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Bill to eliminate Alabama Senate special elections advances

January 20,2018 14:27

A bill to eliminate special elections when there are vacancies in the U.S. Senate is in position for a vote in the Alabama House of Representatives next week. It comes in the wake of last year's bruising battle to fill the seat Jeff Sessions left to ...


A bill to eliminate special elections when there are vacancies in the U.S. Senate is in position for a vote in the Alabama House of Representatives next week.
It comes in the wake of last year's bruising battle to fill the seat Jeff Sessions left to become attorney general, won by Democrat Doug Jones.
House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said his bill to eliminate Senate special elections "has nothing to do with the personalities in last year's election. It has everything to do with the cost to the General Fund."
Clouse said $11 million has been allocated to cover the cost of the three rounds of the special election to fill Sessions' seat.
The bill won approval this week by the House Constitutions, Campaigns and Elections Committee, setting it up for a possible vote by the full House.
The bill would amend a law that led to some disagreement over interpretation when it came into play last year.
Under the current law, if a vacancy occurs in the U.S. Senate more than four months before the next general election, as happened with Sessions' seat, the governor appoints a replacement and schedules a special election "forthwith."
Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Luther Strange in February and scheduled the election to coincide with this year's election cycle, causing some to contend that Bentley was not following the requirement to schedule it "forthwith." Bentley cited the cost of a special election as one reason for his decision.
When Gov. Kay Ivey replaced Bentley, she rescheduled the election for 2017, saying the law clearly stated that the election should be held as soon as possible.
Under Clouse's bill, if a vacancy occurs, the governor would appoint a replacement and the election to fill the remainder of the term would be held at the next general election for which candidate qualifying has not already started.
For example, candidate qualifying for this year's elections started January 8. So, if a Senate vacancy had occurred January 7 or sooner, the election to finish the term for that vacant seat would be held this year. If the vacancy came January 8 or later, it would move to 2020.
The Alabama Legislature has completed two weeks of the 2018 session, with this week disrupted by the snowstorm, which led to cancellation of the usual slate of Wednesday committee meetings.
There hasn't been time for any bills to gain final passage, but some have passed their house of origin, including:
HB 58 by Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds, would provide free admission to Alabama state parks to all men and women who have served in the military, active and retired.
HB 83 by Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, would expand a tax credit for businesses with fewer than 50 employees who hire unemployed veterans or veterans who served in a combat zone.
HB 92 by Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, would allow any veteran awarded the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Army Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, Silver Star or Bronze Star or any former prisoner of war to request from the state Department of Veterans Affairs a removable windshield placard to park in spaces designated for veterans holding those honors.
SB 13 by Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, would eliminate marriage licenses and instead have probate judges accept affidavits from marrying couples that would serve as the official marriage documents. The bill would eliminate the requirement for a marriage ceremony.
SB 84 by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, would require state, city and county police to keep new records of traffic stops showing the race of the driver and the officer and whether there was a warning, ticket, search, arrest or officer injury. Law enforcement agencies would report the information to the attorney general, who would compile a report and could withhold funds and require training for agencies if racial profiling is indicated.
SB 98 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would allow counties to abate some property taxes on properties used for economic development projects with at least $50 million in capital investment and meeting other criteria. The bill is related to the Toyota-Mazda plant in Huntsville.
A bill with bipartisan support by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, would establish a statewide regulation framework for Uber, Lyft and similiar "transportation network companies." It was approved by a Senate committee on Thursday. A version of the bill is also pending in the House. Gov. Kay Ivey spoke at a press conference in support of the measure.
Proponents say uniform regulations will help the ride-sharing companies offer their services statewide. About 15 Alabama cities allow the companies to operate under local regulations.
Gov. Kay Ivey introduced her budget proposals this week. Her plans include funding for a 3 percent cost-of-living raise for state employees, which would be their first since 2009, and a 2.5-percent raise for education employees.
Lawmakers are probably a few weeks away from moving the budgets.

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