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8/1/2006 - August 2006 Educational Update - Final Report of the 2006 General Session of the Alabama Legislature

AN EDUCATIONAL UPDATE FROM THE SOUTHEAST LAW INSTITUTE™, INC. To: SLI Supporters Date: August 2006 From: A. Eric Johnston Re: Final Report of the 2006 General Session of the Alabama Legislature This Update explains what happened to bills related to the family, religion and sanctity of life during the 2006 General Session of the Alabama Legislature. Remember, all bills do not pass or fail based on their on merit. There are many special interests competing on many bills. Also, it is significant to remember this was an election year and that always changes the dynamic.* The Brody Act (HB19 – Collier & Byrne) (Passed): This bill changed the criminal law definition of a “person” to include an unborn child at any stage of development, regardless of viability. Therefore, if an assault or homicide is committed against an unborn child, it will be a crime under Alabama law. For more information see our May 2006 Educational Update. Constitutional Amendment Banning Abortion (SB503 – Erwin) (Failed): This was a proposed constitutional amendment to ban abortion. While it is very badly needed, it is a very difficult measure to pass and protect. For more information see our April 2006 Educational Update. Healthcare Conscience Bill (HB609 – McClurkin) (Failed): This bill would have provided protection to physicians, nurses, etcetera, and institutions who do not wish to participate in providing abortion or other measures that violate their religious, moral or ethical beliefs. Academic Freedom Act (SB45 – Mitchell) (Failed): This bill continues to be introduced with the support of Dr. Don McDonald, a college professor who is very concerned about protecting the conscience and speech rights of teachers and students in Alabama public schools concerning the teaching or believing of alternative theories in science, including intellectual design. A great deal of progress was made this year on the bill and some significant education and special interests came to agreement with its wording. Homeschoolers Participation in Extracurricular Activities (HB20 – Galliher & SB312 – Erwin) (Failed): In many states homeschoolers are allowed to participate in certain extracurricular activities in public schools, viz., sports, band, etcetera. This bill would have established those rights in Alabama. Athletic Events School Tax (HB564 – Carothers & Poole) (Passed): Last year it was discovered that many nonpublic schools, particularly church schools, were paying taxes on admission fees to athletic events, whereas public schools were not paying this tax. In its first year of introduction, this bill passed. This is due in large part to the efforts of Robin Mears of the Alabama Christian Education Association whose association represents most of the church schools in the state of Alabama. Not only did this change in the law remove the tax from church schools, it also removed taxes on certain public school events which had inadvertently been left out of the earlier exemption. Bible Teaching Bill (HB58 – Guin) (Failed): A number of bills were introduced this year to permit the teaching of Bible as elective courses in public schools. The most significant of these was HB58 supporting the teaching of a particular text, The Bible and Its Influence, which is supported by a nationwide effort known as The Bible Literacy Project. The book had many objectionable features and deviated from the lawful teaching of Bible as literature, history, or in other permitted ways. For more information see our February 2006 Educational Update. Hate Crimes Amendment (HB57 – Holmes) (Failed): This is the perennial bill filed by Representative Alvin Holmes trying to amend Alabama’s Hate Crimes Law to include sexual orientation. If this bill passed, it would be the first time the state of Alabama’s public policy recognized homosexuality as being protected by law. Constitutional Gambling Amendment (SB441 – Marsh & HB586 – McDaniel) (Failed): The January Jefferson County Circuit Court decision finding the Birmingham Race Course sweepstakes was not gambling spurred the resurrection and updating of proposed legislation that would amend the Alabama Constitution to clarify what gambling is and prohibit all forms. This would have included not only sweepstakes, but video poker, video bingo, and other forms of gambling that were not strictly limited and charitable in nature. The bills were assigned to the Tourism Committee where they were never heard. *Headings above denote primary bill numbers and principal sponsors and whether a bill passed or failed.

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