Religious freedom, fantasy sports hot topics in Legislature

Religious freedom, fantasy sports hot topics in Legislature

Doctor-assisted suicide, fantasy sports, church security, faith-based adoption and church daycare bills all saw movement through the Legislature in April.

The forward motion of the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act and the Child Care Safety Act were positives for religious freedom, but gambling proponents also gained ground when a fantasy sports bill was approved by the House of Representatives. The latest updates are as follows:

HB 277 (sponsored by Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-District 82) — Child Care Safety Act; keeps church-run daycares free from requiring DHR licensing but adds a few safeguards including annual inspections by DHR to ensure daycares are run by a church and children are physically protected; annual inspections by local fire and health departments of church daycares; and reporting of some additional information to DHR. (Passed out of the House, waiting consideration by the Senate.)

Birmingham lawyer Eric Johnston, on behalf of the Southeast Law Institute, said in a memo that this bill initially burdened religious freedom, but that “as amended, HB 277 does not require much more than under current law” and that the added requirements “are the least burdensome method” of legally protecting the children in church-run daycares.

HB 354 (sponsored by Rep. Alan Boothe, R-District 89) — Fantasy Contests Act; requires registration of fantasy sports operators and promises consumer protection procedures. Exempts fantasy sports from prohibition against gambling. Partner bill is SB 270. (Passed out of the House, waiting consideration by the Senate.)

In a close vote (43–38), the House decided fantasy sports betting like FanDuel and DraftKings are more a game of skill than chance, which led to the majority’s conclusion that fantasy sports don’t fall under Alabama’s anti-gambling regulations.

HB 24 (sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo, R-District 62) — Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act; protects faith-based adoption and foster care agencies from placing children into homes that go against agencies’ religious beliefs. Partner bill is SB 145. (Passed out of the House and Senate, awaiting Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature.)

According to the Alabama Political Reporter, Ivey is considering adding an executive amendment to the bill which would send it back to the Legislature for another round of votes. No specifics of the possible amendment had been released at press time.

HB 36 (sponsored by Rep. Lynn Greer, R-District 2) — Alabama Church Protection Act; establishes church security programs and authorizes designated members to carry firearms. (Passed out of the House, then passed out of the Senate with one amendment. Back in the House.)

HB 96 (sponsored by Rep. Mack Butler, R-District 30) — Assisted Suicide Ban Act; prohibits anyone from providing aid in dying and enacts penalties under certain conditions. (Passed out of the House and Senate, awaiting Gov. Ivey’s signature.)

For additional bills TAB is following, visit thealabamabaptist.org and search “legislature.” (TAB)

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Gambling

Legislators have put the following four bills on hold until Gov. Robert Bentley’s Advisory Council on Gaming releases its report presenting various gambling plans for Alabama. The report was expected sometime in April, but as of May 3 no movement has been announced.

HB 6 (sponsored by Rep. Alan Harper, R-District 61) — Constitutional amendment authorizing Legislature to provide lottery by general law.

HB 10 (sponsored by Rep. Craig Ford, D-District 28) — Constitutional amendment directing portion of lottery revenues for college scholarships. Related to and dependant on HB 11.

HB 11 (sponsored by Rep. Craig Ford, D-District 28) — Constitutional amendment establishing lottery and regulatory commission. Allows gambling at racetracks “where pari-mutuel wagering is currently legal.” Allows governor to negotiate a compact with Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Creates Lottery Trust Fund.

HB 16 (sponsored by Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-District 32) — Constitutional amendment allowing a tribal compact for gambling.

SB 28 (sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-District 27) — Fantasy Sports Contests Act; authorizes the creation and operation of fantasy sports contests through licensing to be administered by the secretary of state. Also creates Fantasy Sports Fund.

According to Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program, “Rumor has it that this bill is not the one that the daily fantasy sports companies want. So two new bills (HB 354 and SB 270) have been introduced in both the Senate and the House.”

SB 270 (sponsored by Sen. Paul Sanford, R-District 7) — Fantasy Contests Act; requires registration of fantasy sports operators and promises consumer protection procedures. Exempts fantasy sports from prohibition against gambling. Partner bill is HB 354.

Immigration

HB 100 (sponsored by Rep. Phil Williams, R-District 6) — Americans First Act; requires colleges and universities to comply with immigration laws or face fines. (Passed by the House on Feb. 14, waiting consideration by the Senate.)

Prisons

SB 59 (sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-District 14) — Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative Act; authorizes the funding and construction of new prison facilities as well as the demolition of existing men’s prison facilities.

Public restrooms

SB 1 (sponsored by Sen. Phil Williams, R-District 10) — Alabama Privacy Act; states that public restrooms be gender appropriate.

Abortion

HB 98 (sponsored by Rep. Matt Fridy, R-District 73) — Constitutional amendment that affirms Alabama’s commitment to the right to life of unborn children. (Passed out of the House and Senate, awaiting Secretary of State’s signature.)

Adoption

SB 145 (sponsored by Sen. Bill Hightower, R-District 35) — Alabama Child Placement Agency Inclusion Act; protects faith-based adoption and foster care agencies from placing children into homes that go against agencies’ religious beliefs. Partner bill is HB 24.

Civil rights 

HB 74 (sponsored by Rep. Chris England, D-District 70) — States the right of a person to be free from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or familial status.

Alcohol/Drugs 

HB 269 (sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd, D-District 54) — Lower penalties for marijuana possession.

HB 164 (sponsored by Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-District 68) — Allow for Sunday sales of alcohol in Thomaston. (Passed out of the House and Senate, awaiting Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature.)

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