Legislative Briefs: Sexual Assault Survivor Rights, Yoga, Curbside Voting Bills Win Approval

(Source: Abby Driggers, Alabama Daily News)

Sexual Assault Survivor ‘Bill of Rights’ Goes to Governor

The Senate on Monday gave final passage to House Bill 137 to create a sexual assault survivor “bill of rights” and set a requirement for how long law enforcement must preserve evidence from sexual assault cases.

The bill says victims have the right under state law:

  • To not be prevented from or charged for receiving a medical forensic examination;
  • To have the sexual assault evidence collection kit preserved without charge for at least 20 years or, if the assault occurred while a minor, until age 40;
  • To be informed by law enforcement of test results, such as DNA profile matches, from the examination kit if such information does not comprise or impede an investigation;
  • To receive notification from a law enforcement agency at least 60 days before a sexual assault evidence kit is disposed or destroyed;
  • To be granted preservation of an evidence kit for an additional 20 years if the survivor requests it.

“Sexual assault is a traumatic and life-changing experience, and its survivors often have to deal with interminable delays, unanswered questions, and feelings of being lost in the legal system as their cases are being resolved,” sponsor Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollinger’s Island, said in a written statement. “With passage of this legislation, survivors of assault will be afforded the respect, attention, and timely information that they deserve.”

The bill now goes to the governor.

Yoga Bill Passes Final Vote 

Update: Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law May 20.

The Alabama House agreed with some final changes made in the Senate on a bill that would allow the practice of yoga in public schools.

Rep. Jeremey Gray, D-Opelika, who is the sponsor for House bill 246, said he didn’t like the Senate amendment but didn’t want the bill to die on the last day of the session.

“It really didn’t do it anything to the bill; it just makes it real foolish,” Gray said Monday night.

The final vote was 75-14 with six abstentions. The bill now goes to the governor.

The bill allows yoga in K-12 schools, where it has been banned in the state since 1993, but would limit any use of chanting and mantras, and teaching the greeting “namaste” would be forbidden.

Curbside Voting Ban Goes to Governor

The Alabama Senate on Monday gave final approval to legislation to put into law a ban on curbside voting in the state. The Alabama secretary of state has already disallowed drive-up ballot drop offs.

“It makes it abundantly clear (curbside voting is not allowed),” Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, said on the Senate floor about House Bill 285. “… The goal is to secure ballot custody.”

Democrats argued the state should be expanding voting access and allow elderly and disabled voters to cast ballots without having to enter a precinct.

“This isn’t about ballot security,” Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro said.

He also said the bill isn’t needed because curbside voting isn’t happening in the state now.

“… What you want to do is take away something in the future,” Singleton said.

Roberts argued that nothing is being taken away from voters, He said they can still cast their ballots in person or absentee.

Singleton countered that a tool is being taken away.

The bill passed the Senate 26-6. It now goes to the governor.

Literacy Act Requirement Delay Passes Final Vote

Late into the night of the final day of the legislative session, the House gave final approval to a bill to delay the student holdback provision under the 2019 Literacy Act.

Senate Bill 92 from Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, delays from spring 2022 to spring 2024 the requirement that third-grade students not proficient in reading repeat the grade.

Rep. Barbra Drummond, D-Mobile, sponsored the bill in the House and said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a delay in some students’ education. She said more time is needed before the retention piece of the act goes into effect.

“It’s not fair to our children when they have not gotten schooling for 14 months and to be tested and expected to read on their level,” Drummond said. “Let’s give them a chance to catch up.”

The bill passed with a vote of 68-27 and it now goes to the governor for approval. The bill got bipartisan support, and the Republican-led chamber cut short debate on the bill with a vote of 60-36.

Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, who sponsored the Literacy Act legislation in 2019, voted against the bill, She said lawmakers should wait until data shows that the holdback provision needs to be delayed.

“We’re going to have good data in just a month and then see where we are, see what we need to do. We can make good decisions based on data and how we need to best address the reading issues of students,” Collins said.