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January 14, 2014

Gay marriage, medical pot, surgical castration of sex offenders among controversial bills on tap for Alabama Legislature

The Alabama Legislature will convene today and on tap are a slew of controversial pre-filed bills, ranging from a proposed repeal of last year’s sweeping gun law to medical marijuana, gay marriage and surgical castration for sex offenders.

As of Monday, 152 bills had been pre-filed in the House and 105 bills in the Senate. Sen. Paul Bussman, R- Cullman, filed seven bills, one of which would allow women the right to have a midwife deliver their baby. None of the state representatives from the Cullman area — Ed Henry, Mac Buttram and Randall Shedd — filed bills for the 2014 regular session.

Several controversial proposals stand out among the bills to be introduced.  Alvin Holmes, D- Montgomery, has filed a bill, HB- 18, that would repeal the 2013 gun legislation which clarified the state’s stance on individuals’ legal possession of guns. Significant changes allow licensed gun owners to openly carry their firearm except in restricted areas and unlicensed gun owners to carry a firearm in a vehicle as long as it is kept unloaded and concealed in a locked compartment out of reach from occupants. SB 286 also created an appeal process for those denied pistol permits by county sheriffs.

HB-18 would remove language in last year’s gun law related to open carry on firearms. Law enforcement would regain the authority to charge someone with disorderly conduct for visibly possessing a handgun, and a person would be forbidden again from carrying a handgun on someone else’s premises. Additionally, handguns could not be concealed in a vehicle unless that person had a concealed carry permit, which had previously been the law.

Another bill would require sex offenders, 21 and older, that were convicted of sex offenses against children 12 years old and younger to undergo surgical castration prior to release from Department of Corrections. If passed, Alabama would be the first state in the country to legally castrate citizens without their consent. Rep. Steve Hurst, R- Talledega, has proposed the measure in past sessions, but it has consistently failed to get traction.

HB- 40, filed by Rep. Patricia Todd, D- Jefferson County, proposes a constitutional amendment repealing Amendment 774 which prohibits marriage licenses to members of the same sex. Todd filed another bill, HB-139, which would remove from sex education emphasis that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle and that homosexual conduct is a criminal act. It would also require that all material taught be done in a culturally sensitive manner.

Another hot button issue to come before the house floor is medical marijuana. Rep. Mike Ball, R- Madison, has filed HB-104 which would provide a defense to patients — or a minor patient’s parent or guardian — diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition by a physician that are charged with second-degree marijuana possession for having cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana plants. Todd and Rep. Allen Farley, R- McCalla, are co-sponsoring the bill.

Other bills to be introduced include:

HB- 3: Extends sale of wine by wine manufacturer to a limited number of satellite tasting rooms and special events for on and off-site consumption, with additional licenses for a limited number of off-site tasting rooms and special events, all of which are subject to the existing excise tax on wine sales. Filed by Becky Nordgren, R- DeKalb and Etowah counties.

HB-15: Allows schools to educate students about traditional winter celebrations, like Christmas and Hanukah, and offer traditional greetings. Filed by Rep. April Weaver, R- Bibb and Shelby counties.

 HB-45: Allows the Ten Commandments to be displayed on state property and public schools, filed by Duwayne Bridges, R- Chambers and Lee counties.

HB-67: Allows women to have a midwife deliver their baby, filed by Rep. Mike Ball, R- Madison. Similar bill, SB-99, filed by Bussman.

HB- 118: Prohibits any member of the Legislature from lobbying for two years after leaving office and elected officials from lobbying the board, agency, department or legislative body to which he or she is elected during their term. Filed by Rep. Joe Hubbard, D- Montgomery.

HB- 121: Exempts private schools from any state, county and municipal sales and use taxes on the purchase of tangible personal property. Filed by Hubbard.

HB-147: Declares certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act null and void, authorizes the Attorney General to file for injunctive relief for persons injured by implementation of the act and  tax credit for payment of penalties and prohibits certain involuntary in-home visitations for early childhood care. Filed by Rep. Barry Moore, R- Coffee County.

SB- 2: Allows a person accused of murdering someone with a protection order issued against the defendant a capital crime, filed by Sen. Clay Scofield, R-  Blount, Madison and Marshall counties.  

SB- 87: Requires adult recipients of state public benefits to comply with mandatory community service program requirements in order to be eligible for the benefits. Any person who does not comply shall be ineligible to receive public assistance for a specified period of time based on the frequency of noncompliance. Filed Sen. Bryan Taylor, R- Autauga, Butler, Crenshaw Elmore, Lowndes and Pike counties.  

SB- 92: Expands Medicaid program to provide assistance to all persons for whom matching funds are available to the state under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Filed by Senators Roger Bedford, D- Russellville, Marc Keahey, D- Grove Hill, Hank Sanders, D- Selma, Quinton Ross, D- Montgomery, Billy Beasley, D- Clayton, Vivian Figures, D- Mobile, and Rodger Smitherman, D- Birmingham.

Tiffeny Owens can be reached by email at towens@cullmantimes.com or by phone at 256-734-2131, ext. 135.

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