<![CDATA[ Alabama State Senator Bill Holtzclaw - Bill's Blog]]>Sat, 10 Feb 2018 08:28:45 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[2018 Legislative Session - Week 5]]>Thu, 08 Feb 2018 15:30:18 GMThttp://district2.us/bills-blog/2018-legislative-session-week-5We will meet for Coffee and Conversation at Libby's in Madison from 6-7 AM on Monday, 12 February. We will NOT meet on 19 February as schools and most government offices are closed in recognition of President's Day.  Enjoy the morning and sleep in if you can! 

Some highlights from this week in Montgomery:

Budgets -  The General Fund Budget started in the Senate this year and the Education Budget in the House. The Education Budget started to move in the House, passing the committee on Wednesday.  The $6.6B bill passing committee returns funding to pre-recession levels and includes 2.5% pay increase for K-12 and 2 Year College Systems employees.  This is the second 2.5% increase in three years.  The Education Budget could be voted on by the full House as early as next week.  

The Senate voted on two Special Order Calendars this week.  Tuesday's SOC included a couple of controversial bills that where carried over for further review. (NOTE - for some reason this SOC is not available on the Legislative Website) One Bill, SB86, included a $2.4B (Billion...with a B) bond issue for road and bridge improvements across the state. Introduction of this bill on the SOC caught several of us off guard. We've seen this legislation before and I continue to discuss with parties back home in the district to ensure if (and that's a big if) we move forward with this legislation it follows a fair approach to all counties/municipalities across the state.  I recall that in 2010 reports showed that only .53 cents on the dollar from gas tax returned to North Alabama counties for road work.  We've worked hard to reverse this course and need to continue to do ensure fairness in road projects across the state.  I maintain that Public Safety and Commerce should be paramount in that decision making process - not politics.  Thursday's SOC was largely non-controversial as well with the Senate adjourning just before noon.

​Friday was the final day to qualify for the 2018 elections in Alabama. The Primary election will be held in June and the General elections are in November. I encourage you to stay informed and know who is running for office as there will be significant change; 23 of the 105 members of the House, and 9 of the 35 members of the Senate are not seeking reelection. Constitutional Office races - Governor, Lt Gov, Attorney General, etc.  are very crowded as well. You can review each parties qualifications by office at these links - State Democrat Party and State Republican Party.

​The Senate convenes at 2PM on Tuesday.  On Thursday the Senate and House will hold a Joint Session for Military Week and General Perna - Commanding General of the Army Material Command at Redstone Arsenal will address the State Legislature.

Have a great weekend!

​Semper Fi - Bill 

<![CDATA[Week 4 Of the 2018 Session; Some Smooth Sailing!]]>Wed, 31 Jan 2018 21:13:20 GMThttp://district2.us/bills-blog/week-4-of-the-2018-session-some-smooth-sailingThe Senate went into session at 2 PM on Tuesday, voting on a total of 17 Bill Special Order Calendar.   While none of these bills were overly contentious, SB78 was defeated in a 5-13 vote. Several other bills were carried over for further debate. SB78 introduced a measure to provide payments from the Alabama Trust Fund to Coosa County only for lost ad valorem taxes from land purchased by the Forever Wild Land Trust in Coosa County.  While most legislators were empathetic to the loss of revenue for Coosa County, only a select few - 5 to be exact - were willing to set that precedence.   Other bills carried over included SB169 a pilot needle exchange program in certain counties, SB55 allowing a person with a suspended drivers license to obtain a restricted driving permit for incidences such as driving to work only, and SB149 relating to rural broad. We will likely see several of these bills again in the weeks ahead.

I filed an additional bill on Tuesday; SB243, allowing Wine Direct Shipment in Alabama. This bill is very similar to the bill I was able to move out of a Senate Committee last year.  Hopefully we'll have more success this year! I will provide further updates in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday I attended several committee meetings throughout the day. Readers can view the list of bills debated in each committee meeting at this link.

The Senate went into session on Thursday at 10 AM to debate a 10 Bill Special Order Calendar.  All bills were passed.  Additionally, the Senate passed SB149, a bill that was previously carried over for further debate and designed to incentivize broadband internet expansion in rural Alabama.  This is the third year we've addressed this bill. While I certainly agree that rural Alabama has great need in this area I also recognize that "internet deserts" exist in the most urban areas of our state.  We were able to secure a $2M of the $20M cap for incentives to be used for urban areas of the state.  The bill now goes to the House.

We will have our regular Coffee and Conversation at Libby's in Madison Monday morning from 6-7 AM.  I enjoy these meetings as it allows me an opportunity to discuss face to face a variety of issues with constituents. 

As a reminder, the annual Madison County Legislative Forum will be held Monday evening, February 5th from 7 - 9 PM at the Huntsville City Hall. This meeting is normally held prior to the Legislative Session beginning but scheduling conflicts required us to move it to later in the session.  I look forward to seeing you at one or both of these events.  Have a great weekend!

Semper Fi

<![CDATA[Week Three of the 2018 Session – Hitting Our Stride]]>Thu, 25 Jan 2018 20:21:50 GMThttp://district2.us/bills-blog/week-three-of-the-2018-session-hitting-our-strideThe third week of the 2018 legislative session proved largely uneventful in the Senate.  Several pieces of legislation are beginning to move along in both the House and the Senate which may prove interesting in the days ahead (i.e. a bill making changes to future Special Elections) but for the most part everyone is getting along!

On Tuesday the Senate worked through another non-controversial 18 Bill Special Order Calendar; only two bills (SB66 and SB92) were carried over for further debate.  

On Wednesday I attended several committee meetings and chaired the first Veterans and Military Affairs Committee meeting of the session. We passed a total of five bills out of the committee, four of which were Bills the House had passed on their Military Recognition Day last week.  A couple of these bills needed technical changes – bringing the bill into line with other existing code sections – and the Department of Veterans Affairs was able to work with the House Bill Sponsors to  draft amendments we adopted in the committee.  A few of these bills may be of interest to readers – HB83 improves our current Veterans Employment Act by expanding the tax credit available to all unemployed veterans vs. only recently deployed unemployed veterans. HB88 adds Veteran Owned Companies to the State Preferred Venders List (note, the title/synopsis states “veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” – obviously an error on someone’s part and was changed in the text of the bill by an amendment to include all veteran owned companies), and HB58 – Park for Patriots, which offers free admission to all State Parks for active and retired veterans.

On Thursday the Senate worked through a 16 Bill Special Order Calendar. A few bills of note; SB121, a bill I’m sponsoring this session allowing a parent or guardian to obtain a disability license plate passed.  We also passed SB76, a bill that increases the standard deduction on the state income tax for individuals and families.  I successfully added an amendment to this bill addressing a tax concern recently brought to me by a constituent regarding taxation of foreign earned income.  The amendment provides a state exemption of foreign earned income to the limitation at the federal level under current law. Research showed that surrounding states (GA, TN, MS, and FL) already provide similar deductions/exclusions.

Of interest, I voted against SB27 – a Bill allowing retired law enforcement officers to be excluded from the provision in current law regarding possession of a concealed weapon in certain places. My opposition to this bill is rooted in the fact that we are creating exclusions (albeit well intended) for existing laws that established “gun free” zones under the premise that more guns equals more security/safety. I obviously support our law enforcement – active and retired – but fail to see the validity of this bill.  For example, one could argue that these same exemptions should be extended to active and retired military that have as much trigger time as law enforcement but then again, the real answer is to repeal laws establishing “gun free” zones.  These bills will now move to the House. 

I will resume “Coffee and Conversation” Monday morning from 6-7AM at Libby’s on Hwy 20 in Madison where we will discuss the current legislative session. Hope to see you there!

And lastly – an announcement regarding my campaign for US Congress; after much consideration I have decided to end my campaign for Congress in the 5th Congressional District. 

Two weeks ago, I began my final legislative session as the State Senator for District 2. At times it has been “rough and tumble” but in the end it has been a rewarding 8 years serving as a member of the Alabama State Senate. I’m proud to have championed legislation for small businesses, veterans’ affairs and to combat driving under the influence, along with numerous issues that constituents brought to my attention. I am proud of the passage of such bills and the positive changes they have brought to the lives of everyday Alabamians. 

Thus after serving my country for 20 years as a US Marine, my state for 8 years as the Senator for AL District 2, and my city for 2 years as a Madison City Councilman; I am ready to return to the private sector.  I am thankful to have had a good run and fought the good fight over 3 decades of public service. I will continue to serve in my role as a State Senator through the end of my term in November of this year. I look forward to spending more time with my family (including my second grandchild born over the holidays), working, and volunteering in my community.    

Finally, I want to extend my thanks to the many supporters for the early efforts in helping with this campaign. I am honored by the support and financial contributions we have received and will be returning contributions in the coming weeks. Thank you for believing in me and providing me the opportunity to represent you in Montgomery since 2010. I encourage everyone to stay informed and engaged with government; from your School Board, City Council all the way to the Oval Office. Your voice matters and communicating with your elected officials is necessary for them to effectively advocate on your behalf.

Semper Fi

<![CDATA[The Second Week of the 2018 Session]]>Thu, 18 Jan 2018 18:48:37 GMThttp://district2.us/bills-blog/the-second-week-of-the-2018-sessionPicture
As with businesses, schools and life in general, the second week of the 2018 Legislative Session was marred by snow/ice and extreme cold. It is hard to believe that it snowed more in Montgomery (about 3 1/2 inches) than in North Alabama! This is a picture of my car at the hotel taken early Wednesday morning from the warmth of my hotel room!

I left Madison ahead of the predicted snow early on Tuesday morning, driving through flurries as far south as Cullman and arriving in Montgomery in time for several scheduled meetings prior to the Senate going into session at 2PM. Of note, in one of those meetings, SB121 - the Disability Tag Bill I'm sponsoring, passed the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee with a unanimous vote. With bi-partisan support, I will work to have this bill placed on the Special Order Calendar (SOC) as early as next week.  The Senate worked through a non-controversial SOC on Tuesday before adjourning around 5PM allowing State House staff to get home before the snow began to fall.

On Wednesday the Governor wisely decided to close the State Government as the roads remained very treacherous.  I hunkered down in my hotel room only venturing out later in the day to find that the local Cracker Barrel close to my hotel had already closed for the day.  Now that's a testament to how bad the roads were!

On Thursday the Senate went into session at 10AM with just enough members present for a quorum. I attended two committee meetings - County and Municipal Government, and General Fund Budget.  We worked our way through several bills in both committees including two public hearings.

The Senate will return to session next Tuesday at 2PM and hopefully we'll have better weather allowing us continue with our work of the 2018 session.

I've decided to postpone the first Coffee and Conversation for 2018 another week to January 29th.  This was originally scheduled for Monday, the 22nd of January but honestly there's not much to talk about as the session is only two-weeks old and has been hampered by the weather conditions. So have a great weekend and sleep in on Monday; we'll see at Libby's on the 29th!

Semper Fi

<![CDATA[The 2018 Legislative Session Begins]]>Thu, 11 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMThttp://district2.us/bills-blog/task-forcePicture
The Alabama Legislature reconvened for the 2018 Legislative Session at noon on Tuesday, January 9th. This is the final session of the 2014 - 2018 quadrennium. While some readers may feel like Alabama has been in a constant campaign cycle since the 2016 Presidential election, all legislators and constitutional officers from Governor on down are up for re-election this year. Primary Elections will be held on June 5th and the General Elections will be held on November 6th. It is going to be a busy year!

In August of last year I announced my candidacy for US Congress in the 5th Congressional District rather than seeking re-election to the Alabama State Senate. The 5th Congressional District includes Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison, Morgan and Jackson Counties (read more about the congressional campaign here). While this is my last legislative session, I remain dedicated to serving the people that I am honored to represent and will complete this term as strong as I started 8 years ago when I was first elected to the State Senate in 2010.

Of course the biggest news of the week has been the joint $1.6B Toyota/Mazda Manufacturing Plant that will be built in Limestone County and employee over 4,000 people. I simply cannot stress the long-term significance this project will have across the region. I want to thank everyone from the state and local levels that worked many months to make this project a reality. I am honored to be a team member in the Alabama Legislature that has worked since 2010 to lay import pro-business ground work in Alabama that made this and similar advanced manufacturing announcements such as Remington and Polaris possible. An important aspect of these announcements are that they continue to diversify our workforce, insulating and protecting our regional economy from future downturns in defense spending.

The state budgets are always a concern as we work through a legislative session.  I've attended several budget hearings recently and as I've done in years past provide a link to the budget presentations for readers to review (only 38 slides and well worth the time to review!)

I continue to work on several bills for the session and filed two bills this week; SB120 and SB121. 

SB120 picks up the issue from last years session where the State ABC Board (Alcohol Beverage Control) imposed a mark-up (AKA Tax) on alcohol sold in Alabama.  I'm certain we'll see the perennial bills filed again this year to get the ABC Board out of the retail alcohol business (of which I support). My bill simply removes the ability of the ABC to do future mark-ups (i.e. raise fees/taxes) requiring any increase to go through the legislative process rather than the back-door of an appointed commission as was done in last year's budget. 

SB121 addresses a concern brought to me during the off-season by a constituent regarding obtaining an  handicap parking tag  rather than a handicap parking placard. The placard, which is hung from the rear-view mirror when used, may be issued to a parent or guardian of someone with a handicap but an actual handicap tag or licensee plate can only be issued to the individual and that individual must be listed on the title of the vehicle.  This becomes a problem when the handicapped person is of minor age and obviously not listed as the owner of a vehicle. 

Another bill I'm working (should be filed next week as the final touches are being put into place) also picks up from last year as it deals with Direct Wine Sales Delivery. Alabama remains one of 6 states that does not allow wineries to ship directly to your residence. Residents of Alabama are required to ship to the closest ABC store where they then take delivery...talk about archaic! Like last years bill, this bill allows residents to have wine shipped directly to their residence. As with other states that allow direct shipment, numerous safeguard are in place including allowing UPS, FedEx or the USPS to ship wine to residents and requires the shipment be signed for by a person 21 years of age.

I'll return home for the weekend and - weather permitting - plan to be out and about at several events over the weekend including the Martin Luther King activities in Athens and Limestone County on Monday.  I hope to see you out and about! 

And in closing out my first blog post for 2018 - Roll Tide and congratulations to the University of Alabama football team for winning another National Championship.  I can already tell it is going to be a great year in Alabama! 


<![CDATA[The Lucy's Branch Annexation Dilemma]]>Mon, 22 May 2017 18:04:22 GMThttp://district2.us/bills-blog/the-lucys-branch-annexation-dilemmaMy hope was that others involved in this legislative annexation request would be forthright in their discussions regarding the outcome of this issue, but unfortunately that has not happened. Therefore, I'm providing the following timeline with documentation regarding the development and outcome of this annexation request. Please click on the links and review the supporting documentation while reviewing the timeline. I do not care for the difficult position that I’ve been placed in with regards to this legislative annexation but always strive to be open and transparent regarding my representation of the people in the Alabama Legislature.

I remain willing to work with interested parties to resolve the conflicts surrounding this issue. There are several paths forward to achieve this annexation request - with and without an alcohol license being issued, but a greater opportunity for public involvement must be a part of the process.

As always, please feel free to contact me should you have further questions.

Semper Fi - Bill

Legislative Annexation Timeline

4 May - HB579, a local bill regarding annexation of property approximately 7 miles outside of the established city limits of Athens passes the Alabama House of Representatives. To say that this bill passed the 105 Members of the House is rather disingenuous; actual vote count? Passed 23-0 with 65 members of the House abstaining. The legislature is not normally involved in the annexation process as property annexation request contiguous to existing city limits only requires a vote of the city council. To my knowledge there is only one other instance of an "island" annexation in Athens/Limestone County - Blacks Landing - and this occurred several years ago. This is the first annexation by legislation request that I've seen in my 7 years of service in office.

8 May -
A formal agreement between city and property owner/developer is signed. In the agreement the property owner acknowledges that even though the property would be considered a part of Athens, the city would not be required to provide fire, police, trash services and that the city could de-annex the property at any time.

9 May - I received an email from the city with the agreement from 8 May attached. It is important to note, while I had heard rumblings of a proposed legislative island annexation this is the first time that I had been contacted by the city regarding the proposed annexation. I briefly met with HB579 bill sponsor, Rep Danny Crawford and fellow Limestone County Senate Delegation, Senator Orr and Senator Melson on the Senate floor that afternoon to discuss having had no previous interaction with city/county regarding this legislative annexation and initial concerns regarding the lack of fire/police protection for a city annexation and possible impact of the city granting an alcohol license. I will not speak for my colleagues but understood they shared similar concerns.

12 May - (My Birthday!) began receiving emails - about 30 in all - from residents living around/near the marina asking that I support the annexation. I replied to each email and included a copy of the agreement that had been signed by the property owner and the city along with an explanation of my concerns. I received replies back over the next couple of days - some supporting the annexation, others opposing primarily based on potential for increased property taxes with no city services. Important to note - my email was shared with others as I began receiving responses from people that I had not initially emailed and these responses were not in favor of the proposed annexation. This was my first public interaction/feedback regarding this proposed legislative annexation.

13 May - After several phone calls and text messages between the property owner/developer and myself, I responded to him via email. This is a tricky email to read as the owner/developer had sent me several text messages that I copied into an email and responded to each text. I courtesy copied fellow legislators and city/county officials, detailing my concerns - including the possibility of an alcohol license being issued.   Several city/county elected officials called to discuss my email. Additionally, my research of earlier press reports on the possible annexation revealed several instances where the owner/developer stated an alcohol license was not the main reason for the annexation and that they wanted to be annexed into the city regardless of an alcohol license being issued. I felt these statements supported my request for the agreement to be amended.

15 May - In further phone call/text message discussion with owner/developer, he agrees that they'll amend the agreement so that an alcohol license would not be issued by the city. I agree to meet with fellow Senators and "sign the bill out", effectively moving it into position for final passage contingent upon the agreement being amended prior to the last day of the legislative session.

17 May - received letter from Mayor's office regarding my request to amend the agreement with language regarding issuing an alcohol license. The response struck me as odd considering the agreement between the city and owner/developer expressly stated no city services for fire/police. W
hile the city can put in writing that they will not provide fire, police or trash pickup they somehow can not put in writing that they won’t issue a liquor license until (this is what the property owners agreed to in the email shared above) one of two conditions are met; the property becomes contiguous to Athens through future annexation, or Limestone County becomes wet. (edited 5/24 to clarify this statement)

18 May - received email from local Volunteer Fire Department expressing liability concerns and that while informal discussions had taken place, no formal agreement was in place with the city. Excerpts from that email follow:

I saw in the paper where Senator Holtzclaw had questions about the annexation of Bay Hill Marina before voting. I have not been approached by anyone about this except for one informal meeting with Mayor Marks and Chief Thornton. The paper is also reporting that Athens has secured an agreement with Clements VFD, which they do not. The favor is, would you make Senator Holtzclaw aware of this and that I would be glad to have a conversation with him about all of this. I’m really concerned that there may be some misinformation flowing through that will ultimately hurt Clements VFD.

19 May - Last day of the Legislative Session. HB579 is in position to pass but it is apparent that their are several outstanding issues regarding this annexation by legislation that need to be addressed. A decision was made to not pass the legislation this year.

<![CDATA[Three Quick & Important Things]]>Thu, 20 Apr 2017 15:45:35 GMThttp://district2.us/bills-blog/three-quick-important-thingsA quick blog update on three important things happening in Montgomery this week:

First SB329 - a bill I'm sponsoring to allow direct shipment of wine to Alabama residents passed the Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development committee 6-4 Wednesday and will now move to the full Senate.  Alabama is one of 6 states that does not allow wineries to ship directly to your residence; rather residents are required to ship to the closest ABC store. This is the case whether you ordered in person at an in-state or out-of-state winery, or via the internet   This bill would allow residents to have wine directly shipped to their residence. As with other states that allow direct shipment, numerous safeguards are in place including allowing UPS, FedEx or the USPS to ship wine to residents and requires the shipment be signed for by a person 21 years of age.  I look forward to debating this legislation before the full Senate.   

Second, Unfortunately, SB323 did not pass the committee yesterday going down in a tie 4-4 vote with one abstention. On the surface this was a difficult bill and subsequent vote but I remain principled in my approach that only the legislature should be allowed to raise a tax/fee. With that in mind, a little background is due.

SB323 came about after the House passed the General Fund Budget a couple of weeks ago. There is a line item in the GF Budget under the District Attorneys that conditionally appropriates $6M to the DAs based upon the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board passing a 5% markup on retail and wholesale sales of spirits.  You read that right - the legislature is asking a regulatory agency to increase a markup - AKA a tax - to fund an essential function of state government.
  You can view the page from the GF Budget here (see lines 7-32).

Of course this is a problem on many levels, namely what other department or agency is going to ask an appointed regulatory board to raise a fee (again, a tax) to fund their activities. I introduced SB323 to prevent this tax increase from happening by a regulatory board and to force the issue to come through the front door of the legislature, where the representatives of the people should be the ones making this decision. 

This debate is not about whether or not the DA's in each county need additional revenue.  Several years ago we increased fees for worthless checks that the DA's could collect; that has obviously dropped off as not many people write a lot of checks these days. A couple of years ago we increased fees for bail bonds but the DA's are no longer charging/collecting those fees due to lawsuit threats from groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. The point being each of these fee increases were presented and voted on by the legislature, not a regulatory agency. I am disappointed with my colleagues that sided with allowing a regulatory agency to do the legislators job. An appointed board is not responsive to the people.  Mark my words, once the people realize this has happened legislators will simply throw their hands up and state it was out of their control, the ABC board is allowed to raise the fee and there was little anyone could do.  But wait - I may have lost the battle in a tight vote but I've not lost the war. More to come in the days ahead.

Third, SB24 a bill to allow Constitutional or Permitless Carry passed the Alabama Senate on Tuesday. I discussed passage of that bill in Tuesday's Blog. Yesterday I was contacted by a few people concerning a statement by the Madison County Sheriff's office. The statement was made on social media and copied here.

In short, nothing in SB24 changes current law with respect to issuing Concealed to Carry Permits.  It is important to note that significant changes were made to the Concealed to Carry Permit process a few years ago, essentially moving Alabama from a "may issue" to a "shall issue" state.  In other words, the Sheriff must have a valid reason and provide documentation as to why a permit will not be issued upon request.  An appeals process for the individual was included in the changes as well.  Below excerpts are from the Alabama Code Section 13A-11-75 regarding Concealed to Carry Permits. This section was not repealed or affected by SB24.

Excerpts from Alabama Code Section 13A-11-75

b. The sheriff shall provide a written statement of the reasons for the revocation and the evidence upon which it is based must be disclosed to the applicant, unless disclosure would interfere with a criminal investigation.

(3) A person who is denied a permit under subdivision (1), or a person whose permit is revoked under subdivision (2), within 30 days of notification of the denial or revocation, may appeal the denial or revocation to the district court of the county where the denial or revocation was issued. Upon a review of a denial under this subdivision, the sheriff shall have the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the person is prohibited from possession of a pistol or other firearm pursuant to state or federal law or, based on any of the considerations enumerated in subsection (a)(1) that the person may use a weapon unlawfully or in such other manner as would endanger the person's self or others if granted a permit to carry a concealed weapon under this section.

So in short - the comment from the Sheriff's office is incorrect. No changes were made to the issuing permit issuing process.  Of course a Sheriff could decide to not issue any permits but the office will be very busy in court attesting to why the permits were not issued and defending the reasoning for doing so.

Semper Fi - Bill

<![CDATA[The 18th Legislative Day]]>Tue, 18 Apr 2017 23:00:23 GMThttp://district2.us/bills-blog/april-18th-2017The biggest news in Montgomery today is that Governor Ivey made a decision on the US Senate Seat formally held by now US Attorney General Sessions. As most readers know, former Governor Bentley appointed former Alabama Attorney General Strange to fill the seat.  State law requires that the Governor appoint someone to fill a US Senate vacancy but that a special election should be called "forthwith". Governor Bentley set that special election for the next General Election in Alabama (Primary Election June 2018 and General Election November 2018) citing that it would save the state money. Governor Ivey reversed that decision today, setting the Primary Election for August 15, 2017 and the General Election for December 12, 2017. It will be an interesting summer in Alabama politics...not that this spring has been any less interesting...or last year for that matter. I'll stop there.

The Senate returned to session at 2 PM this afternoon to work through the most controversial Special Order Calendar of this session.  Not surprising, votes fell mostly along party lines as each bill was filibustered by the Democrats.

I further discuss each vote below.

SB24 - relating to Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry passed with a 25-8 vote. I supported this bill. I reported on this bill in the blog for week 4 of the session. I will reiterate from that post; t
he bill does not address in any form or fashion the ability to purchase a gun - pistol, rifle, shotgun, etc.  A pistol permit, or license as it is sometimes called, is not a "license" to own a gun nor is it some form of verification that the owner has received/demonstrated some level of training, similar to a driver's license. The bill allows for a Concealed to Carry Permit (CCP) to become optional.  I, and many others, will continue to purchase a CCP for reciprocity with other states that I frequently travel through. 

SB12 - allowing execution of death row inmates by nitrogen gas passed with a 25-8 vote. I supported this bill. Note, the title of the bill as originally filed includes the use of firing squads but this was amended out of the bill in committee. Currently two other states, Mississippi and Oklahoma, have similar provisions. This has been brought about as complexities during executions involving various drugs have been reported in other states resulting in several court cases.  Manufacturers of drugs used in executions have also sought to remain anonymous in contracting with a state, or be granted immunity by the state. The focus has shifted to utilizing other alternatives for executions.  

SB108 - preventing voters from switching between parties during a primary runoff passed with a 24-8 vote. I supported this bill.  The intent of this bill is to address the instance where voters from one party vote in a primary runoff to influence the other party.  This most recently occurred in Mississippi where democrats widely voted statewide in a Republican US Senate primary runoff.  This bill only affects voting in a Primary Election and has no effect in a General Election.

SB187 - relating to the appeals process of capital punishment passed with a 28-5 vote. I supported this bill. This bill is modeled after a Texas bill and is intended to streamline the appeals process - often referred to as an "Rule 32" - allowing for someone sentenced to death to be able to run their appeals in tandem rather than having to wait until one appeals process is completed before starting the second appeal under Rule 32.

HB24 - prohibiting the state from discriminating against adoption agencies based on a religious exemption and considering what is best for a child that will be placed in foster care or for adoption passed with a 22-9 vote. This bill passed the House 60-14. I have received some emails stating that this bill is discriminatory in nature however the bill protects faith based adoption agencies in Alabama. According to the bill sponsors, similar laws have been passed in South Dakota, North Dakota, Michigan and Virginia. Additionally, state laws have been passed in Massachusetts, California, Illinois and Washington DC requiring faith based agencies to place children in situations against what the agency may think is in the best interest of the child, prompting some faith based adoption and foster care services to close in these states. Approximately 30% of adoptions/placements in Alabama are made through faith based agencies with the remaining 70 percent being conducted by other agencies.  All agencies work through the oversight of the Department of Human Resources and this bill does nothing to change that.

The Senate adjourned just before 8PM.  I have a breakfast with the TVA Caucus where we will meet with the TVA President followed by several committee meetings throughout the day.  

Semper Fi - Bill

<![CDATA[Overcoming Writers Block]]>Wed, 12 Apr 2017 00:09:22 GMThttp://district2.us/bills-blog/overcoming-writers-blockIt happens every year...at some point during the legislative session writers block sets in and I find my ramblings about the legislature simply not worthy of being shared in the blog.  I write, I delete what I've wrote, write some more and delete it again. Then I turn the computer off and go for a run, mow the yard - do something, anything to spur the thinking and thought process but never seem to get back to the computer with those thoughts intact (yes, I've deleted and re-wrote that line twice now!  That, coupled with all that has been going on in Montgomery has me a few weeks behind on the blog.  I'm determined to correct that today.  Here goes!

I won't rehash all that has occurred in Montgomery over the past few days other than to say I'm fairly confident readers of my blog are fully aware of the background and results of  the Ethics Commission Report from Thursday of last week and Friday's release of the report to the House Impeachment Committee - all of which lead to an historic day - although not so much in a good way - for Alabama yesterday. I have worked with Governor Ivey for 7 years now as she presided over the Alabama State Senate and I'm confident in her abilities as she leads our state in the weeks and months ahead out of these difficult times. As I have discussed in this blog before, the impeachment proceedings sucked a lot of the energy out of the legislative process. Today we got back to work!

The Senate passed a total of 18 of 19 bills today from a Special Order CalendarSB101, relating to using public funds or property to advocate for or against a ballot measure was carried over. I was fortunate to be able to pass four bills on today's calendar.  These bills are a part of the Military Package of bills that I am working this session for the Department of Defense and the State Military Stability Commission.  All six of the bills introduced to support our military and veterans have now passed the Senate and awaiting committee action in the House.

Several bills that had been "carried over to the call of the chair" to allow more debate and possible amendments were also passed today.  SB84, relating to borrowing funds to build a new state owned parking deck near the State House passed in a 20-8 vote. I voted against the bill.  SB193, relating to Briarwood Presbyterian Church establishing a police force passed in a 20-4 vote; I was one of the 4 opposed to this bill. You can read more at this report.  I had asked the the bill be carried over during debate last week with the intent to amend the bill to create better oversight and protect the public, police force and church in an incident involving the use of force or arrest.  However, after giving this much thought over the weekend I knew that I would be unable to support the bill no-matter the amount of amendments added. 

Lastly, in an effort to keep readers informed, HB487, a gasoline tax increase was introduced in the House last week and voted out of a House committee (by voice vote...) earlier today. The bill calls for a 4 cent per gallon increase in 2018 followed by a 2 cent increase in 2019. I encourage you to read the bill and contact your legislator with your thoughts.

That's all for now. Appears I've broken through the dreaded "writers block"! I have several committee meetings in the morning as we continue the legislative process.  I'll keep focused on representing you - the people that sent me to Montgomery!

Semper Fi

<![CDATA[Week 6 of the 2017 Session]]>Thu, 16 Mar 2017 16:27:25 GMThttp://district2.us/bills-blog/week-6-of-the-2017-sessionFor the first time this session the Senate conducted three legislative days this week. Normally we only vote on Tuesdays and Thursdays of each week with Wednesdays being devoted to committee meetings.  Leadership decided to include a third day of voting on Wednesday in addition to committee meetings.  On the surface this may seem like much was accomplished however, over the course of three days the Senate debated and passed three bills.  I know that sounds crazy - and it is somewhat complicated describing and understanding the process by which "the sausage is made" in the State House but I'll give it a try.  A Senator - any Senator - has the ability to slow the process down through procedural moves. The question is often asked "how can someone have that much power". This is what makes the Senate, the Senate.  While on one hand it may seem counterproductive to slow things to a crawl, it is productive to that Senator who is attempting to move (or block) a particular piece of legislation.  The best way to describe what occurred this week is "Filibuster Light" meaning each day bills were filibustered yet the opposition stood down prior to an actual cloture vote being used as an option to move the debate along.

Readers can review the Special Order Calendars (SOC) for Tuesday and Wednesday (each day links to a separate SOC) but it is important to note that all bills were carried over with exception to SB87 allowing medical parole for certain prisoners suffering from chronic and life-threatening illnesses (passed 24-6), SB23 requiring drivers' license offices to be open a minimum of one day each week in each county (passed 22-3) and one of my bills, SB234 removing the requirement for breweries to capture personal identification of customers (passed 27-0); making good on a promise best discussed in this article.  All other bills were carried over or the Senate adjourned before taking up the bill due to the "posture of the body" described above.

We experienced a breakthrough of sorts on Thursday and worked on a 16 bill SOC with some success; passing 11 of the Bills.  The bills carried over include SB176, SB166, and SB307. One bill was defeated, SB80, relating to colleges and universities requiring residents that live within a certain mileage radius of campus to live on campus. The bill was narrowly defeated in a 15 yea, 16 nay vote. One of the bills at the end of the SOC was the Education Budget. On Wednesday the Senate Education Budget Committee passed the Education Budget out of committee. There was some controversy though as committee members stated they had not seen/reviewed the Education Budget.  There was some objection - myself included - to voting on a $6B+ budget in the Senate under such a short time-frame.

After much debate the Prison Construction Bill was passed today.  It is important to note that this bill has been substituted numerous times throughout the committee process. Additionally, at least one floor substitute was debated...in other words, we are operating off a substituted substitute to the substitute...that may be substituted again! Simply put - this is far from the $800M Prison Construction Bill that was introduced. I remain up-to-date on the debate and changes to the proposed prison bill and will provide a link to the "final-final" as well as an overview of what Prison Construction Bill was passed by the Senate in a separate blog post.

Upon adjournment today the Legislature began a scheduled two-week Spring Break.  We will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, 4 April to resume the balance of the Legislative Session; 17 Legislative Days taking us through mid-May.  I look forward to working across the Senate District during the break and have several meetings and school visits planned throughout this time.  We will meet on Monday the 20th of March for the weekly Coffee and Conversation at Little Libby's in Madison but will not meet on the 27th.

Semper Fi - Bill