Legislative Update – Week 10

I did not send out an update last week because not much happened in the legislature related to ALCAP. However, this week was very busy! On Tuesday, SB325 (sponsored by Sen. Paul Sanford) was brought to the Senate floor for a vote. SB325 would legalize Daily Fantasy Sports (a.k.a., “online gambling”) in Alabama. ALCAP contends that, because this is Class III gambling, it requires a constitutional amendment voted on by the people of Alabama. Former Attorney General Luther Strange ruled two years ago that Daily Fantasy Sports is illegal in our state.

Sen. Sanford was not in attendance, so Sen. Tom Whatley carried the bill. Until the General Fund Budget and the Education Trust Fund Budget are passed, a bill cannot be brought to the floor of the House or Senate without what is called a “Budget Isolation Resolution” (or BIR). The BIR requires that three fifths of the body vote in favor of bringing a bill up before it can be debated and a vote taken on the bill. When the BIR vote for SB325 was taken, only 11 senators voted for the BIR and 12 voted against, with the others either abstaining or not on the floor to vote. That means that SB325 could not be debated and a vote taken! In order for the bill to come back for a vote, it must be placed back on the Special Order Calendar and the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee (which places bills on the Special Order Calendar) assured me that this would probably not happen. It was obvious from the BIR vote that the senators are not interested in passing this unconstitutional piece of legislation.

On Thursday of this week, after voting in the Senate had been delayed twice, HB76 (sponsored by Rep. Pebblin Warren) was finally passed by the Senate without any amendments. ALCAP’s legal advisor, Eric Johnston, and Robin Mears, executive director of the Alabama Christian Educators Association, worked many hours over a two-year period with Rep. Warren and other organizations to help craft this bill in such a way that the religious liberty of churches was protected while also protecting children in Alabama. ALCAP applauds their efforts. The bill now goes to the Governor’s office for her signature. Click here for the HB76 memorandum from Eric Johnston just after HB76 passed the House, but before it went to the Senate.

Both Senate and House leadership seem eager to end the 2018 Legislative Session a few days early so that members can get home to campaign for the June primaries. Every week the rumors change, but the latest rumor is that the two budgets will be completed and sent to the Governor for her signature some time next week. The Legislature will (if the rumors are correct) meet Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week, and then Tuesday and Thursday of the following week and adjourn “sine die” (Latin for “adjourn with no plans to return” for this session) on March 29. As a preacher, for years people have told me that a short sermon is always a good sermon. I have told legislators that a short session is always a good session and I hope they do adjourn sine die soon!