THE ELDER ABUSE LAW
The Alabama Legislature has made it much easier to prosecute people who abuse, neglect or financially exploit senior citizens. The Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act pushed by Senator Cam Ward and Republican Paul DeMarco, has been signed into law by Governor Bentley. The Act better defines what constitutes elder abuse and increases the penalties for the most serious offenses. Passage of this important act was one of the highlights of the session. It may wind up being the very best thing done by the Legislators during the session.
THE ALABAMA ACCOUNTABILITY ACT
Passage of the so-called Alabama Accountability Act is a throwback to the days of Freedom of Choice that prevailed during the 1960s in Alabama. While proponents tout the new law as being one that will improve public education, I see very little in the law that will benefit public education in any respect. The flexibility aspect is good, but it’s overshadowed by the negative parts. This new law will further weaken a system that needs help in the worst way. It’s difficult to defend the passage of this law. Taking money from the public schools to benefit private schools makes no sense at all.
The manner in which the law was originally passed is no way to pass legislation. In fact, it’s impossible to justify how it was done. It would never have passed in its final form if the members of the House and Senate had known what was in it. The original bill was as bad as anything done by the Legislature in recent years. The amendments to that law passed in the last days of the session, as I understand it, do little other than protect a few school systems that don’t want certain students in their schools. I hope I am wrong, but I consider this legislation to be extremely bad for pubic schools in our state. It’s passage was a sad day for public education in Alabama. When those in charge of our public schools from top to bottom oppose the new law, it has to be bad for public education and ultimately for the people of Alabama.
THE NRA BILL
Alabama lawmakers have passed a bill that has the potential to make Alabama very much like the Old West, which was a pretty wild place. The House and Senate gave final approval to sweeping gun legislation that, among other things, would stop employers from prohibiting workers from having guns in their cars while at work. Proponents of the legislation say said the bill was needed to make sure that people “have access to weapons to defend themselves, including when they are on long drives to work.” So now drivers on our highways and streets had better be careful about offending others on the highway.
The bill will keep employers from prohibiting their workers from bringing guns into workplace parking lots. A concealed carry permit would be required for pistols, but it appears that it will be very easy to get a permit. A shotgun or hunting rifle can only be carried during hunting season, and a valid hunting license or a concealed carry permit will be required. I have to wonder how many business owners in Alabama like the concept of every one of their employee bringing a gun to work. It’s a pretty scary thought.
The bill was pushed by the National Rifle Association, but opposed by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). Billy Canary, BCA President and CEO, strongly opposed the bill. He said in a statement:
The BCA strongly maintains that all amendments to the Constitution of the United States are applied equally, with none having precedence over another. The Fifth Amendment rights of property owners are equally as important as the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Without an Opt-out provision we could not support this legislation.
Sen. Scott Beason, the sponsor of the original bill, said he pushed the bill to clarify Alabama’s law regarding the open carrying of weapons and to make sure law-abiding citizens had access to weapons. I have not talked to a single law enforcement officer who likes this new law. As I understand it, the new law provides:
• That the carrying of a visible, holstered or secured pistol in public is not a crime of disorderly conduct.
• Changes in the law regarding carrying a pistol in a vehicle. A concealed carry permit will still be required to carry a loaded pistol in the car. A permit won’t be required if the pistol is unloaded and locked in a compartment that is attached to the car and out of reach of the driver and passenger.
• A limit on sheriffs’ discretion in denying applications for a concealed carry permit. An appeals process for denials is created.
I had hoped that Gov. Robert Bentley would veto this bill. But he didn’t and the governor may regret having had the opportunity to kill a bad bill that may put Alabama citizens at risk. We don’t live in the Wild, Wild West and we don’t need to have guns on our hips or in the workplace. This new law will not only put the people of Alabama at risk, but it will also adversely affect those citizens who work in law enforcement.
THE CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAW
Alabama’s law governing campaign finance has changed in numerous ways under a bill approved by the Legislature. The bill repeals the $500 cap on campaign donations by corporations. Proponents of that change have said the cap is meaningless because corporations can legally skirt it. A 1989 attorney general’s opinion interpreted the $500 cap to mean companies could give each PAC $500, multiplied by the number of elections held in the state in any given year.
Among other changes, the bill designates who would be responsible and prosecutable for illegal PAC-to-PAC transfers and other violations. That addresses what was identified as a weakness in the existing law cited by a Montgomery County grand jury. The new law also sets a $1,000 threshold for campaign fundraising or spending that triggers the reporting requirements under the FCPA. Currently, the threshold ranges from $1,000 to $25,000 depending on the office sought.
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