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What’s on tap – April 20, 2021

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Welcome to the 24th legislative day of the 2021 Regular Session. Counting today, we have seven legislative days left before lawmakers reach their 30-day limit set by the constitution.

For your planning purposes, the likely schedule from here on out is meeting Tuesday & Thursday for the next three weeks, then breaking for ten days before reconvening for Sine Die on May 17th.

Here’s what’s on tap at the State House.

The House convenes at 1 p.m., the Senate at 2 p.m.

The Senate Government Affairs Committee meets at 1 p.m. and its agenda includes a bill to require mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse to contact both the Alabama Department of Human Resources and local law enforcement.

State law says many medical professions, public and private K-12 and higher education employees, law enforcement and peace officers, day care employees and members of the clergy “when the child is known or suspected to be a victim of child abuse or neglect, shall be required to report orally, either by telephone or direct communication immediately, and shall be followed by a written report, to a duly constituted authority.”

Sen. Clyde Chambliss’ Senate Bill 393 would require mandatory reporters to contact both DHR and local law enforcement.

“A local law enforcement agency receiving any report, pursuant to this subsection, of alleged criminal conduct shall investigate the report. The Department of Human Resources shall investigate all other reports,” the bill says.

“The hope there is that there’s not anybody that’s left in the cracks,” Chambliss, R-Prattville, told Alabama Daily News on Monday.

Chambliss said an amendment may be brought to clarify that both DHR and law enforcement can investigate the same case.

He said the bill was prompted by some cases in which there was confusion among agencies about who was the lead investigator.

“The goal is to clear up confusion and avoid that down the road,” Chambliss said. “Everybody knows what they have to do and how to do it.”

On the topic of child welfare, the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention and The University of Alabama will release a report, “The Cost of Child Maltreatment to the Alabama Economy,” during a State House press conference this morning. The report breaks down the economic impact of child abuse and neglect on the state.

The House’s agenda includes House Bill 284  from Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy. It would allow law enforcement officers from designated agencies around the state to take people into protective custody if there is “reasonable cause to believe that the individual has a mental illness and is an immediate danger to himself or herself or others.”

The individual doesn’t have to be charged with a crime and the detainment is not an arrest. The hold can last up to 72 hours if not extended by a probate judge.

Allen, a former probate judge, said the bill would help get treatment to those in need.

There has been some concern about the bill from mental health care advocates who say more crisis care from mental health professionals is needed, not law enforcement intervention. Detaining people who haven’t committed a crime also raises due process concerns, ADN reported last month.

The bill says those in protective custody would be taken to a health care facility that has a written agreement with the county to provide evaluation, treatment and care or is designated by the Department of Mental Health.

The bill requires at least one physician and another medical professional to, after consultation with the individual, sign a statement finding that the individual appears to have a mental illness, may be a danger to others or himself and needs further observation.

The bill received unanimous, bipartisan support in the House Judiciary Committee in February.

The House could also vote on Rep. Danny Garrett’s House Bill 473 to create the Alabama Rural, Agribusiness and Opportunity Zone Jobs Act to incentivize development in rural counties.

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