Alabama Legislature

AI in Crime Fighting, Wine Shipments, Memorial Preservation, Other Topics Discussed in the Legislature Wednesday

The House Judiciary Committee met Feb. 10, 2021. (Photo by Caroline Beck)

MONTGOMERY — Here’s what happened in the State House on Thursday.

Artificial Intelligence

Senate Bill 113 was approved in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Arthur Orr’s bill would put limits on how law enforcement agencies can use artificial intelligence and facial recognition to make arrests. Other factors or evidence must be used, as well.

Orr, R-Decatur, said that as artificial intelligence uses expand, their needs to be assurances that people aren’t wrongly arrested.

Committee member Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, praised the bill.

“This goes right to the letter of profiling,” he said.

Orr told the committee that as the bill advances, he is open to amendments.

“I am committed to the principle that we do not need to be arresting people simply on AI,” Orr said.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

The same committee also advanced Orr’s Senate Bill 210, which would change the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws.

The bill would end civil forfeiture for criminal drug offenses and instead make the forfeiture process part of the criminal court.

Orr has pushed for asset forfeiture changes for several years, including a law that requires more reporting by law enforcement.

On Wednesday he said the law was designed to go after big drug dealers but is instead catching too many “little fish,” some never convicted of a crime, who have to pay civil court costs to get their property back.

Law enforcement groups have opposed previous bills.

Direct Wine Shipment

Senate Bill 138 to allow direct shipment of wine to Alabamians’ homes cleared the Senate Tourism Committee Wednesday, but sponsor Sen. Jabo Waggoner promised it wouldn’t get a floor vote until he’d talked to legislators with similar legislation, including Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, who has championed the wine delivery bill for multiple sessions. Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, also has a direct shipment bill that’s been assigned to the same committee but hasn’t been considered yet. Waggoner promised to work with Singleton on the legislation.

Memorial Preservation

A bill to repeal the 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act was moved to a subcommittee during the House Judiciary Committee meeting on Wednesday.

House Bill 8 from Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, would allow local communities to remove unwanted statues, including Confederate statues, and place them at the Confederate Memorial Park or another public site.

“What we are seeing across the state is that municipalities do not have the flexibility to make the decision for themselves with regards to historical monuments, markers or artifacts within their jurisdiction,” Givan told committee members.

Givan offered an amendment that would give more freedom to where monuments could be sent, rather than just leaving it up to the Alabama Department of Archives. That amendment did not pass on a tie vote. Reps. Wadsworth, Allen, Farley, Holmes and Pettus voted against the amendment.

The 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act prohibits relocating, removing, altering or renaming public buildings, streets and memorials that have been standing for more than 40 years. The legislation doesn’t specifically mention Confederate monuments, but it was enacted as some Southern states and cities began removing monuments and emblems of the Confederacy.

Breaking the law can lead to a one-time $25,000 fine. Several municipalities have chosen to remove Confederate monuments in the last year, despite the law and fines.

Emergency Appropriations

House Bill 231, from Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, cleared the Senate General Fund committee. It makes an emergency appropriation of $263.2 million in federal funds from the Alabama Emergency Rental Assistance Fund to the Department of Finance. Committee chairman Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, said the money would help renters impacted by COVID-19 pay for their leases.

“It’s a matter of trying to keep people in their homes,” Albritton said.

The money is for the current budget year, but some could be rolled over to 2022.