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!