It may be Valentine’s Day, but Alabama lawmakers haven’t offered much love this week as several bills struggled to move forward. We get a glimpse of this week’s action in the Legislature from Don Dailey, host of the Alabama Public Television Capitol Journal.
A Senate committee rejected a bill that would have made it easier for borrowers to repay payday loans. This would have given borrowers 30 days to repay. In some cases, they can be as little as 10 days old.
Payday loans have been a recurring problem in recent years, but Dailey notes that opposition to the bill was bipartisan.
“There doesn’t seem to be agreement on this yet,” said Dailey.
A bill that would require transgender high school athletes to compete based on their biological sex at birth has died in House committee.
“It was controversial as you can imagine,” says Dailey.
Republican Rep. Chris Pringle of Mobile sponsored the bill and says it is about fairness to female athletes. He says they shouldn’t have to compete with those who are biologically male, with more testosterone and therefore greater strength. Opponents say the bill discriminates against transgender people.
Even though this bill will not move forward, Dailey says the problem could reappear.
“Rep. Pringle has a similar and separate bill. There are some technical differences. So this problem may not be totally dead for the session,” Dailey says.
Police officers and hate crimes law
A proposal to add law enforcement officers to the state’s hate crimes law has taken divergent paths in the House and Senate. It comes as seven Alabama police officers have been killed in the line of duty in the past 13 months.
The House passed the bill unopposed. But a senatorial version stalled in committee.
“Since the Senate committee postponed this decision, it raises questions about the ultimate future of this bill,” Dailey said.
A bill that would legalize medical marijuana was introduced this week. It would allow medical marijuana for 15 conditions. It would also set up a commission to regulate its use in Alabama.
Dailey says the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Tim Melson of Florence, is bracing for opposition.
“He expects to have another battle on his hands,” said Dailey. “This is a very controversial issue, as it has been for several years.
Melson sponsored a medical marijuana bill last session that passed the Senate but failed at home. A task force met last year to make recommendations for this current version of the bill.
“They feel they have answered most if not all of the concerns that have been raised over the past year, especially the concerns that this could be a gateway to increased recreational use of marijuana, ”Dailey said.
The bill is expected to have its first committee hearing next week.