Alabama Legislature ends 2014 session ThursdayBy Emily Reed Published 4:47pm Friday, April 4, 2014
As the last minutes ticked away for the 2014 Alabama Legislative session, a bill sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward to strengthen the Alabama Open Meetings Act died.
“It was very unfortunate,” Ward said Friday morning. “It was literally the next to the last bill, and we ran out of time. I worked on that bill for about six months, and for it to fall apart at the very last minute is frustrating.”
Ward said the session concluded at about 8:30 p.m., and he was disappointed the bill did not pass.
“I plan to bring the bill up next year,” Ward said.
The purpose of Alabama Senate Bill 191 was to restore the provisions of the Open Meetings Act that had been weakened by recent court rulings.
The government transparency legislation, a top priority of Gov. Robert Bentley according to Ward, cleared up and redefined aspects of the Open Meetings Act that were struck down by the Alabama Supreme Court.
“We have to make sure that government is open and honest, and a large part of that is being available and accountable to the news media,” Ward said in a release in February.
The court held that legislative bodies could avoid public meetings by forming subcommittees that deliberate the proposed matters in committee, but wait until the entire body meets again to vote on them.
They also held that a citizen did not have the right to sue a commission or legislative body, but the bill said civil actions could be brought by any Alabama resident.
The bill also clarified that the Legislature and its committees were subject to the law.
Groups who helped work on the bills included the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, the Alabama League of Municipalities, the Alabama Association of School Boards, and others who were all instrumental in passing the original bill back in 2005.
Ward and Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, said they were encouraged that Senate Bill 462, a bill establishing a levy of additional sales and use tax for a hospital in Chilton County, passed and could be signed by Gov. Robert Bentley.
The bill was sent to Bentley on April 3 at 11:28 a.m. awaiting his signature.
Other bills that died during the session included a bill sponsored by Wallace requiring doctors to inform women of the option of perinatal hospice care before an abortion.
House Bill 493 required doctors to give women considering an abortion information about perinatal hospice services and a 48-hour waiting period before the pregnancy could be terminated.
“It broke my heart,” Wallace said. “It got too late in the session, and when you have 35 senators wanting bills to be passed you just run out of time. I was very upset that the bill died.”
Another abortion bill was approved by the Senate and could be signed into law by Bentley.
The bill would require women to wait 48 hours instead of 24 hours to have an abortion after receiving certain state-mandated information.
Ward said House Bill 543, a bill establishing new criteria for recusal of justices or judges, was passed on Thursday.
“I was happy the bill passed,” Ward said. “It is now headed to Gov. Bentley’s desk to sign.”
The 2014 session of the Alabama Legislature started Jan. 14 and concluded after 30 days around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.