New regulations for abortion clinics passed
Two major pieces of legislation passed the state Senate this week, while the House largely played catch-up as filibusters trailed off.

According to Sen. Jerry Fielding, R-Sylacauga, a bill providing new regulations for abortion clinics was passed Tuesday after a long debate. An amended version was sent to the House, which concurred, and the bill was signed into law by the Gov. Robert Bentley.

“The bill requires that doctors performing abortions be licensed in the state and have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Some of these clinics will fly doctors in from out of state. The bill also creates higher safety standards for clinics,” Fielding said.

Other bills eventually passed on Tuesday extends the ban on unfunded mandates to local school boards, pending a statewide referendum. “That should be a plus,” Fielding said. “We also passed bills regulating cosmetologists and barbers, and changed the name of a (two year) school near Huntsville, which wasn’t that controversial. But there was still some filibustering going on, so we didn’t finish up until about 10:30.”

The major legislation passed Thursday was the gun bill, Fielding said. “It makes some changes relative to handguns, and when you can carry them openly and when you can’t. It allows you to keep a pistol in your car, and when you can keep a gun in your car at work. It has to be locked and you can’t be involved in any criminal activity.”

The bill also provides an appeal to the local district court if a sheriff refuses to issue a concealed carry permit. Fielding said this has never been a problem in Talladega County, but had been in other parts of the state.

The bill also allows business owners who don’t want guns in their businesses to post a sign to that effect. If a person is asked to leave but refuses to do so, the owner may contact law enforcement and have the person arrested for trespassing.

That bill eventually passed by a vote of 27-5.

The Judicial Committee, of which Fielding is a member, sent nine bills out to the full Senate Wednesday. The Health Committee took up four bills, including Medicaid Reform, which will be voted on next week.

“That will change the way Medicaid is delivered,” he said. “It will set up different regions within the state, and I think that will be a positive because you’ll have hospitals, doctors and laypeople carrying out the needs of beneficiaries. They will have a set budget, but you’ll have better supervision and assurance that people who need it will get what they need, and the ones who don’t can be taken off the rolls. Right now, Medicaid is 35 percent of the general fund budget, so we’ve got to get a handle on that.”

The Job Creation and Economic Development Committee voted out three bills, as did the Banking and Insurance Committee. The latter included the Religious Liberty Act, which exempts those who object on religious grounds from providing insurance that covers contraception and abortion.

“There are some courts that have said this violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, while others say it upholds a personal right. The federal courts are sorting that out.”

In the House, “we finally got to pass some bills, the other side finally quit talking,” according to Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga. “They were mostly general bills that we hadn’t been able to get to before. I’ve got one that exempts food pantries with no paid staff from sales tax on food, but that one was so far down the list, we didn’t get to it this week, either. I understand from the folks in Lincoln that if they didn’t have to pay sales tax, they could help feed 70 or 80 more people.”

Johnson said he had talked to some senators regarding the School Safety Act for Talladega and Calhoun counties. He said the bill had no chance in the Senate, meaning there was little point to push it in the House.

As an example of the types of bills voted out of the House this week, Johnson sited a local bill that would allow the state to remove a boat that sank in a channel in Houston County.

The bill posthumously pardoning the Scottsboro Boys also passed the House.

Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, said the biggest debate was over the amended abortion bill, but said she was not at home and didn’t have the list of bills for the week with her.

Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, could not be reached for comment Friday.

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