I started my day performing an important, time honored act of freedom in America…I hope you did as well…voted. Today was voting day in Alabama for the Primary Run-Off election. Polls opened at 7 AM and I was there at 7:10; I was number 6 on the voting machine as I exited. My heartfelt congratulations to those candidates who campaigned through two elections this year! I dropped my daughter off at school on the way out of town, heading south to Montgomery for the week.
I arrived at the State House a little after 10 AM. The Senate was scheduled to go into session at 3 PM but I had a busy morning planned: two meetings, a caucus lunch and an interview with Alabama Public Television scheduled. All in all it was a busy yet productive morning.
I’m happy to report that the Senate passed several bills today. A state-wide ban on texting while driving passed the Senate in a 25 – 2 vote. Several cities in North Alabama already have this type of law on the books and a state-wide version has been in the works for years. The House version passed early in the session and today it came up for a vote in the Senate. I offered an amendment to the house version modeled after a local ordinance I helped craft in Madison that, while banning texting while driving, it allows for certain exceptions to include allowing texting while the vehicle is stopped. The amendment passed the Senate 29 – 1 however, upon transfer to the House, the House non-concurred with the amendment. The bill will now go to a conference committee where we will work out further details. I hope to be appointed to that conference committee by Senate leadership. I’ll share that my greatest concern with this bill is the enforceability aspect. As I shared in the floor debate, this is an example where the Field Generals are developing a wonderful battle strategy but, the Platoon Sergeants will find the plan un-executable on the front-lines. In other words, the no-texting while driving ban will look great on paper but law enforcement is left with a challenge of enforcing it…think of it this way – was the person next to you in traffic texting or dialing a phone number? Who knows - and better yet, what probable cause does law enforcement have to make that decision?
Another bill I’ve been working since last year provides limited direct access to Physical Therapy in Alabama. Yes, we are no longer the last state to allow some form of direct access! This bill was a collaborative effort between many parties - for and against - and I was happy to see a version pass the Senate. My main reason for supporting - this bill greatly expands the affordability and accessibility to Health Care. This is how health Care reform should take place!
Later in the evening a couple of the insurance bills made a reappearance …uh-oh. These are some of the same bills that locked the Senate down last week. But alas, optimism prevails as agreements were made over the weekend! One of the insurance bills that passed includes establishing an individual Catastrophe Savings Account. This is a regular savings account or money market account established by a policyholder to cover an insurance deductible under an insurance policy covering hurricane, rising floodwaters, or other catastrophic windstorm event damage – such as Tornados. This was the Senate version and has a way to go in the House – but it is a start and I congratulate all parties for working out a solution…especially without shutting down the Senate.
The Senate adjourned at 7:30 PM and I was able to tie up some loose ends before leaving my office around 8 PM. I have a TVA Caucus meeting at 8 AM followed by four committee meetings (with a total of 20 bills to be debated – a little light reading tonight). The Senate reconvenes at 10 AM on Thursday.
Semper Fi - Bill