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6/1/2012 - June 2012 SLI Educational Update - Report on the 2012 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature

AN EDUCATIONAL UPDATE FROM

THE SOUTHEAST LAW INSTITUTE™, INC.

To:                  SLI Supporters                                  

Date:               June 2012  

 From:              A. Eric Johnston

Re:                  Report on the 2012 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature

This was the second year of the current four year term of the Alabama Legislature.  After complete dominance by Democrats for decades, those who campaigned as conservative Republicans with concomitant values took charge.  Yet, on social issues, they score only marginally better.  Here is what happened this year.

 LEGISLATION

Sanctity of Life – Seven bills dealing with abortion were important and made some movement, but six of these failed:  Clinic Regulation Bill to raise standard of care at abortion clinics; Healthcare Conscience Bill to protect healthcare professionals who object to doing abortions, etcetera, which violate conscience; Right to Know and See to give a woman a real opportunity to understand what she is doing through viewing an ultrasound of her unborn child; prohibit Alabama insurance companies from paying for elective abortions through group premiums; prohibit prescription of abortifacients over the internet; defining personhood from conception/implantation.

Only one sanctity of life bill passed.  SB10 opts Alabama out of Obamacare for the taxpayer funding of elective abortions.  This bill was a must this year.  If it had not passed, the deadline for opting out would pass before next year’s session and Alabama taxpayers would have been paying for elective abortions. 

Religious Freedom – The immigration issue was and is, perhaps, the most contentious.  SLI is concerned with including any language that would potentially limit religious freedom.  Several of our Educational Updates have addressed this.  Most of our advice was accepted.  The amended law has a reference to foreign alien missionaries that mirrors federal law.  This will help our state law withstand federal court scrutiny on the immigration issue.  The main argument against Alabama having an immigration law is that federal law has preempted the field.  Therefore, states cannot pass conflicting laws.  If a state law is the same as the federal law, then it is enforceable.  While the missionary provision complies with the preemption issue, there remains the potential that it could negatively affect religious freedom.  The language on protecting church and church affiliated organizations was removed.  That provision held the most potential for damage to religious freedom.

Gambling – Only one bill of gambling significance was filed and it was a good bill.  It provided that having ten or more slot machines would be a Class C felony and permitted forfeiture of personal and real property.  Without this law, gamblers have a real opportunity to again have virtually unlimited gambling.  Alabama law enforcement is hobbled in its efforts to make criminal prosecution successful.  This bill did not pass.

American and Alabama Laws for Alabama Courts – This proposed a constitutional amendment to strengthen Alabama’s public policy against the laws of sister states contrary to our own, such as giving full faith and credit to  same-sex relationships legal in other states, and application or use of foreign laws, i.e., European Union, Sharia, etcetera, that would limit our own constitutionally protected rights.  This bill did not pass.

DISCUSSION

            What do we conclude from this?  It cannot be underestimated the importance of SB10.  It is a major victory against Barack Obama’s war on the sanctity of life and on our refusal to have any public policy that favors abortion.  The language of the immigration bill does not materially harm religious freedom. 

            However, we are embarrassed for the Alabama Legislature and the people of Alabama.  This Legislature passed many laws this year on many subjects, including promoting alcohol use.  But, for a state in the Bible Belt with a putative Republican majority, how can it be that it did not pass laws to protect the unborn, the family and our constitutional rights?  While these bills may offend abortionists, gamblers and homosexuals, they promote and protect our traditional heritage.  Something is wrong somewhere.

Yet, there are many good men and women in the Legislature who feel as we do and who did their best on these issues.  It is true there are many impediments, detours and competing efforts in the legislative process.  It is difficult to pass laws.  However, in the end, the scorecard is dreadful and the Legislature must bear the final responsibility.  There are legislators who know they did not do their best or who know they are to blame for these failures.  We hope that by the next legislative session, legislators will reassess their priorities and realize that laws and policies that protect the sanctity of life, religious freedom, and a wholesome family environment are just as important to Alabamians as the economy, education and other needs.

We do not criticize any individual.  We know many legislators, lobbyists and citizens worked hard to support the above legislation.  SLI endeavored to provide sound legal advice on these issues without compromise.  We hope everyone in the process would have that commitment.  We will return next year with hopes of a firm commitment by all of what should and must be done. 

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