Alabama Legislature

House and Senate Resume Legislative Session in Slo-Mo

Alabama State House (Source: Alabama Daily News)

MONTGOMERY — On their first day back in session after spring break, lawmakers in the House and Senate slowed down legislative action to draw out debate and call attention to lack of movement of bills.

In the Senate, Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, spent much of Tuesday afternoon in a quasi-filibuster, asking questions and taking up time on several bills.

Chambliss’ Senate Bill 261, filed in February, would put more regulations on design professionals, including architects. It was approved in the Senate Judiciary Committee the same month but hasn’t gotten a Senate vote. Chambliss said someone is blocking his bill.

“If they would just come tell me what the objection is, maybe we could work that out,” Chambliss said on the Senate floor.

Sen. Tom Butler, R-Huntsville, similarly said his Senate Bill 227 regulating pharmacy benefit managers hasn’t gotten a fair debate or vote in the Banking and Insurance Committee.

In the House, action was similarly slow, but bills were moving.

House Bill 94 from Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Mathews, passed the House unanimously on Tuesday. It aims to include “wildland” firefighters to be eligible for disability or death benefits.

The bill also specifies that volunteer firefighters who die of cardiac arrest, cerebrovascular accident or pulmonary edema within 24 hours of performing their duties shall be presumed to have died in the performance of their duties.

The bill would apply to those who died after Jan. 1, 2019.

Ingram said the need to make the bill apply retroactively was because the bill was originally introduced in 2019 and then in 2020 but died when the COVID-19 pandemic ended the session. Ingram said that, since 2019, two firefighters have died whose families would be covered under the bill.

The bill passed unanimously with a final vote of 96-0.

Raising Vaping Age to 21 

The House passed a bill that would raise the age of when someone can purchase a vaping product from 19 to 21.

Bill sponsor Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, said the bill does not change the age of purchasing other tobacco products in the state.

“It’s not to penalize those 21 or younger who want to vape, but it has been proved scientifically that these vape products are not good for our young people,” Drummond said. “This is a health bill.”

The bill would also prohibit certain advertisements or promotions of vaping products within certain areas and requires state vaping manufacturers to comply with the federal directory listing of manufacturers that will go into effect in September 2021.

Rep. James Hanes, R-Bryant, brought an amendment that would allow those in the military who are 21 and younger to purchase vape products.

“If people are … old enough to fight for this country, then when they come home, I think they ought to be able to vape if they want to,” Hanes said.

The amendment eventually failed with a vote of 34-50.

The federal government already passed a law in 2019 that requires a person to be 21 to buy any tobacco products.

The bill passed with a final vote of 74-18.