Alabama State Capitol

The Alabama Legislature’s 2019 regular session is scheduled to begin Tuesday, and a number of bills have been pre-filed in both the House and Senate.

Bills pre-filed in the state Senate address topics ranging from cellphone use to anti-bullying programs in schools. Here’s a look at a few of the 40 bills that have been filed in the Senate prior to the start of this year’s regular session.

SB1 - Cellphones

The bill sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) would amend the state code to prohibit drivers from physically holding their cellphone or other wireless telecommunication devices while operating a motor vehicle.

“This subdivision does not prohibit the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice based communication,” it reads.

The bill also addresses penalties - $50 for a first violation, $100 for a second and $150 for third and subsequent violations – and exceptions, including “a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, ambulance driver, or other similarly employed public safety first responder using a device during the performance of his or her official duties.”

A similar bill by Rep. Allen Farley (R-McCalla) was pre-filed in the Alabama House.

SB14 - Bible in school

This bill sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) would allow public schools in the state to offer elective courses for grades six through 12, focusing on the study of the Bible.

Among other things, the elective classes could familiarize students with the contents, literary style and structure of the Bible, as well as the Bible’s influence on law, government, art and culture.

“A teacher of a course offered pursuant to this act may not endorse, favor, promote, disfavor or show hostility toward any particular religion or nonreligious faith or religious perspective,” the bill reads, adding that teachers of the courses should comply with applicable laws and guidelines regarding maintaining religious neutrality.

The bill also would allow principals to authorize the display of religious materials and other historic artifacts if they are displayed in conjunction with a course that uses the material for educational purposes.

SB20 - Anti-bullying

This bill by Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) would make an appropriation from the Education Trust Fund to the state board of education, which would in turn allocate funds for schools to combat bullying.

The appropriation would be for $14,730,000, and the board would be required “to allocate $10,000 of that amount to each K-12 public school in the state for the purpose of establishing and maintaining an anti-bullying program on each school campus,” for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2020, according to the bill.

SB21 - Law enforcement

Another bill by Smitherman addresses racial profiling in traffic stops.

“Existing law does not require the keeping of statistics to determine if traffic stops are being made by state and local law enforcement officers solely on the basis of the racial or ethnic status of persons,” according to the bill’s synopsis. “This bill would define racial profiling and would prohibit a law enforcement officer from engaging in racial profiling.”

SB21 would require law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies to prohibit racial profiling, the adoption of forms to be used for statistics of traffic stops, would provide for complaints and require reports to be filed in the Office of the Attorney General.

The bill also addresses reporting and collecting data on serious injuries to police officers that occur in the line of duty.

“The form shall include the official action that was in the line of duty, the type of injury and extent of the injury, whether the injury is expected to result in temporary or permanent disability, the costs of treatment and medical care, whether an arrest or citation was issued or prosecution commenced, and any other information determined to be pertinent to the injury,” it reads.

SB22 - Income tax check-off

The bill by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) would amend the state code to provide an income tax refund check-off for a contribution to We Build the Wall, Inc., starting in the 2020 tax year.

“Under existing law, various programs and organizations receive funds from income tax check-offs,” reads the bill’s synopsis. 

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