This one is different. Here’s why:
On January 12, I discovered that a public hearing on HB64 was set for January 15 during the first meeting of the Judiciary Committee. I reported it on January 13 here.
On January 14, around 1 p.m., I searched through Committee meetings for the House and Senate for notice of more public hearings. I noticed that the “(Public Hearing)” designation was no longer beside HB64. Confused, I attempted to discern whether I had misreported that there was ever a public hearing called or if something else had happened.
SIDEBAR: In early December, a local school district’s salary schedule’s supplement amounts were removed from the salary schedule I had only days earlier viewed, causing me tremendous confusion. Fortunately, I had saved a copy of that salary schedule before school officials removed the supplement amounts. Save a copy of everything you find online if you ever want to see it again.
Fortunately, I was able to determine that I had reported the details of the hearing correctly, portrayed in the photo below, from a printout dated January 14, 2014, 10:28 a.m.
At 1:57 p.m. on the same day, the designation was gone, depicted below.
What happened? The folks who called for the public hearing were able to get their concerns addressed, and a substitute bill was drafted and submitted to the Judiciary Committee. Apparently, those who call for the hearing can withdraw their request (after their concerns are addressed in a private room somewhere behind closed doors), and no one is required to notify the public that the hearing was canceled.
I contacted Representative Mike Jones’ office (he sponsored the bill) and asked for him to return my call to discuss the bill. He did not return my call.
I contacted the Alabama Association for Justice (formerly the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association) and asked to speak with someone about the concerns they had with the original bill, how those concerns were resolved, and why they withdrew their request for a public hearing. No one returned my call.
I was given information that a committee would not vote on a bill it had not seen until the day of the committee meeting. I shared what I learned with others who had planned to attend the public hearing. The plans they had to attend the committee meeting and participate in the hearing were canceled.
With the substitute not online, I trusted that the Committee would not vote on it without the public being given an opportunity to view it prior to the vote. Particularly given what happened with the Alabama Accountability Act last year.
I was wrong. The bill was brought up for discussion and received a favorable report from the House Judiciary Committee.
This post is not about the bill itself. It is about the process by which it was handled.
Yes, I will screenshot every public hearing notation from here on out.
Here is the original bill as introduced.
Here is the substitute that was posted at some point after 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 15. (The Committee meeting started at 1:45 p.m.)
Here is the amendment that was added to the bill.
The Committee gave the bill a favorable report on a voice vote.
The bill has been placed on the House calendar for Thursday, January 16.
About the Bill
Here is some background on immunity for school boards and employees. It outlines the case law that is currently being applied in lawsuits currently. Case law is used in the absence of statutory law. This bill will make case law into statutory law.
Having just found the new language in the substitute, it will take a couple of days to cut-and-paste the substitute and the amendment together and then determine what changed from the bill that was introduced and the bill that the House Judiciary Committee passed.
Did I mention that the public never had an opportunity to view the substitute online prior to its consideration by the Committee? Worrisome enough that the public doesn’t see amendments, but the full text of a bill under consideration by a legislative committee should at least be viewable online prior to consideration by a committee, shouldn’t it?
- The ALISON web site does not display accurate information.
- Don’t count on attending a Public Hearing unless you have called it yourself.
- Backroom negotiations are still happening in the Alabama legislature.
- Don’t depend on people to call you back.
After the bill sails through the House, it will be assigned to a Senate committee. I will attend that Senate committee hearing. If I can find out when it is.
NOTE: The picture accompanying this post is a sail, not a shark’s fin. Just wanted to be clear.