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Legislative briefs for June 1

Legislature passes bill on who can see police videos

The Alabama Legislature on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that mandates who law enforcement can allow to view agencies’ body and dash camera footage.

House Bill 289, sponsored by Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, grants people whose image or voice is on a law enforcement recording the right to request access to the footage. If that person is deceased, a family member could request to see it. The bill says law enforcement does not have to distribute copies of the videos and media and general public aren’t included in the list of those who might have viewing access.

The Senate approved the bill 21-8 and it now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey.

“This is a procedure by which the law enforcement can release it under particular circumstances,” Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro said on the Senate floor. “… We can’t just give you the recording … because you want to see the recording.” 

The request for disclosure must be made in written form. However, the bill allows law enforcement not to release the footage if it could harm an ongoing investigation.

Multiple media outlets in recent years have fought with law enforcement for the release of police videos. In 2021, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that a sheriff’s office did not have to turn over records about a fatal shooting by a deputy, a ruling that broadly interpreted an exemption for investigative records, the Associated Press reported at the time.

“House Bill 289) is a small step in the right direction as it relates to police video,” Felicia Mason, executive director of the Alabama Press Association, told Alabama Daily News. “It provides a process and a path for the families or their representatives to have access to the recording.”


Lawmakers approve, add themselves to anti-doxing bill

The Alabama Legislature approved legislation Thursday that would protect law enforcement members’ personal information from becoming public. 

Lawmakers also amended the bill to add themselves to the list of government workers whose personal information is protected.

Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Citronelle, has said House Bill 286 would help prevent the doxing — the finding and online publishing of private or identifying information with malicious intent — of law enforcement.

“One of the ways (people are) doing that is by researching public records, such as probate records, to see where (law enforcement officers and employees) have land or where they live, so they can put that information out for people to come to their residence or home with the intention to cause them problems,” Stringer previously said.

Judges, district attorneys, investigators, sheriffs, jailers and law enforcement officers are among the employees that can request the redaction of identifying information from any document prior to disclosure.

The bill would not redact the officer or employee’s name from a document.

Redacted information could include an officer or employee’s home address, phone number, date of birth, or information otherwise used to access financial resources, obtain identification, act as identification, or obtain goods or services.


Bill placing those involuntarily committed on law enforcement database passes House

The Alabama House approved a bill on Thursday that would require any person who had been involuntarily committed to inpatient or outpatient treatment by order of a judge to be placed on the state’s firearms prohibited person database.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, was designed to aid law enforcement during traffic stops. Knowing whether or not an individual might have a mental illness could help better prepare police to deal with erratic behavior, as previously argued by Al Tolbert, chief of police for Bay Minette Police Department.

The bill saw one amendment on the House floor that expanded the proposed law to apply to orders given to both probate and circuit judges. The amendment passed 102-1, with Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, being the sole dissenting vote.

The bill went on to be approved by the House with a vote of 86-15, with one abstaining. As the House adopted an amendment to the bill, it will now have to go to the Senate for concurrence, with the only window of opportunity remaining being the final legislative day on Tuesday, June 6.


Legislature passes bill prioritizing at-risk students for charter schools

A bill that would, among other things, allow public charter schools to give enrollment preference to at-risk students saw concurrence in the Alabama House Thursday, sending it off to Gov. Kay Ivey’s office for final approval.

Sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, House Bill 363 would not only afford public charter schools the ability to prioritize enrollment based on a students’ risk of academic failure, but would provide additional guidelines for school conversions to charter schools.

Under the bill, public schools that convert to public charter schools would, during their first year of operation, be afforded funding “at the same level as the school was funded prior to conversion.”

The bill saw a near-unanimous concurrence in the House with a vote of 98-3, with Reps. Napoleon Bracy, D-Saraland, Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, and Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery, being the dissenting votes.


Review process for school reading content bill passed by legislature

In the last minutes of Thursday’s legislative day, the Alabama House concurred with the Senate on a bill that would establish a review process for elementary school reading material to ensure it “reflects the core values of the state,” among other things.

The bill would implement the process by requiring the curriculums recommended by the Literacy Task Force – an appointed body that recommends school curriculums – properly review and vet content to determine whether it’s age appropriate for students. The bill would also make minor changes to the task force itself, such as expanding its size from 20 to 25 members.

The bill received unanimous concurrence from the House with a vote of 103-0, sending it to the governor’s office for final approval.


Legislature passes child abuse definition bill

A bill that would expand the definition of child abuse to include mistreatment passed the House unanimously on Wednesday. 

Senate Bill 83 by Sen. April Weaver, R-Brierfield and House Bill 428 by Rep. Jerry Starnes, R-Prattville, defines mistreatment as “the intentional infliction of unnecessary harm to a child without any physical injury.”

If signed by the governor, the amended law would say those who torture, willfully abuse, willfully mistreat, cruelly beat, or otherwise willfully maltreat any child under the age of 18 years” can be punished with Class C felonies.

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