CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

January 22, 2014

Alabama House reacts to IRS-tea party issues

By PHILLIP RAWLS
Associated Press

MONTGOMERY — Reacting to the ruckus in Washington over the Internal Revenue Service, the Alabama House voted Tuesday to make it a misdemeanor crime for state or local tax officials to audit an individual or group because of their political views.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Wayne Johnson of Ryland, said it is the result of how the IRS gave extra scrutiny to applications from tea party groups and others seeking tax-exempt status and delayed the applications for years.

“Our goal is to ensure that Alabamians never have to worry about their state government threatening them because of their political views,” he said.

The bill cleared the House 74-22 Tuesday, with support coming primarily from Republicans and opposition from Democrats. The bill still must pass the Senate and be signed by the governor to become law.

The bill is part of the “Commonsense Conservative Agenda” being pushed by the House Republican Caucus during the election-year session that began last week.

Democratic opponents said the bill is designed to get tea party votes for Republicans, and it is addressing something that hasn’t been a problem in Alabama.

“This is a proactive bill so we can tell taxpayers we won’t tolerate it here,” Johnson said.

The House voted 71-26 to pass a bill to allow health care workers to decline to participate in an abortion, sterilization, cloning or human stem cell research if they have moral, religious or ethical objections. The bill by Republican Rep. Becky Nordgren of Gadsden now goes to the Senate. Similar legislation cleared the House last year and died in the Senate.

“This bill is about protecting health care workers’ rights,” Nordgren said.

But Democratic Rep. John England of Tuscaloosa said it is a vote-getting gimmick for Republicans and that federal law already allows health care workers to decline to participate in an abortion or sterilization.

The Senate spent most of Tuesday afternoon debating, but not voting on, a bill to allow citizens to cast emergency absentee ballots when the governor declares a state of emergency, such as a hurricane approaching the Alabama coast.