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6/2/2014 - June 2014 SLI Educational Update - Report on the 2014 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature



 To:                  SLI Supporters                                  

Date:               June 2014  

 From:              A. Eric Johnston

 Re:                  Report on the 2014 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature

 Religious liberty and sanctity of life had mixed results, but good overall, in this year’s legislative regular session.  This report is not comprehensive.  Many bills are always filed which do not pass.  The purpose of this update is not to give the detailed analysis of the bills.  We expect to provide a more detailed analysis on the nonpublic school bill and the amendment to the Parental Consent Law in later updates.  If you have questions about any of these or others that have not been listed here, please contact us.  SLI was privileged to provide drafting, legal analysis and advice to the various groups and elected officials. 


 SB38 (Brewbaker) – Following the events of last spring and summer when the State Department of Education (“DOE”) began to threaten nonpublic schools, including church schools, we began legal action to halt those efforts, while recognizing proactive efforts would be necessary.  We accomplished most of what was necessary.  There were many groups lobbying both for and against the legislation.  SB38’s primary points are that it recognizes the constitutional right of the parent to choose public or nonpublic education and exempts all nonpublic school regulation.  All nonpublic schools must report attendance and require criminal background checks.  Home schools are now recognized by law, but they must operate as part of an organized nonpublic private or church school.  Students who graduate from any nonpublic school may not be denied admittance to any public two or four year institution, school teachers may retain their DOE accreditation, although they teach in nonpublic schools, and any nonpublic school that participates in the Alabama High School Athletic Association must comply with its requirements.  This bill was signed into law by Governor Bentley on April 2, 2014.  It will be in effect for the 2014-15 school year.

 HB546 (Henry)/SB420 (Brewbaker) – This bill would have addressed some loopholes in SB38, viz., permit graduates from unaccredited schools to attend the Alabama Fire College or any of the police academies, solve criminal background check problems faced by nonpublic schools, solve nonpublic to public school student transfer problems, and give the opportunity for disabled children to receive federal assistance.  This bill did not pass.  While SB38 deals with nonpublic education, as such, it does not deal with some of the collateral problems faced by nonpublic students.

 SB266 (Marsh) – In 2011, drug and alcohol Christian recovery programs were exempted from regulation by the State Department of Mental Health.  This bill would have given city and county clerks the authority to issue licenses.  It would have been unconstitutional and undone the 2011 law.  The bill was withdrawn and did not pass.

 SB18 (Allen)/HB15 (Weaver) – The Christmas holidays are a difficult time in public schools for students and teachers to celebrate the holidays.  This bill would have restored the free exercise of speech and religion rights of students and teachers to exchange Christmas greetings, have concerts, displays, etcetera.  The bill did not pass.


             SB494 (Jones, M.) – This bill amended the Parental Consent for a Minor’s Abortion.  Since 1987, there have been many changes in the law and the passage of time revealed some weaknesses in the statute.  It does two main things.  First, it requires better information to determine that a person is actually the parent of the minor girl.  Second, federal law requires a judicial bypass, that is, for a judge to give consent rather than a parent, if the girl does not want her parents involved.  It changes the rules of evidence for Juvenile Court judges to give them more ability to make an informed judgment and requires the local district attorney to participate in the process to be sure the state’s interest in the protection of life is observed.  This bill passed and was signed into law by Governor Bentley.

             HB489 (Henry) – This bill amended the Woman’s Right to Know Act.  The prior law required a woman to be given informational materials about abortion at least 24 hours prior to the performance of the abortion.  This bill increased the time to 48 hours.  The bill was signed by Governor Bentley.

             HB31 (Nordgren) – The Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act has been introduced many times and has never passed.  It did not pass again this year.  It would have provided Alabama healthcare providers protection against job discrimination for refusing to do an abortion, sterilization, human cloning, or embryonic stem cell research.

             HB493 (Wallace) – The Prenatal Hospice Bill would have required a physician to give a woman who had an unborn dead or dying child information about support during the difficult process.  The bill did not pass.

             HB490 (McClurkin) – The Fetal Heartbeat Act would have prohibited a physician from doing an abortion when he is able to hear a heartbeat.  This might be as early as six weeks.  It would have created a new approach to when abortions may be done.  The bill did not pass. 

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