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Legislative briefs – March 4, 2021

By CAROLINE BECK and MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – After a fourth-straight four-day week, Day 12 of the 2021 Regular Session is in the books. That means barely a month into the session, we are 40% done in terms of legislative meeting days. Of course, things will slow down a bit after they return to more normal two-day weeks and pause for Spring Break the week of March 22.

Here’s what’s happening in the State House.

Concealed carry bill advances

Rep. Proncey Robertsons’ House Bill 477, the Alabama Uniform Concealed Carry Permit Act, was approved Thursday in the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. It would standardize across the state the concealed carry permit process, create a “prohibited person database” and allow for a lifetime permit.

The committee changed the proposed cost of the lifetime permit from Robertson’s suggested $200 to $500. Robertson, R- Mt. Hope, told ADN he thinks that’s too high and will argue on the House floor to change it back to $200. He said most counties charge about $20 for an annual permit. Robertson said the public wants an alternative to yearly or five-year permits allowed now.

“I feel like $200 is adequate,” he said.

Some on the committee argued that rural county sheriff departments especially rely on the permit revenue.

“It puts gas in patrol cars,” Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, said.

Robertson also opposes a committee change that allows a sheriff to deny or revoke a permit based on a record that has been expunged.

“I think that’s problematic,” Robertson said. “I think we have a constitutional issue there.”

Robertson, a retired Decatur Police Department officer, stressed that his legislation does not create any sort of registry for permit holders and all data is to be kept at the local level.

The prohibited persons registry would allow the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to create a database that “shall provide a method for municipal, probate, district, and circuit courts to report convictions and orders that affect an individual’s eligibility to possess a firearm under federal or state law.”

Robertson said the database would help law enforcement during traffic stops and other interactions “identify who the bad guys are.”

The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives. Co-sponsors include Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Birmingham, both retired law enforcement officers, and Rep. Parker Moore, R-Decatur.

Law enforcement background checks bill advances

A bill that would create a centralized database of background checks and disciplinary records of law enforcement officers passed the Senate on Thursday.

Senate Bill 158 from Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said this will keep Alabamians safe and create fewer hardships for local law enforcement agencies across the state.

“The purpose of the bill Is to eliminate inconsistencies among law enforcement agencies on how much research is done considering an individual’s background and, in addition to placing the background information in a centralized data base, will help to alleviate unnecessary investigative work by law enforcement agencies for hiring purposes,” Smitherman said.

The database would be held by the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission and the bill also creates civil penalties for those agencies that fail to report to the database.

Agencies would have to report certain complaints, disciplinary actions, and background information to APOST.

Smitherman said he has worked with the Governor’s office, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Sheriff’s Association and the Alabama Association Chiefs of Police, who all support the bill.

The bill passed with a 21-8 vote.

Sen. Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, voted against the bill because he had heard some concerns from his local law enforcement officers.

“They said this violates the police officer’s bill of rights,” Givhan said.

The bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee.

Dips and Dunks bill advances

Legislation to reduce the amount of time parole violators serve in county jails and compensate selected jails more for holding state inmates passed the Senate on Thursday with amendments.

House Bill 110 from Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, passed unanimously with two amendments from Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro.

One of the amendments changed the implementation date of the legislation from Oct. 1, 2021 to Jan. 1, 2022.

Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, sponsored the Senate version of the bill and said this will help ease crowding and financial strains on county jails from taking in dips and dunks.

“Dips” are when recently released state inmates have a technical violation of their parole and are sent to the county jail for a two-or three-day stay. “Dunks” are when they have six or more “dips” and are transferred to state prison for a 45-day stay.

The new bill reduces the amount of “dips” to no more than six days per month, instead of the current nine days. The bill also shortens the amount of “dips” from no more than nine total days per violator instead of the current 18 days before the inmate is to be transferred back to prison or one of several jails willing to take them.

The bill now goes back to the House.

Construction Zone fine increase passes

A bill that would expand existing law regarding moving violations in designated construction zones created by the Alabama Department of Transportation or county transportation departments passed the Senate on Thursday.

Senate Bill 4 is sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, and increases the moving violation fine to be “the greater of $250 or double the amount prescribed by law outside a construction zone.”

Current law says a person who commits a violation of a construction zone speed limit shall be assessed a fine of double the amount prescribed by law outside of a construction zone. Allen’s bill expands that to all moving violations committed within a construction zone.

An amendment from Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, was passed that details where the new funds go to in the state general fund or to local general funds.

“This specifies exactly where these funds go,” Coleman-Madison said.

The bill has been scheduled for the House Public Safety and Homeland Security committee.

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