By State Representative Danny Garrett, Commentary
MONTGOMERY — After a one week break to review COVID protocols, the legislature is back in session. We have now completed nine of the 30 allowed legislative days for the 2021 Regular Session.
On Tuesday, the House approved two bills related to criminal justice. The first bill would allow prosecutors and judges broader discretion in requesting and denying bail to those accused of committing violent crimes. The legislation would amend the Alabama Constitution and deny bail for violent felonies such as murder, rape, or kidnapping. If passed by the Senate, the measure will be on a statewide ballot in a referendum election. The legislation — “Aniah’s Law”– is named after 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, who was killed after being abducted by a suspect who was free on bond in an earlier kidnapping case.
The second bill would create a “Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights” and provides fundamental protections and guarantees to those who have suffered from certain violent crimes. Under the provisions of the legislation, individuals who report they suffered non-consensual sexual acts must be informed in writing that they qualify for the “Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights.” The bill would instruct the Attorney General to create a Sexual Assault Task Force, which will be comprised of law enforcement representatives, elected officials, victims’ advocates, medical professionals, and others. The panel would be responsible for developing and implementing best practices regarding the care and treatment of sexual assault survivors and the preservation of evidence kits.
Because of COVID, this year the Legislature is holding committee meetings on the same days that the full body is in session. Two bills that passed out of their respective committees last week received special attention. First, the House Education Policy Committee, on which I serve as Vice Chair, gave a favorable report to legislation by Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R – Hartselle) that prohibits biological males from competing against females in K-12 school-sponsored sports. Likewise, those born female may not compete against males. The bill specifically prohibits public schools from competing in events conducted under the authority of any athletic association that allows students to compete in events as anything other than the sex “indicated on a birth certificate.” The prohibition applies only to sports, events, and competitions that are exclusively reserved for one sex or another, so participation in co-ed sports would be allowed. Although the Alabama High School Sports Association already has a similar policy in place, passage of this bill into law would ensure the policy does not change in the future.
Also on Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee advanced legislation by State Rep. Ginny Shaver (R – Leesburg) that requires doctors to work to save the lives of babies who are born alive after an attempted abortion. Doctors who violate the law could be charged with a Class A felony, which carries a prison sentence of 10 to 99 years. Women seeking an abortion would not be liable. Because hospitals are regulated under different parameters, the bill applies only to abortion clinics. The bill is expected to be considered by the full House soon.
We will continue with three legislative days this upcoming week. It is an honor to serve House District 44. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (205) 410-4637 if there is anything you wish to discuss.