Alabama legislative preview: March 21 – March 25, 2016

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The Alabama House of Representatives will convene at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and the Senate an hour later, as state lawmakers gather for the 17th day of the regular session.

This week, the Senate will take up SB89 from Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), which would require Alabama public school students to pass a civics test as a requirement for graduation. Orr’s legislation has been on the agenda for a while, but has likely been stalled due to a focus on more contentious issues.

The body is also slated to take up SB148 from Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville), which would require all vehicle passengers to wear a safety belt, and SB114 from Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville), which would regulate fantasy contests and “exempt fantasy contests from certain criminal penalties associated with gambling activity.” The bill would increase spending by the Attorney General’s office, which would be responsible for overseeing such activities, by $1 million in the first year.

Also on the Senate’s agenda this week are SB14 from Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), which would allow citizens to carry a firearm in their vehicle without a permit, and SB205 from Sanford, which would bar the Alabama Department of Human Resources from renewing health center licenses for an “abortion clinic or reproductive health center” within 2,000 feet of a school.

In the House, lawmakers will take up HB46 from Rep. Alan Boothe (R-Troy), which would allow Alabama spirit makers to sell fifths for off-premise consumption. The body is also slated to debate HB13 from Rep. Alan Harper (R-Northport), which would allow citizens to vote on whether or not to allow a lottery in the state – the legislation provides no details on how proceeds from such an operation would be used, which is likely why it hasn’t been discussed thus far.

HB218 from Rep. Dickie Drake (R-Leeds) is also on the agenda and would require that all elementary school students be instructed in cursive writing before the end of their third grade year. HB244 from Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) will also be taken up this week – the bill prohibits law enforcement from requiring victims of a sexual offense to take a polygraph examination.

Committee hearings get underway Tuesday, though the vast majority take place on Wednesday, beginning with the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will take up SB237 from Sen. Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery). Ross’s legislation would make it unlawful for employers to request information regarding arrests and convictions on employment applications. The committee will also take up Sanford’s SB115, the Senate version of “Leni’s Law” from Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison), which would decriminalize possession of the marijuana-based medicine cannibidiol.

The Senate Committee on Constitution, Ethics and Elections will debate SB360 from Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), which would require voters to register as a Democrat or Republican before voting in a primary. Voters who do not will not be allowed to vote on party candidates, only on ballot measures and nonpartisan issues.

The House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry will take up HB393 from Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), which would allow for the growing of industrial hemp in the state for use in a variety of products. The House Committee on Mobile County Legislation will mull over HB248 from Rep. Napoleon Bracy (D-Mobile), which would establish a $10.10 minimum wage in Mobile County.

At the close of business this week, legislators will adjourn for spring break.

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