Alabama: A look at what passed and failed in the 2017 session
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Alabama lawmakers ended the 2017 legislative session on Friday. Here’s a look at some of the proposals that passed and failed this year.
WHAT WAS APROVED:
Lawmakers approved new legislative districts to comply with a court order. Federal judges tossed out 12 districts, ruling they were unconstitutionally gerrymandered on racial lines. Black lawmakers, who filed the lawsuit that led to the ruling, opposed the plan. The battle will shift back to federal court as lawmakers present the new map to the judges.
Some insurance plans will be required to cover autism therapy for children. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the measure into law Friday. The mandate would require some insurance plans to cover autism treatment, including applied behavioral analysis therapy, which focuses on improving speech, behavioral and social skills.
Alabama ended its outlier status of allowing a judge to override a jury’s sentencing recommendation in death penalty cases. Alabama had been the only state that allowed a judge to impose the death penalty when a jury has recommended life imprisonment. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers had pushed for the change. It will affect only future cases and not inmates currently on death row.
CONFEDERATE MONUMENT PROTECTIONS
The bill prohibits the removal, alteration and relocation of any monument that has stood on public property for more than 40 years. A new state commission would have to approve changes for those that have stood for more than 20 years. The measure comes as some Southern cities rethink the appropriateness of Confederate emblems. Black lawmakers opposed the bill.
The bill would allow certified midwives to deliver babies without fear of prosecution. Advocates have pushed the bill for more than a decade in the Legislature, but it has always failed under pressure from the medical community.
Alabama voters next year will vote on a proposal to write into the Alabama Constitution that Alabama is a “right to life” state. The measure is largely symbolic unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it could be used to immediately end abortion access in the state.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM/ ADOPTIONS
The measure prevents the state from refusing to license faith-based adoption organizations that refuse on religious grounds to place children with gay parents or other families. The governor has signed the legislation.
DEATH PENALTY APPEALS
The bill attempts to shorten the time that death penalty appeals take. It is based on Texas procedures and will require inmates to raise claims, such as ineffective counsel, at the same time as appeals over alleged trial errors.
CROSSOVER VOTING BAN
Alabama voters would be prohibited from crossing over to vote in the runoff of another political party. The bill was passed to prevent voters from one party trying to sway the outcome of the other party’s runoff election.
The proposal would have built up to four new mega-prisons but was bogged down as lawmakers raised concerns arose about the price tag of construction, who would get the contracts and the loss of jobs when existing prisons close. The issue might return in a special session.
PRIVATE SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIPS
The bill would have expanded tax breaks to entice more donations to a state program that provides scholarships for students to attend private K-12 schools. Alabama gives away up to $30 million in tax credits each year to program donors. Education groups have opposed the program, saying it takes money away from public schools. It failed by a 2-1 margin in the House.
CHILD CARE REGULATIONS
The House-passed bill would have required all child care facilities taking government subsidies to be licensed. It also would allow the Department of Human Resources to inspect faith-based day care centers, which otherwise enjoy religious exemptions, once a year. The bill did not get a vote on the Senate floor.
The bill would have allowed online fantasy sports contests in the state. The House approved the bill after lengthy debate about whether the contests fall under the state’s anti-gambling laws. The bill did not get a vote on the Senate floor.
The bill would have allowed Briarwood Presbyterian, a 4,000-member church outside Birmingham, to establish its own police department. The Senate approved the bill, but it did not get a vote on the House floor.
PERMITLESS GUN CARRY
The bill would have allowed people to carry a handgun without getting a concealed carry permit. The bill cleared the Senate but stalled in the House amid heavy opposition from law enforcement officers across the state.
This story has been corrected to remove the reference to which insurance plans that would be impacted.
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