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Legislative briefs for April 5

‘Electronic stalking’ penalty bill advances

A bill in the Alabama House would make it a Class C felony to put an electronic tracking device on another person’s belongings without their consent and “with the intent to surveil, stalk, or harass, or for any other unlawful purpose.”

House Bill 153 by Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, was approved Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee. It now goes to the House.

He said law enforcement in Jefferson County approached him about the electronic stalking bill.

“A young lady was tracked from a nightclub and they had a hard time getting a warrant,” Treadaway said. “What this bill does is writes it into law and spells out the penalties.” 

A Class C felony in Alabama is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

The bill also says electronic stalking would be a Class B felony if done with an existing domestic violence protection order, elder abuse protection order, temporary restraining order or any other court order. Class B felonies are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Bill requiring parental consent for vaccinations clears committee

A bill that would require a minor to obtain parental consent in order to receive a vaccination was given a favorable report in committee on Wednesday. 

The Health Standing committee voted unanimously to approve House Bill 187, sponsored by Representative Chip Brown, R-Hollingers Island.

Under current law, a minor 14 years of age or older can give consent for medical, dental and mental health services for himself or herself without the consent of a parent.

“Most doctors already require parental consent for minors based on insurance purposes to protect themselves from a liability standpoint,” Brown said during the committee meeting. “But it’s not clarified by law.”

The bill would amend Section 22-8-4 of the Alabama constitution to require parental consent for all minors when seeking a vaccination.

Any persons under the age of 19 is considered a minor in the state of Alabama.

 The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Rhett Marques, R-Enterprise, and Jeff Sorrells, R-Hartford.

More than $82 million in tax cuts approved by House committee

Two bills that would reduce state income tax to the tune of $82.3 million a year received a favorable report Wednesday in the House Ways and Means Education Committee.

Sponsored by committee Chair Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, one of the bills would eliminate the lowest state income tax rate of 2%, while the other would reduce the highest rate of 5% to 4.95%.

The tax cuts would reduce tax revenue in the Education Trust Fund each year by $25 million and $57.3 million, respectively, per an updated fiscal report released Wednesday. Both tax cuts would be implemented incrementally over a period of five years.

While state income tax revenue is one of the major sources of funding for the state’s education budget, Garrett said that because his proposed tax cuts are phased in incrementally, he didn’t feel the state’s budgets would be jeopardized. 

“These are modest tax cuts, things that would not jeopardize the budget, but they’re a step,” Garrett said following the committee meeting. “We’ve done these for the last three or four years, so when you add up those, it’s a pretty substantial number.”

Extension of mandated ignition interlocks for drunk driving pretrial diversion program participants approved

A bill that would extend the requirements for those participating in a pretrial diversion program after being convicted of DUI to use an ignition interlock device saw unanimous approval in the Public Safety and Homeland Security House Committee on Wednesday.

Lawmakers first passed a bill requiring those convicted of drunk driving to use an ignition interlock device in 2014, however, the law did not apply to those undergoing a pretrial diversion program. In 2018, lawmakers closed this loophole, requiring pretrial diversion participants to also use the device.

Sponsored by Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham, House Bill 2 would merely extend the requirement for pretrial diversion participants to use an ignition interlock device, which is set to sunset this year on July 23.

“I’m just very committed to the concept of trying to save lives,” Mooney said while presenting his bill, adding that approximately 8,000 people undergoing a pretrial diversion program for DUI would not be required to use an ignition interlock device, were his bill not approved.

Committee members praised Mooney’s bill, giving it a unanimous favorable report.

House and Senate versions of alcohol liability bills pass joint committee

A bill that would alter the liability standards for establishments that serve alcohol saw unanimous approval Tuesday in the House Insurance Committee.

Under existing law, furnishers of alcoholic beverages can be held liable for civil damages were a patron to cause injury or death due to being overserved. Sponsored by David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, House Bill 158 would instead require that a server of alcoholic beverages did so to a patron “who was visibly intoxicated,” and that the service would have to be determined to be “the approximate cause of an accident that occurred,” according to Faulkner.

In addition to acting as a deterrent to over-serving patrons, Faulkner said the bill could also help reduce liquor liability insurance costs for alcohol-serving establishments, which can run as high as $35,000 a year.

“The last big thing about this, it will help drive down the cost of liquor liability insurance for restaurants and bars,” Faulkner said during the meeting. “The net result is that these restaurants and bars would be able to purchase higher amounts of insurance protection at a lower cost and a benefit to all.”

A Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, has already been approved in that committee.

Deputy Brad Johnson Act sees unanimous approval in committee

A bill that would reduce the rate at which Alabama prisoners can accrue “good time” deductions from their sentences saw unanimous approval in the Public Safety and Homeland Committee on Wednesday.

The bill is now one vote from final passage in the Legislature.

Sponsored by Sen. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, Senate Bill 1 is named after Bibb County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Johnson, who was shot and killed by a former inmate who had been released early on good behavior. The shooting took place last year not far from Weaver’s home, and was the inciting incident that motivated her to sponsor the bill.

Under current law, certain Alabama prisoners can accrue 75 days of early release credit for every 30 days of good behavior. Under the proposed law change, that number would be reduced to 30. Those convicted of Class A felonies or serving a sentence of 15 years or more are not eligible for Correctional Incentive Time, with only an estimated 12% of Alabama inmates currently eligible for early release.

Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, the ranking minority member of the committee, expressed concerns that reducing the ability of inmates to earn early release credits could hurt their incentive to behave while incarcerated.

“What incentives do you give those that are incarcerated after you take away the good time, what are you going to replace this with,” Jackson said. “You can’t use a broad brush when it comes to this; you’re going to punish everybody that’s locked up by taking away some of their time.”


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