ALCAP Alert

HB76 (Daycare Bill) Explained

An explanation of HB76 (the “Daycare Bill”) from Eric Johnston is found below.
ALCAP, the Alabama Christian Educators Association and the Southeast Law Institute are all supporting this bill, but other conservative groups are opposing it. I believe that this bill protects children, while also protecting the religious freedoms of churches. It does not keep churches that receive government subsidies from being licensed by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR), but only churches that receive no government subsidies (which we believe to be a reasonable compromise). Two facts should be considered:

  1. Many good legislators who voted against the bill last year were vilified for “not caring about children.” Passing this bill will show that they do care about children, but also the religious freedoms of churches.
  2. Those who are pushing this bill will keep coming back if this bill is not passed. With the upcoming elections later this year, the makeup of the legislature next year might result in a climate that is less concerned about religious freedom. 

Please read Eric Johnston’s explanation for a better understanding:

SOUTHEAST LAW INSTITUTE™
1200 Corporate Drive, Suite 107
Birmingham, Alabama 35242
Telephone: (205) 408-8893, Facsimile: (205) 408-8894
E-mail: AEJ@SoutheastlawInstitute.org
www.southeastlawinstitute.org

MEMORANDUM
TO: Interested Persons
FROM: A. Eric Johnston
DATE: January 30, 2018
RE: HB76 – Daycare Bill

The bill related to church daycare center licensure was voted out of a House committee today. The bill was a compromise of one from last year, but which is now acceptable to advocates for church daycares. However, there were complaints from others for separation of church and state reasons.

Those who have normally agreed on religious freedom issues find themselves at odds with a small group. This is unfortunate since it confuses not only legislators but citizens, as well. People do not know what to believe because of the apparent disagreement.

The disagreement is not over protecting religious freedom. The ideas articulated by opponents of the bill in committee and in media are well stated and accepted by conservatives who support the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause. The problem is, however, while it is possible to articulate principles and platitudes, it is more difficult to apply those in the real world. That is the problem here.

To be clear, the purpose of HB76 is to differentiate between proper church daycare ministries and those church daycare operations which either masquerade as such or operate using federal or state funds for profit. This problem did not exist until a federal funding act passed in 2014 required licensure and significant regulation of all daycares which take federal funds. Many church daycare operations in Alabama had begun accepting those funds. This created the ministry versus for-profit dichotomy which has now created the confusion.

HB76 is protection for proper church daycare ministries from regulation which is being forced by the federal government on the State Department of Human Resources (“DHR”). While DHR is often seen as the enemy, it is a public agency created to protect the public good. There must be a line at which it may not transgress when it comes to religious freedom. HB76 maintains the 1981 church daycare licensure exemption.

DHR must distinguish between legitimate church ministry and other operations. HB76 clarifies the law to provide that churches operating legitimate ministries will send in a minimum of paperwork, most of which is already required, to validify their operations. If a church cannot provide that information, it would be subject to inspection. The only other time the bill permits an inspection by DHR is if there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is in danger. This is a stringent requirement. Last year, advocates wanted annual inspections by DHR and that is what ultimately killed the bill. They gave up that requirement this year.

Child advocates are strident in their support for the bill. They speak only about protecting children. Most of their examples occur in licensed agencies. Merely being licensed does not stop human error. However, we cannot become disoriented in our effort but must work through the process to address changes in the real world that have occurred over the last 38 years while at the same time protecting the integrity of church ministry. That is what advocates for legitimate church ministry have done in coming up with this compromise bill.

The bill approved in committee today does not require licensure. As long as a church operates on the basis of its own principles and with its own funds, there is no improper interference by DHR. Licensure and more significant regulation only occurs if the church is in taking the federal or state funds for its support. Through decades of religious liberty litigation, we have never been able to adequately argue that regulation does not come with government funding.

Annual inspections are required by fire and health departments. That is already the fact. Those reports must be turned in annually. Routine fire and safety inspections should be made in churches, as well as other venues. There is a requirement for a church to carry property, casualty and liability insurance, but not health insurance as some have reported. Any reputable entity, church or otherwise, should be properly insured for its own protection, as well as for providing relief to injured persons. These type requirements are not burdensome and improper, but realistic. Criminal background checks are already required by current law, a necessity in today’s culture.

Actually, very little of the existing law is changed. The only real substantive change is the distinction between federally supported and self-supported church daycare operations. There was a suggestion that HB76 is a foot in the door for future church regulation. This bill adds a provision not in existing law that clearly says that even the religious teaching or practices of a licensed faith-based childcare facility are not infringed. Clearly, remaining exempt, as the bill states, maintains the proper separation of church and state.

We regret the confusion created by our friends who feel compelled to express their opinions. They have a right to do so. We hope they will study the issue more closely and confer with those who have spent hundreds of hours coming to this conclusion. If they will do so, we believe they will understand how to apply the principles they so clearly articulate.

AEJ/pmm

Legislative Update – Week 2

Due to winter weather problems last week in the Alabama Legislature was disrupted. Legislators met on Tuesday for a brief time, but postponed Wednesday committee meetings since state offices were closed due to the snow and ice. When they reconvened on Thursday, both houses again met briefly and a few bills were passed.

Senate bills being monitored by ALCAP that received a 2nd reading and now may be brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote include the following:

SB1 – Driving under the influence, ignition interlock provisions further provided for…
SB20 – “Drowsy Driving” bill
SB28 – Sexual crimes against students
SB39 – Schedule I controlled substances including additional drugs
SB151 – Terrorist threats, crime further defined
SB170 – Police powers, Indian tribes, authorized for Poarch Creek

House bills being monitored by ALCAP that received a 2nd reading and now may brought to the floor of the House for a vote include the following:

HB26 – Smoking tobacco products inside motor vehicle when children are present
HB27 – Sexual crimes against students
HB38 – Parental rights of any person committing rape terminated
HB57 – Domestic violence
HB59 – Domestic violence
HB77 – Childersburg Sunday alcohol sales
HB84 – Schedule I controlled substances expanded
HB207 – Dale County alcoholic beverages issue
HB208 – Ozark alcoholic beverages Sunday sales
HB210 – Dale county alcoholic beverages Sunday sales

Legislators sponsoring bills that are local in nature (Dale County, Ozark, Childersburg, etc.) need to hear from local pastors and church members. If you live in any of these communities, please contact your House member and/or Senator and ask them to stop pushing passage of these bills.

This Wednesday, January 24, we expect several pro-life bills to be in committee. Pray that these bills will pass out of committee and be sent to the full House or Senate for a vote. The pro-life bills include:

HB194
HB202
HB52

We also hope that a human trafficking bill (SB179) will pass out of committee on Wednesday.

If you live in Rep. Danny Crawford’s district, please let him know that you oppose HB32 that he is sponsoring. This bill would allow a marina to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises and off-premises consumption. Rep. Crawford is a good man, but local leaders are pushing for this expansion of alcohol.

Thank you for your continued prayers for ALCAP! Please let your legislators hear from you, as well as talking to the Lord about these bills!

Legislative Update – Week 13 (Last Week of the Session)

The Alabama Legislature adjourned for the last time during the 2017 Regular Session on Friday, May 19, but there is talk that a Special Session may be called sometime during the summer. During the last week of the session, the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) bill (HB354) was brought to the floor of the Senate TWICE, but both times there were enough people lined up to speak against the bill that it was carried over. Because State Senators were working to get last minute bills passed during the closing days of the session, they did not want to take up any bills that would require lengthy filibusters, so we were successful in stopping the DFS bill this year. We expect it to come back next year (or even during the Special Session, should one be called by the Governor). It is important for everyone to contact their House Member and State Senator during the current break in sessions and encourage him/her to oppose the DFS bill when it comes up again.

Besides being bad for the economy, an unnamed source has confirmed what we were already saying – that if Daily Fantasy Sports betting is legalized, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians will be able to force Alabama to sign a compact allowing them to open full-fledged casinos with Class III gambling (roulette, black jack, etc.) and possibly even opening new casinos around the state. Though an amendment was added to HB354 that stated this bill would not give Indians an opening for signing a compact with the state, it would not have mattered because the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Commission alone determines what constitutes Class III gambling and what would force a compact to be signed.

Several local Sunday alcohol sales bills passed this session. Some of those bills require only a vote of the city council or county commission without a vote of the people. Some, however, require a vote of the people. If your community needs help fighting a Sunday alcohol sale vote, please check out our website, www.alcap.com for resources. I am also available to come to your community to lead a rally or share with church leaders.

One bill, HB353, passed both the House and Senate. This bill, known as the “Brunch Bill,” would allow any municipality or county that currently has Sunday alcohol sales to move the start time from noon (or 1:00 p.m. in some locations) to 10:30 a.m. ALCAP opposed this bill, but we did manage to get an amendment that requires a vote of the people if Sunday sales were originally decided by a vote of the people.

HB277, the Daycare Bill, passed the House, but failed to pass the Senate. Because of the complexities and controversies surrounding this bill, I asked our legal advisor, Eric Johnston, to write a summary of what happened with this bill. You can click here to read his synopsis.

Thank you for your prayers throughout the 2017 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature. As I have stated in the past, though I am a registered lobbyist, I am more accurately your missionary to the Alabama Legislature, sharing a biblical perspective on the issues with legislators and ministering to everyone who works in the Alabama State House.

We will continue to work on these issues throughout the summer and fall, and we will be giving more time to improving our school programs (American Character Builders) during this time. Your financial support is still needed. We are entering the summer months having received about $12,000 less than we had received by this time last year, so we desperately need your prayer and financial support. If you or your church have not given anything to ALCAP and/or American Character Builders, please consider sending a check for $100 today in order to help us through the summer.  You may also click here to make an online donation.

Legislative Update – Week 12

As the 2017 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature enters its final days, this past week was uneventful concerning the issues being monitored by ALCAP.

Several local Sunday alcohol sales bills passed out of committees and/or one or both of the two chambers, but most of the week was focused on the General Fund Budget and the Education Trust Fund Budget.

The House wasted two days this week on redistricting. The courts ordered that the redistricting plan passed in 2012 was unacceptable after African-American legislators protested that too much gerrymandering had occurred, so new district lines are being drawn and passed in both the Senate and the House. A House member called for a complete reading of the bill that details the redistricting plan for the House districts, and since the bill is over 500 pages, it took the reading machine several hours on Tuesday and almost 12 hours on Thursday to read through the entire bill. The House then voted at 9:50 p.m. Thursday night to pass the legislation. They spent the remainder of the evening (until adjournment at midnight), voting on other bills. Each bill was filibustered and they had to vote to cloture each filibuster.

The Senate was a little more active, but no ALCAP-monitored bills were debated. We are concerned that this upcoming week (the last week of the session) may see the Daily Fantasy Sports bill (HB354) being brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Please contact your State Senator before Tuesday and ask him/her to vote NO on HB354 if it comes up for a vote.

We are also waiting for HB277, the “Child Care Bill,” to come to the Senate for debate. The bill has been amended so that it provides protections for children while also protecting religious freedom for churches, so we are now encouraging passage of the amended bill.

The leadership in the House and Senate have said that they may end the session on Thursday, but they reserve the option of coming back on Friday if necessary. The Constitution limits the legislature to 30 legislative days within a 105-day period, but they are not required to meet for 30 days.

Continue to pray for our legislators and Governor Ivey during this last week of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Legislative Update – Week 11

House Bill (HB) 24, the Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo and Sen. Bill Hightower, was finally signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey thanks to the prayers, the contacts and the encouragement of many of you in our ALCAP family! This bill will protect faith-based adoption agencies from being forced to place children in homes that do not comply with the religious beliefs of the agencies.

For more information on all of the pro-life bills that were supported by ALCAP, click here to read a report from ALCAP’s legal advisor, Eric Johnston.

HB277, the Daycare Bill, sponsored by Rep. Pebblin Warren, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week with some positive amendments.  Click on the following links to read both amendments: Amendment 1Amendment 2. This bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote. If it passes, as amended, it will have to go back to the House for concurrence. We hope that the bill will pass and be signed into law by Gov. Ivey. The bill will protect children, while maintaining the religious liberty of churches. We are grateful for everyone who has worked on this bill.

HB505, the Sex Education Bill, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd, has passed out of committee, but has not been brought to the full House for debate. This bill originally contained language that was of great concern to ALCAP, but legislators on the committee amended the bill to remove the most problematic language. As the bill currently stands, it simply removes language concerning the illegality of homosexual relationships (since the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Obergefell Case) and updates the terminology now in use in the medical and scientific community. The bill does not require that sex education be taught, but only gives guidelines to use if it is taught.

HB354, the Daily Fantasy Sports Bill, sponsored by Rep. Alan Boothe, having passed the House a couple of weeks ago, passed out of the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee this week. It can be placed on the calendar for debate in the Senate at any time, but with only six legislative days left in this session, we hope that other important bills will take precedence. However, since big companies are driving this legislation in states throughout the nation, they will probably push for passage up until the last day of the legislature. We have asked a number of Senators to filibuster and/or, at least, not vote to cloture a filibuster so that we can keep this bill from passing. It only requires a simple majority to pass, even though ALCAP contends that since Daily Fantasy Sports is gambling, it should require two-thirds of each house and be a Constitutional Amendment for the people of Alabama to vote on.

I ask that you contact your State Senator as soon as possible and urge him/her to vote “NO” on HB354. If this bill passes, it could open the door for full-fledged Class III (casino) gambling in Alabama! Do not delay; call or email today!

Several local Sunday alcohol sale bills have been introduced. I would urge you to contact your local legislators, as well as county and city officials, and ask them to stop pushing for Sunday alcohol sales in your community. One bill, HB353, sponsored by Rep. Juandalynn Givan, will allow county and municipal leaders to move the start time for Sunday alcohol sales from noon (or 1:00 p.m. in some communities) to 10:30 a.m. We did manage to get an amendment added that requires a vote of the people if the original Sunday alcohol sales decision was made by a referendum, but if this bill passes, the expansion of alcohol in our state will continue with no regard to the families and individuals who are hurt by it.

Please keep praying for the ALCAP ministry. We continue to have financial needs and with the summer months approaching, when receipts are typically down, we need your financial support more than ever!

Governor Ivey Signs HB24

Great news! Because of your prayers, phone calls and emails, Governor Ivey signed HB24, the Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, into law without an executive amendment! Governor Ivey signed the bill on Wednesday, May 3.

Thank you for taking action to insure the religious freedom of faith-based adoption agencies in Alabama!

Be sure to thank Governor Ivey for doing the right thing in this important issue:

Contact the Governor’s office:
Call: 1-334-242-7100
Email by going to: governor.Alabama.gov/contact

It is Urgent That You Contact Governor Ivey

The following email is from ALCAP’s legal advisor and director of the Southeast Law Institute, Eric Johnston…

Begin forwarded message:

Friends,

This is a request for immediate action. HB24, Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, has passed both the House and Senate with a wide majority. It has gone to Governor Ivey for signature. However, she intends to add an unnecessary and superfluous amendment. This may cause later interpretation problems with the law, or it may slow down the process enough (it must go back to the House and Senate for concurrence) that the Session will end and the bill will die.

This bill protects church and religious operated state licensed adoption agencies from being required to make same sex adoption placements in violation of their religious beliefs based on scriptural marriage. With the 2015 Obergefell SCOTUS opinion legalizing same sex marriage, regulations are expected requiring same sex marriage placements. Already in Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington, DC and San Francisco, Christian adoption agencies have closed.

Adoption is an important alternative to abortion. We cannot afford to close down 30% of Alabama adoptions done by the affected agencies.

We have been opposed throughout the legislative process by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a heavily financed LGBTQ lobbying organization, abortion interests and others. Now, we are told that Google, AT&T and Apple are pressuring Governor Ivey to add the amendment.

This issue is about more that protecting innocent life, it is about the very essence of religious freedom. In committee, Christians were said to be intolerant and discriminatory. Our religious beliefs must be secondary to the rights of homosexuals.

This is our first confrontation in Alabama with the gay rights agenda. If we do not stand firm now, we will face increased opposition. Those organizations that oppose us because of what we believe, will coalesce and we will find we have little or no voice in protecting our values. Large corporations, gay rights advocates, abortion interests, gambling interests, and you name it, will be telling us how to live. Our sincerely held religious beliefs dictate against what they want.

We must contact Governor Ivey and tell her to protect the freedom of religion in Alabama, her churches and their members. She must sign the bill as it is. She must not add an executive amendment. She must do it now without delay.

Contact the Governor’s office:
Call: 1-334-242-7100
Email by going to: governor.Alabama.gov/contact

I urge you to circulate this email, contact your constituents, churches, other organizations and others requesting that beginning early Monday morning and continuing throughout the week , they contact Governor Ivey with this message. Time is of the essence. Thank you.

Legislative Update – Week 10

Another busy week at the Alabama Legislature!  Click here for a report from the Southeast Law Institute’s Eric Johnston, ALCAP’s legal advisor, concerning HB277 (the daycare licensing bill) and HB440 (the Youth Residential Prevention Act).

In addition to these bills, HB354 (the Daily Fantasy Sports gambling legalization bill), which passed out of the House of Representatives last week by a narrow margin of only 5 votes, was in the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee on Wednesday of this week.  The chairman, Sen. Del Marsh, allowed for a public hearing on the bill and ALCAP was able to address our concerns with this pro-gambling bill.  A lawyer representing the largest Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) companies, FanDuel and DraftKings, tried to counter ALCAP’s comments, but fell short and actually reinforced the facts presented by ALCAP.  The chairman agreed to postpone a vote of the committee until next week.  Please contact members of the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee before Wednesday, May 3, and ask them to vote NOT to give the bill a favorable report.  Then call your State Senator and ask him or her to oppose HB354 (the Daily Fantasy Sports bill) if it comes to the full Senate for a vote.

The House, on Tuesday, passed HB353 (the “Sunday Brunch Bill”).  This bill will allow any county or municipality that currently has Sunday alcohol sales to begin selling alcohol at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings instead of noon or 1:00 p.m. (as some local ordinances currently allow).  One problem with this bill is that, while some counties and municipalities were able to get Sunday alcohol sales with a simple vote of the local governing authorities, many required a vote of the people.  Some of the counties and municipalities that had a vote of the people did so in the form of a constitutional amendment.  If your area passed Sunday alcohol sales by a constitutional amendment, HB353 does not apply to you because a statute cannot override a constitutional amendment.  But, some counties and municipalities passed Sunday alcohol sales by a referendum (not a constitutional amendment).  These counties and municipalities could have been impacted by this bill because it would allow their local governing bodies to override the vote of the people.  However, Rep. Steve Clouse managed to get an amendment to the bill that would prevent county and municipality officials from moving the start time to 10:30 a.m. if their local ordinance had been passed by a referendum of the people.

This bill now goes to the Senate for a vote.  Please contact your State Senator and ask him or her to oppose HB353.

HB24 (the Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo) protects child-placing organizations that have certain religious requirements from having to place children with couples that do not meet their agency’s criteria.  This bill passed the House and Senate, and has now gone to Governor Ivey’s office for her signature.  Governor Ivey has requested an executive amendment be added that we are currently studying.  As soon as we know whether or not this amendment is acceptable, we will let you know the bill’s status and if there is action you may need to take.

Continue to pray for the Alabama Legislature and Governor Ivey. There are only nine days left in the 2017 Legislative Session and the expected final day of the Session will be May 18.

Legislative Update – Week 9

It was a very busy week. On Tuesday, the House passed HB354 (the Daily Fantasy Sports Bill). There was a great deal of confusion on the floor during the proceedings. First, it was announced by the Speaker that the Budget Isolation Resolution (BIR) vote, which requires two-thirds of the members voting in order to pass, had failed. [NOTE: The BIR is a procedural vote that allows for bills to come to the floor for debate. Until the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund Budgets are passed, all other bills must receive a BIR vote. Once the budgets are passed, the BIR vote is no longer necessary.]

Before the next bill was brought up, Rep. John Rogers called for “Reconsideration.” A vote on a particular bill (or procedural vote) can be “reconsidered” one time within 24 hours of the first vote. The vote to reconsider passed, so the House members voted on the BIR a second time. This time the BIR again failed to pass according to the numbers on the monitor. Then, after much deliberation around the Speaker’s desk, the Speaker announced that the voting machine was not functioning properly and after checking the individual votes, they had determined that the BIR did actually pass, so HB354 was brought up for debate.

During the lengthy debate a couple of good amendments, presented by Rep. Mike Jones, were passed. We are concerned that those amendments, which place greater restrictions on the Daily Fantasy Sports companies may be stripped from the bill in the Senate. When the vote on final passage of the bill was taken, the bill only passed by a narrow margin of 5 votes. You can click here to see how your House member voted.

HB354 now goes to the Senate. We need for a groundswell of people to contact their State Senator and encourage him/her to OPPOSE HB354. To understand how dangerous this online gambling bill is (even though proponents argue that it is not gambling), you can click here to read what Stop Predatory Gambling has written about this deceptive enterprise. You can also click here to watch the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentary, Frontline, from 2016 about Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). Forty-three minutes into the documentary, the producers interviewed a young man from Auburn, AL, Josh Adams, who lost $20,000 playing DFS. You can also read the New York Times story about Josh Adams by clicking here.

Another bill, HB277, sponsored by Rep. Pebblin Warren, would have required church daycares to be licensed by the Department of Human Resources (DHR) and meet all of that department’s minimum standards in order to operate. While everyone agreed that we want to protect the safety of children, many churches felt that this government intrusion into local church ministries was unnecessary. The problem that this bill was intended to address was “pop-up” daycares that were using the name of a church to avoid having to be licensed by DHR and then applying for federal and/or state assistance in order to make money. A compromise bill was presented on the floor by Rep. Jim Carns that will both protect children and protect the religious freedom of churches. Basically, the agreement was that daycares receiving government subsidies must be licensed whether they are a church or not. Also, DHR may do an annual inspection of all church daycares to make sure that children are being safely cared for. We are grateful to many who helped in reaching this compromise, but especially Eric Johnston (Southeast Law Institute and ALCAP’s legal advisor), Robin Mears (executive director of the Alabama Christian Educators Association), Melanie Bridgeforth (executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children) and all the legislators who worked hard to negotiate this agreement. Special thanks should go to Rep. Warren for bringing this important issue to everyone’s attention.

To read the vote counts on HB277 and to see how your House member voted, click here. To read the final version of the bill, click here. The bill now goes to the Senate. We will keep you informed of any changes that might be made to the bill.

HB24 (the Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act), sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo, passed the Senate on Tuesday with one amendment, and now must go back to the House for concurrence (which we expect to take place on Tuesday, April 25). This bill protects church-affiliated adoption agencies from being required to place children for adoption in homes that do not comply with their religious views.

Three pro-life bills also passed the Senate on Thursday: HB96 (the Assisted Suicide Ban Act), sponsored by Rep. Mack Butler; HB95 (the Health Care Providers Protection Act), sponsored by Rep. Arnold Mooney; and HB98 (the “Alabama’s Commitment to the Right to Life Constitutional Amendment”), sponsored by Rep. Matt Fridy [NOTE: HB98 is a constitutional amendment which will be on a statewide ballot in order to be ultimately approved by the voters of Alabama]. We celebrate the passage of HB24 and all three of the pro-life bills!