Category: Government

Bill Would Stop Seizure of Assets Without Criminal Conviction; Law Enforcement Opposed

Legislation pending in the Alabama Senate would prohibit law enforcement agencies from seizing the assets of people who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

“I think that’s how the public assumes it works — before the government takes people’s stuff, there has to be a conviction or a plea,” said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

But that’s not always the case under Alabama’s civil asset forfeiture law. Currently, police can seize property if they have reason to believe it was criminally gained. Even if there’s no conviction, law enforcement can keep the property with a civil court order. The property owner must prove his or her property wasn’t part of a crime — at his or her own expense.

“The law was originally established to go after the ill-gotten gains of drug kingpins and those who were profiting from their criminal activities,” Orr said. “But it’s being used for low-level crimes for defendants who can’t afford a lawyer on the civil side (to get their property returned).” Read more.

Protective Life Buys Naming Rights to New Downtown Birmingham Stadium

As a Diana Ross classic blared across the speakers in the grassy area in front of Birmingham’s Uptown District, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said he never thought the mountain was too high to achieve the goal of a new stadium downtown.

“At a certain point, no mountain is high enough if you’ve got enough people pushing and pulling with you at the same time, in the same direction,” Woodfin said after Protective Life was announced as the title sponsor of the stadium, the construction of which could begin this summer.

The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and Protective Life Corporation announced today a 15-year agreement for the naming rights sponsorship of Birmingham’s new multi-use stadium, which now will be called Protective Stadium.

“Each step makes it more real, more tangible,” Woodfin said. “This is just another step within the process as we continue to move this project forward.”

Protective committed to pay $1 million per year for 15 years for naming rights at the stadium. The insurance company joins the BJCC Authority, city of Birmingham, Jefferson County, UAB and other corporate partners in funding the new stadium. Read more.

PARCA Survey Says Alabamians Want Fewer Non-Violent Criminals in Prison, More Money for Education

The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama in a new survey said Alabamians favor supervising non-violent criminals in the community and giving them more rehabilitation opportunities rather than sending them to prison.

In the ”Public Opinion Survey: 2019 Edition,” released Wednesday, a slight majority of residents surveyed, 58 percent, oppose building new prisons. Almost that many, 54 percent, thought only violent criminals should be held in the state’s prisons.

As in previous PARCA surveys, Alabamians ranked education as the most important service the state provides, followed by health care, public safety and highways. Read more.

Bills to Prohibit Cities From Banning Plastic Bags Advance

MONTGOMERY — Some state lawmakers want to stop local governments from banning plastic bags, even though no Alabama cities have considered such action as of yet.

Bills sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, would prohibit counties or municipalities from enacting any ban or tax on bags or other similar single-use items.

Senate Bill 244 and House Bill 346 were approved in committees this week and now move to the Senate and House.

“We’re just trying to provide a uniformity of commerce for the state and protect Alabama businesses and consumers so they are not charged for that,” Livingston said. Read more.

Literacy Bill Focuses on Early Reading, Holding Back Third-Graders With Poor Skills

Updated — Alabama public school third-graders who don’t have sufficient reading skills will not move on to fourth grade under proposed legislation that will dedicate more time, training and financial resources to early elementary literacy.

“If a child can’t read by third grade, their chances for retention later go up, their chances of not graduating go up,” Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, told Alabama Daily News on Monday. She plans to file legislation called the Alabama Literacy Act this week. Read more.

Congressional Votes for the Week Ending April 5

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House last week voted to approve a five-year extension of the Violence Against Women Act, including expansion of some of its provisions to help victims fleeing violent domestic situations and protect women in violent situations.
Alabama’s representatives voted along party lines, with Rep. Terry Sewell voting in favor of the extension and the state’s other representatives voting against it.

Read how area members of Congress voted on that and other measures during the legislative week ending April 5. Read more.

GOP Lawmakers Say Abortion Ban Bill Worth Potential Fight

MONTGOMERY — Legislation to criminalize the performance of almost all abortions in Alabama goes further than many of the more than two dozen anti-abortion bills proposed in other conservative states this year.

The heavy restrictions in the bill are exactly why more than 70 GOP lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors, hoping the U.S. Supreme Court, now with five Republican-appointed justices, will limit constitutional protections on abortions. Several lawmakers told Alabama Daily News the legislation would be worth a costly legal fight when pro-choice groups challenge it. Read more.