Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) Executive Director Joe Godfrey saluted members of the ALCAP board at their annual meeting on April 2, voicing his gratitude for their support in these days of “moral onslaught.”
Godfrey said the Alabama Legislature’s special session in March dealing with the gasoline tax took a lot of attention away from several proposals in the current session that contain ethical and moral concerns.
A few bills to watch
House Bill (HB) 151 and Senate Bill (SB) 77 propose to privatize the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board stores. Godfrey said Alabama is one of 16 states that control liquor sales, although the state is a “hybrid” with some private sellers who operate under the control of the ABC Board.
The issue is not that the state is in the business of selling alcohol, he said, but the state controls the sale of alcohol.
“Alabama ranks among the highest in revenue from these sales, but we also rank among the lowest in consumption, and the consumption rate is what concerns us most,” he said.
HB 168 gives local governments power to mandate Sunday alcohol sales through their city councils or county commissions without a vote by the people.
HB 243 seeks to expand the use of medical marijuana. Godfrey noted the legislature passed Carly’s Law in 2014, a bill ALCAP supported because it authorized the University of Alabama at Birmingham to conduct a clinical study on the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) oil (found in the marijuana plant) on children suffering from epileptic seizures.
A separate marijuana bill, SB 98, seeks to reduce the penalty for marijuana possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Another bill Godfrey is monitoring is SB 69, which proposes to eliminate marriage licenses in the state.
“There’s been a lot of angst among the probate judges in our state, many of whom don’t want to sign licenses for same-sex ‘marriages’ due to personal conviction,” ALCAP legal counsel Eric Johnston said. “This bill is probably about the best we can expect. It allows couples to marry with the signature of two witnesses and without a traditional license.”
Godfrey said the major spotlight this session is likely to be HB 116, a lottery bill. The proposal as written includes not only the possibility of a statewide lottery, but also video lottery terminals (VLTs) at dog tracks and bingo halls, he said.
“The VLT is actually a slot machine,” he said. “Many legislators have told me they don’t necessarily support a lottery but they think the people should decide. After the gas tax increase passed during the special session, ‘letting the people vote’ has become a weak argument since the people didn’t have opportunity to vote on the gasoline tax.”
Johnston said if the bill becomes law, the Alabama Poarch Creek Indians, according to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, can demand the state sign a compact allowing “full-fledged” casino gambling on their properties.
Godfrey reminded board members that ALCAP provides periodic legislative updates and interested citizens can sign up at the organization’s website, www.alcap.com. He also noted that many free resources can be found at AmericanCharacterBuilders.org.
In other business the board elected five new members and Chris Crain of the Birmingham Metro Baptist Association as board chairman to succeed the late Mike McLemore.
The board also adopted a 2019 budget of $430,144, a slight increase from 2018.