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Legislative briefs – Wednesday, Feb. 2

Lawmakers advance bill named for fallen officer

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would prohibit early “good time” release of anyone convicted in the death of another person.

House Bill 143 by Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Green Hill, is one of several bills filed in the wake of the killing of Sheffield Police Sgt. Nick Risner.

Risner was fatally shot while on duty in October, allegedly by Brian Lansing Martin. Martin was convicted of manslaughter for killing his father in 2013 and sentenced to 10 years in prison after taking a plea deal. He was released after three years and two months in prison under the state law that allows early release for inmates who behave well in prison.

The bill now goes to the House where it has 17 co-sponsors.

Committee approves bill changing mental health commitment process

The Alabama House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would change the involuntary commitment process for someone with a mental health issue, allowing judges to consider behavior over a two-year period.

House Bill 70, sponsored by Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville, would also expand the definition of “real and present danger” for involuntary commitments to include the risk that the individual may “cause, allow, or inflict serious bodily harm upon himself, herself, or another individual,” and “be unable to satisfy his or her need for nourishment, medical care, shelter, or self-protection so that there is a substantial likelihood of death, serious bodily harm, serious physical debilitation, serious mental debilitation, or life-threatening disease.”

For years, the law was written or interpreted so that a person almost had to commit a crime before they could be committed,” Reynolds previously said. “(House Bill 70) allows a court to hear from multiple sources about the condition of a person who may be in danger of hurting themselves or someone else“

During the committee’s discussion on the bill, Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, and Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, shared their families’ personal experiences with the mental health system in Alabama and emphasized a need for expansion on mental health resources if this bill were to pass.

“I’m imagining families needing the support and assistance we all needed during those times and then being told they have nowhere to put their loved ones,” England said. “With the resources that we have now, it is more beneficial to allow for an easy in and easy out approach to mental health breakdowns.”

The bill will now moves to the House of Representatives for a vote.

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