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.
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