HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Some Alabama lawmakers are breathing a sigh of relief following a controversial few months. The 2019 legislative session is mostly in the books and Gov. Kay Ivey has signed a number of bill into law. Some of those laws and decisions have caught the attention of the entire country.
Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels says the session started in tumult as the Governor urged lawmakers to pass a steep gas tax increase. Daniels believes the move set the tone for the rest of the session.
“By the end of the special session that dealt with the gas tax, I felt like I had been through two sessions because of the intensity,” said Daniels.
The House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a 10 cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax. The increase begins in August at 6 cents. It will then increase by 2 cents a year until 2021.
“You talk to members and they’ll tell you that this has been the worst session that they’ve ever been in,” explained Daniels. “It’s the stress and the strain that comes along with it.”
The most talked about legislative action is Alabama’s passage of the most restrictive abortion ban in the country. The law makes performing an abortion in Alabama a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison. There are no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Supporters say it’s a “direct challenge” to Roe v. Wade.
However, the Alabama Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Southeast are suing the state of Alabama to block the law from going into effect, citing that it’s unconstitutional.
“I was the person to introduce the amendment to protect rape and incest,” said Daniels. “Of course it was voted down. That’s unfortunate, and I think that we’re beginning to see some folks protest to the state of Alabama from around the country as a result of that.”
Daniels tells WHNT News 19 he wishes the Legislature didn’t address changing the laws surrounding abortion. He fears the ban could impact the state’s economy.
“Every time we take two steps forward, we end up taking four steps backwards,” said Daniels.
One progressive measure taken up by the Legislature was medical marijuana. The governor signed a bill creating a commission to study the health effects of medical marijuana on June 10. The commission has until the end of the year to make their recommendations and draft legislation for medical marijuana use. This bill also renews Carly’s Law, which allows Alabamians who suffer from seizures to use cannabis oil.
The governor also signed a chemical castration bill into law on Monday. It requires people convicted of a sex crime against a child under the age of 13 to begin chemical castration treatments a month before being released on parole. Some legal analysts have indicated it too might be challenged with an argument of cruel and unusual punishment or on the basis of sex discrimination.
The future of a lottery remains a mystery. Lawmakers shot down a bill that would allow voters to decide if they wanted a state lottery. It will likely be a major topic in the 2020 session.
Even though session is over it may not be the last time lawmakers take up legislation in Montgomery this year. It’s very likely the governor will call a special session to address the growing number of issues within Alabama’s prison system.