Coming up dry: Munford representative winless in session marked by alcohol sales debate
by Madasyn Czebiniak
MONTGOMERY — Rep. Steve Hurst still remembers the day someone from the National Foster Parent Association brought a tiny blue doll to his office. It looked like a little boy. A letter was wrapped around its neck. It represented an infant boy who had been molested.

“That letter haunted me and it still haunts me,” he said.

For years Hurst has fought to pass House Bill 691, which proposes the surgical castration of sex offenders. Every year it keeps getting shot down.

“Something needs to happen. We need to take a stronger stand,” he said.

The sex offender bill is one of five Hurst proposed this year. With one day left in the session, none has passed.

Hurst’s bills range from stopping competitive bidding laws in Talladega public schools to taxing heavy vehicles to use the roads.

His biggest battle this year centered on a bill someone else introduced. Hurst opposed the now-passed Anniston Ecotourism Beverage bill, which now allows Sunday alcohol sales in the city. His main grievance with the bill was the wording, he said. Hurst believes that, as worded, the law would allow the city to approve the carrying of open containers of alcohol in town.

“I don't think it was their intent to have people walking around in Anniston just holding a beer,” he said, and refused to approve the bill with that in mind.

“I hope the officials of Anniston will keep an eye on the entertainment districts and any other areas that allow all-premise alcohol,” he said. "I would hate to think Sunday sales would be the lifeblood to keep Anniston alive.”

Some of Hurst’s constituents wish Hurst hadn’t been so opposed to the Sunday sales bill. Oxford resident Jimmy Pettus said Oxford would benefit more from Sunday alcohol sales than Anniston because of its location right off Interstate 20.

“If you’re going to drink what’s the difference whether you do it Sunday or Monday? I don’t drink but if other people want to that’s their business. We’re the last people on Earth to catch up with stuff like that,” he said.

Vance Crook works at Garfrerick's Cafe in Oxford. In the midst of getting a glass of wine for a customer, Crook said he also supports Sunday alcohol sales and would like to eventually see them in Oxford.

“I think it would increase local business. There’s people coming from out of town who are shocked that a nice place like isn’t allowed to serve alcohol. Even bars and pubs on Superbowl Sunday,” he said.

Still, Hurst’s proposal on castrating sex offenders seems to have strong support among his constituents. Civil liberties groups opposed the bill when he introduced it last year, but in interviews earlier this month, several people in Hurst’s district said they supported the idea.

Oxford resident Amber Byrdsong said the biggest problem with the proposal was that it didn’t include an equivalent punishment for female sex offenders.

"They're both just as sick. Why not do both?" she said.

Asked last week about his plans for the rest of the session, Hurst said last week that it was already too late to propose new bills. He said he’d be listening for the public’s opinion on the bills that remain.

“Just because we're elected, we don't have all the answers,” he said.

“We have to listen to the public and maybe they can help.”
© 2013