Local legislators look to week ahead

Published 5:00 pm Monday, February 3, 2014

After a winter storm hit Alabama last week resulting in the 2014 legislative session being delayed for two days, Chilton County’s legislative delegation is looking forward to the week ahead.

“Everything is going well so far and we are looking forward to another great week,” Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, said on Monday. “I looked around last week during the storm and saw so many people coming together and trying to help their neighbors and it made me proud to be from Alabama.”

Wallace said the winter storm brought up discussion among legislators regarding missed days during the session.

“On Tuesday when the weather hit we only had 40 people show up in the House and we needed 53 to have a quorum,” Wallace said. “The Senate met and did business but the House did not meet on Tuesday or Wednesday. We burned a few days so it has led to discussion about what the rules say about us convening.”

Wallace said the rules of the Legislature require the bodies to reconvene at 10 a.m. the following day if a quorum is not present.

“Due to the weather still being bad on Wednesday we had to cancel again,” Wallace said.

Wallace said legislators are discussing the possibility of a proposal allowing leadership to reschedule meeting days if the governor declares a state of emergency for the entire state.

Wallace said an important bill recently passed by the Alabama House was the Healthcare Rights of Conscience bill sponsored by Rep. Becky Nordgren (R-Gadsden).

The bill would ensure that medical professionals are not forced to participate in procedures that violate their moral compass, including abortion, human cloning, human embryonic stem cell research and sterilization.

“This bill protects the doctors if they say something goes against their moral convictions,” Wallace said.

Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said a bill is scheduled for final passage Tuesday seeking a tighter restriction on former lawmakers working as State House lobbyists.

Ward said the bill is sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and would ban former legislators from lobbying in the Legislature for two years after leaving office.

“I fully support this bill,” Ward said. “People should not use their positions to get a lobbying contract.”

Ward said a bill is scheduled for Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee focusing on midwife legislation.

The bill would allow midwives to work in Alabama and oversee planned home births.

Another bill Ward said is scheduled for debate with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday is strengthening the Open Meetings Law.

Ward and Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, sponsor the bill which proposes changes to the Alabama Open Meetings Law that will strengthen the law.

The bill addresses three different concerns with the Open Meetings Law including stopping the practice of conducting secret serial meetings to avoid gathering a quorum at one time, granting citizens standing to sue for violations of the Open Meetings Act as the law was originally intended and make the law clear that the Legislature has a constitutional and statutory duty to meet in public unless they vote to go into executive session.

Gov. Robert Bentley held a press conference Jan. 24 to announce his support for the bill.

Ward said the amendments to the Open Meetings Law, which was passed unanimously by the House and Senate in 2005, restore the intent of the original law.