Sunday, April 7, 2013
2013 ALABAMA LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - WEEK EIGHT
The Alabama Legislature returned from its one week Spring break on Tuesday to begin the second half of the 2013 Legislative Session. From the moment the Senate and House were gaveled in, it was clear that the Legislature intended to take up a number of controversial bills. House Bill 57, sponsored by Representative Mary Sue McClurkin (R-Indian Springs Village), was up first on the Senate agenda, and the majority of Tuesday was spent in a highly emotional debate surrounding the bill's strict standards for abortion providers. The bill passed just prior to midnight, and after the House of Representatives agreed to a minor Senate amendment by a vote of 68-21. Representative McClurkin remarked, “If an abortion clinic is truly dedicated to providing adequate care, ensuring dependable safeguard, and putting patients’ needs before profits, it will embrace this legislation rather than oppose it. I am proud that the State of Alabama is daring to defend the right to life.” The bill is expected to be signed by Governor Bentley after his legal counsel has an opportunity to review it and ensure it is the same bill he endorsed early in the session.
On Thursday, the Senate turned their attention to the controversial gun bill that has been vehemently opposed by law enforcement and business interests across the state. In fact, earlier in the week, the Business Council of Alabama released a statement that addressed their issues with the bill and announced that in its present form, they have no choice but to oppose the legislation. “At a time when the business community in all sectors should be focused on creating jobs, we instead are dealing with unnecessary legislation which erodes constitutional property rights of businesses,” said BCA President and CEO William J. Canary. “We have said from the beginning that in order to support this legislation, businesses must be immune from civil liability, the bill must apply equally to everyone in Alabama, and there must be an opt-in opt-out provision for businesses,” Canary concluded. As we mentioned in our last report, Senate Bill 286, sponsored by Senator Scott Beason (R-Gardendale), would severely limit the ability of a sheriff to deny a person a pistol permit, and would prevent businesses from instituting policies that would prevent employees from having weapons in their vehicle on company property. Additionally, it requires businesses seeking to prevent individuals from entering their buildings with weapons to post prominent notices at their public entrances that guns are prohibited. After nearly 6 hours of debate and 10 amendments, the Republican Majority shut off debate. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 27-5 and will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Finally, on Thursday, in a rare event for this session, Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass a bill aimed at recruiting suppliers for the new Airbus plant. The comprehensive bill addresses concerns over Alabama's civil liability system raised by Airbus America. As most know, last summer Airbus announced that it would build its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Mobile, Alabama. The plant is expected to cost as much as $600 million to build and is projected to employ up to 2,500 people. SB238, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), includes provisions specifically related to lawsuits involving commercial aircraft manufacturers and is designed to alleviate concerns raised by Airbus regarding potential civil liability. Later that afternoon, Governor Bentley signed the bill into law. He remarked, “This bill will make sure Alabama remains competitive with neighboring states in attracting supplier jobs. Already, Airbus will directly provide 1,000 jobs in Mobile, and more than 3,000 people will be employed in the construction phase of the Airbus facility. As suppliers move in, we can attract thousand of additional jobs as well. We want those jobs for the people of Alabama. This legislation will help us accomplish our goal.”
In other legislative news this week, the Tax Payer Bill of Rights, sponsored by Representative Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood), passed the House by a margin of 96-2 and will next be under consideration by the Senate. The original piece of this legislation was pocket vetoed by Governor Bentley last year due to technical issues. Additionally, the Senate introduced legislation that would reform Alabama's antiquated business license requirements.
The Legislature has now met 17 of the 30 permissible days for this Session, leaving 13 days remaining. The House reconvenes at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, and the Senate will reconvene at 1:30 pm on the same day. It is expected that the Legislature may meet Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday next week with Committee meetings also scheduled for Wednesday.