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3/3/2014 - March 2014 SLI Educational Update - 2014 Regular Session Alabama Legislature - Interim Report



 To:                  SLI Supporters                                  

Date:               March 2014  

 From:              A. Eric Johnston

 Re:                  2014 Regular Session Alabama Legislature – Interim Report

             By the time you receive this Educational Update the legislative session will be about two-thirds over.  It is moving at an extraordinarily rapid rate this year.  Following are some of the more important bills with which SLI has been concerned.

 Regulation of Nonpublic Schools

             You will recall our September 2013 Educational Update which explained that the Alabama Department of Education (“DOE”) intended to regulate church schools, as well as other nonpublic schools.  After we vigorously responded to their June and July threats, DOE backed off and said they would use the legislative route.  As a result, there was much legislative drafting and discussion.  As you might expect from the legislative process, there resulted a more or less hodgepodge of suggested bills.  At this point, three have been filed.

             First, SB38 (Sen. Dick Brewbaker) amends existing law and states that DOE had no authority to regulate any type of nonpublic school, whether church, private secular, parochial, home, or otherwise.  This bill did not go far enough in protecting students in nonpublic schools when it comes to things like transferring from a nonpublic school to a public school, and particularly, being able to go to a postsecondary college or university. 

             DOE testified at one House Education Policy Committee hearing that the nonpublic schools had rebuffed its attempts to resolve the issues.  As with their summer activity, this was entirely deceitful.  As a result, we took what DOE wanted, added a few paragraphs, and have introduced bills in both the House and the Senate.  SB420 (Sen. Dick Brewbaker) and HB546 (Rep. Ed Henry) are pending in the respective chambers.  With the combination of the three bills, we believe all the protection of nonpublic schools, including home schools, as well as the students of those schools, will be protected from regulation by the state. 

 Sanctity of Life Bills

             In last month’s Educational Update we reported only the Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act (HB31 – Rep. McClurkin) had been filed and was on a fast track.  After the session started, the House rousted itself and realized there was only the one pro-life bill.  With our assistance, four additional bills have been filed:

 HB489 (Rep. Ed Henry) – This bill amends the Woman’s Right to Know Act to require materials be given to a woman considering abortion at least 48 hours (rather than 24) before the abortion will be performed.

HB490 (Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin) – The Fetal Heartbeat Act requires the abortionist to determine a heartbeat and if one, the abortion cannot be performed.  This significantly limits the time after which an abortion can be done.

 HB493 (Rep. Kurt Wallace) – The Prenatal Hospice Information Act requires the Alabama Department of Public Health to prepare materials to be given to women who may consider having an abortion because they have a child with a lethal fetal anomaly, meaning the child would die before or shortly after birth.  Resources are provided to help families through this difficult time.

 HB494 (Rep. Mike Jones) – This is an amendment to the outdated and ineffective Alabama Parental Consent Law.  It requires official identification of parents and daughter before a minor abortion can be performed and changes the rules by which courts are able to approve abortions through the judicial bypass procedure, that is, when the minor girl would go to the court rather than her parents for permission to get an abortion. 

 Other Legislation

 SB266 (Sen. Del Marsh) – This bill would regulate church and ministry drug recovery programs by city or county clerks.  In 2011, state law was amended to keep the Department of Mental Health from regulating these ministries.  It would not be appropriate for a city clerk to have that authority.  The sponsor agreed this bill will not be moved. 

 SB18 (Sen. Gerald Allen) and HB15 (Rep. April Weaver) – This is a holiday greeting bill allows public schools, students and teachers to express holiday greetings to each other, have plays or concerts of Christmas music, and otherwise have displays of symbols, all appropriate to the season. 

             These are just a few of the bills with which we have assisted.  If you know of others or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.  As a citizen, your participation in the legislative process is important.  Contact your Senator and Representative and let him or her know your opinion.  Their names can be found at www.legislature.state.al.us.

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