills advance

The Senate also approved Tuesday Senate Bills 9 and 10 to mandate the use of paper ballots and ban the use of electronic voting machines with the ability to connect to the internet, respectively.

Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, previously told Alabama Daily News that his two bills would codify existing election procedure policies into law.

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