By ALEXANDER WILLS and ANNA BARRETT, Alabama Daily News
Organized retail theft bill moves forward in House committee
A bill that targets organized retail theft saw unanimous approval Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee, with former opponents of the legislation voting in its favor after the bill received a significant amendment.
Sponsored by Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, House Bill 288 would create new criminal charges for those who shoplift items in association with at least one other person. Introduced last month, the original form of the bill would see those who shoplift an item – regardless of value – in association with another person be charged with a Class B felony.
The amendment introduced Wednesday, which was unanimously approved, would instead require shoplifted items exceed $500 in value before an organized retail theft charge could be imposed, with criminal penalties increasing in conjunction with the value of stolen items.
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, who had originally opposed the bill, said committee members had successfully “narrowed down (the bill) to actual target what they were trying to target.”
The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously.
New distracted driving bill filed by Waggoner, clears committee
A bill increasing penalties for distracted driving passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday after an emotional plea from long-time lawmaker Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills.
In 1979, his college-age son, Scott Waggoner, was killed in a wreck after the Jeep he was driving left the roadway.
“He was coming home one night, and we’ll never know what happened, but I lost my 18-year-old son,” Waggoner said, showing the committee a picture of his late son. “That’s the reason these kind of issues have been important to me.”
Waggoner sponsored in 1999 legislation creating a $25 fine if people in the front seat of a vehicle aren’t using their seatbelts. Waggoner’s been a lawmaker since 1966 and is chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee.
“I’m serious about this legislation and hopefully you will be serious about it,” Waggoner said.
Waggoner said he’s been asked for years to carry bills cracking down on distracted driving.
Senate Bill 301 says that while driving on a state highway, a person won’t hold or support a wireless telecommunications device or a stand-alone electronic device.
Sen. Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, thanked Waggoner for bringing the bill and said there are things in it he can support, but called other parts impractical.
The bill says “a person shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract the person from the safe operation of the vehicle.”
“What’s that mean?” Givhan said. He said his vehicle came equipped with a screen as big as an iPad.
“You want to talk about a distraction? It’s built in,” he said.
The bill was given a favorable report and now moves to the full Senate.
A different distracted driving bill cleared a House committee earlier this session but was later carried over at the call of the chair on the House floor, a signal that it lacks support.
Immigrant DNA collection bill clears committee
A recently filed bill would require law enforcement agencies to take fingerprints and DNA from those in their custody who are in the country illegally.
Senate Bill 320 by Sen. Lance Bell R-Riverside, was filed this week.
Bell was one of several lawmakers and law enforcement officials from Alabama who visited the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this month and met with state and federal agencies trying to secure the border.
He said one issue is immigrants who have committed crimes re-entering the country using aliases.
“(Law enforcement in Texas’) request was we need to do a better job on a database … of illegal aliens to track,” Bell said.
The relatively short bill says that whenever a law enforcement agency in Alabama “has an illegal alien in its custody, the law enforcement agency may not release the illegal alien until the law enforcement agency has collected a full set of fingerprints and a DNA sample from the individual.”
The DNA and fingerprints will then be submitted to the Alabama Department of Forensics for testing or cataloging.
The bill now moves to the Senate, where it has 29 co-sponsors.
Bill that would make distribution of pornography illegal to minors passes committee
Sponsored by Rep. Ben Robbins, R-Sylacauga, Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, and Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, House Bill 441 would prohibit the distribution of pornography to minors under the age of 18.
The bill passed in the House Judiciary Committee and goes to the House.
The bill would require a licensing fee to distribute pornography material in Alabama. According to the bill, “the Legislature finds the pervasive use of pornography is creating a public health crisis by contributing to the hyper-sexualization of children and teens in society.”
The fee would be determined by the Attorney General, half would go to the State General Fund and half would go to the Special Mental Health Trust Fund, according to the bill.
Senate committee moves organ transplant discrimination bill forward
The Senate Health Care Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would prohibit health providers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities as it pertains to organ transplants.
With no federal laws restricting discrimination toward people with disabilities seeking organ transplants, the matter is left up to individual states, with 36 states having enacted such laws.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, who filed a similar bill in 2021. Wood’s latest form of the bill has already been approved in the Alabama House, and after having passed in the Senate Health Care Committee, now moves onto the Senate for final passage.
Bill that would make involuntary commitment information available to law enforcement passes committee
Sponsored by Sen. Chris Elliot, R-Josephine, Senate Bill 158 received a favorable report in the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday.
The bill would require the names of anyone involuntarily committed to either inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment by probate judges be entered into the state’s database of people prohibited from having firearms.
Elliot said he originally wanted to include voluntarily committed individuals, but decided against it as not to discourage Alabamians from seeking mental health care.
Elliot acknowledged the potential Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — HIPPA — violations, but said that the information would not be available through public record requests.
Bill that would add PTSD to first responder worker’s comp passes House
A bill that would add benefits for many first responders who suffer from work-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder passed the House on Wednesday.
HB323, sponsored by Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Green Hill, applies to firefighters who work for municipalities and volunteer firefighters and municipal law enforcement officers certified by the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission.
These benefits are reimbursement for treatment expenses as well as paid time off to receive those treatments. The bill would also create a fund that would distribute the benefits to the affected first responders. The fund would come from the State General Fund and no specific amount was listed in a fiscal note attached to the bill, but Pettus said the maximum amount of benefits is $15,000.
Alabama Daily News’ Mary Sell contributed to this report.