Legislators return to capital: Sen. Pat Lindsey, Democratic Caucas outlines legislative goals
By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Advance Managing Editor
Montgomery is a bit busier this week as legislators from across the state join to begin the regular 2001 Legislative Session.
The Alabama Legislature convened for the first time this year at noon Tuesday with the hottest topic being proration. But, on a day when many bills were introduced, few had anything to do with the funding that Alabama schools are going to be losing.
Lindsey also said that schools may get some help in the future as the reported anticipated revenue for the remainder of 2001 may be higher than the Finance Department originally reported. The Legislative Fiscal Office anticipates more revenue to come in through the rest of the year which could go back into education.
Another topic expected to be discussed during the legislative session regards Alabama's use of the electric chair in death penalty cases.
The cost to convert the electric chair facility to a lethal injection facility is estimated at $250,000.
Another corrections department issue is that of manpower. Lack of guards in Alabama's prisons has been discussed and legislation has been passed, but the problem still persists and, according to Lindsey, the problem could not have been more evident when five criminals escaped a state penitentiary last week.
Legislative goals outlined by the members of Democratic Caucus included:
n School Violence Prevention – This legislation, which is being drafted by Attorney General Bill Pryor and sponsored by Senator Ted Little (D-Auburn), would allow school officials to receive information about students with criminal backgrounds.
n Superintendent Fiscal Responsibility – This bill was drafted by Governor Don Siegleman and is a result of several school districts losing millions of dollars over the past few years due to mismanagement. It would require all new superintendents to pass a course in financial management.
n Alabama Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Violence Protection Orders Act – This legislation provides a uniform effective system for enforcement of domestic violence protection orders across state lines. It requires states to honor valid protection orders issued by other states and to treat these orders as if they were their own.
n Aggravated Child Abuse Act – Under current law, child abuse is classified as a class C felony, and the maximum sentence that a child abuser can receive is ten years. This bill creates the crime of "Aggravated Child Abuse" in cases where there are repeated acts of abuse. It will be a Class B felony, punishable from 2 to 20 years in prison.
n Foster Child Adoption Incentive – This legislation would encourage adoption of foster children by providing tax incentives to Alabamians who adopt special needs children.
n Consumer Identity Protection Act – Makes the theft of one's identity a crime. Would provide victims of identity theft with a civil action for damages and with a remedy so that they can clear their credit history of false information.
n Gun Reciprocity Act – This legislation provides for recognition of valid gun licenses issued in other states so long as that state provides recognition for handgun licenses issued in Alabama.
n Tax Exemption Review – This two-package bill would establish criteria for judging future tax exemptions and set up a procedure to review existing and new exemptions over a four-year cycle.
n Alabamians with Disabilities Act – This legislation is designed to take the place of the 10-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act that is currently being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.
n Prescription Drug Recovery Act – Designed to ease the high cost of prescription drugs for the elderly, this legislation would provide for unused medications at nursing homes and hospitals be given to certain charitable pharmacies. Currently, these drugs are being destroyed.
n Benevolent Food Donation – Under this bill, nonprofit groups that provide donated food, grocery items or homemade food to needy Alabamians would be exempt from criminal or civil liability arising from the condition of the food, unless the injury is caused by the gross negligence, recklessness or intentional misconduct of the donor.
n The Alabama College Savings Investment Plan – This bill would create the Alabama College Education Savings Program. It would allow Alabamians to save money for their children's college expenses.
n The Fair Employment Practices Act of 2001 – Would establish an Alabama Commission on Equal Opportunity for public employees and establish procedures to investigate, punish and prevent discriminatory hiring practices in the state.
n Mortgage Broker Licensure Act – This bill would establish procedures to license and regulate mortgage brokers by the State Banking Department.
n Nonpartisan Election of Judges – Would provide for the nonpartisan election of candidates for state judicial office.
n Constitutional Reform – Proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to present partial or complete revisions to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Roger Bedford (D-Russellville), would grant an equal protection clause to the state constitution.
n Voter Identification – Would utilize voter signatures as one method of voter identification.
n Business Redevelopment Act – An attempt to make Alabama's vacant businesses and manufacturing plants more appealing to prospective companies, this bill would create a voluntary cleanup program for these buildings. The Democratic Caucus feels this will ease doubts regarding liability issues.
n Business License Reform – Two bills, one for cities and one for counties, would create a uniform license system to simplify the procedure for obtaining a business license.
n Industrial Incentive Act – Was drafted to overhaul the process by which incentives are provided in Alabama for new and existing industrial recruitment prospects.