The Alabama State Bar provides a tracking report concerning pending legislation that may be of interest to our members.
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, the Alabama Legislature began the 2021 Legislative Session. After the 2020 Legislation Session was abbreviated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much to accomplish this year. In addition to the usual business of the legislature, there are many pandemic-related issues requiring attention. For the safety of all involved, there are many precautions being taken at the State House due to the pandemic. Similar to what many lawyers may be experiencing at Alabama’s courthouses, there is limited access in many areas, along with a new focus on audio and visual access to allow transparency and encourage safety. To check if the precautions are working, there is a plan to be in session for two weeks, working three session days a week, then taking a week off to assess before returning.
As a reminder, this is the third year of the quadrennium. Legislators are elected to four-year terms and are all up for re-election at the same time, next happening in the fall of 2022. On Tuesday, after gaveling in, there was a sense of getting-to-business and establishing priorities in both houses. In the Senate, there was a transfer of position from long-time Senate President Pro-Tempore Del Marsh of Anniston to Senator Greg Reed of Jasper. While Senator Marsh is not retiring early, he is stepping down for the remainder of his term to enjoy being a Senator and completing some priorities. Per usual, Governor Ivey’s State of the State address was Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, the committees began the process of reviewing and prioritizing the numerous bills filed prior to session and on the first day. Typically, there are around a dozen committees operating in the House and Senate; however, due to the pandemic, they are operating with fewer committees and moving bills through five or six committees. During the first week, there were 351 bills introduced in the House of Representatives and 199 bills in the Senate.
Numerous bills were introduced related to the pandemic and are considered a priority. They include legislation to not tax the federal stimulus money received by many Alabamians and Alabama businesses, economic incentive packages, tax credits (including the renewal of some expired ones) and a COVID liability immunity bill. Numerous bills relating to the ongoing prison reform and criminal justice issues that have resulted in several federal lawsuits and the Department of Justice investigation remain a legislative priority and were introduced this week as well. Many of these bills were introduced last year and were moving through the process until the session was cut short. The House Judiciary committee moved most of these bills out of committee Wednesday with the hopes of swiftly addressing the reform issues this year. All these bills are included in the criminal tracking provided by the Alabama State Bar.
The General Fund and Education budgets have been filed by their respective chairs upon receipt from the Governor and that process has begun as well. The Alabama State Bar remains engaged in advocating for the Judiciary.
Other bills introduced include such issues as dealing with the emergency powers of government, elder law, medical marijuana, eminent domain, eviction relief, a revision to the Open Meetings Act, a consumer privacy and protection act, a series of insurance regulation bills, homestead exemptions, sunset bills, bills relating to monuments, artificial intelligence, and the direct shipment and home delivery of alcohol. As always, there were numerous bills involving criminal law, bail and expungement. There were also several bills involving Alabama’s tax laws that may be found in the tracking.
Around 32 bills were filed relating to Alabama’s voting and ethics laws. Those can be found in the Elections, Ethics and Government Relations tracking.
There were several bills that were products of the Alabama Law Institute and their study groups, including a revision to the Alabama Business and Non Profit Entities Code and a Trust Decanting bill.
There were three bills introduced related to court costs, one in Baldwin County placing a $10 fee on all civil, criminal and other cases filed as well as one in Choctaw County. The Court Cost Commission bill was filed by Senator Smitherman which would create a commission to study and evaluate court costs. This is a bill and concept that has long been supported by the Alabama State Bar and was a product of the Alabama Law Institute.
As always, the Alabama State Bar encourages all members to be aware of legislation that may impact court costs and fees. Access to justice is a priority. Please be aware of advertisements that may be occurring for local bills and those that may already be filed to use the courts as a fundraiser for non-court entities. We encourage you to be informed and notify us as well..
The regular session of the 2021 Legislative Session is proceeding as follows:
- The Senate has adjourned until Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.
- The House has adjourned until Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.