2009 Alabama Legislative Update

A law passed that would add an additional judgeship for the Madison County Circuit Court. The Madison County Commission has pledged to fund the position for the fiscal year 2010 at a cost of about $425,000. In the fiscal year 2011, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb will assume the cost in the state courts’ budget.

A bill that strengthens penalties for those who flee from law enforcement officers was also signed into law. This law makes intentionally eluding an officer by any means punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. If a person is harmed or killed during the chase, the crime becomes a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Additionally, those who attempt to elude officers will have their driver license suspended from six months to two years. Another law that passed requires justices on the Alabama Supreme Court and judges on the Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals be licensed lawyers for at least ten years. This law also requires that candidates have at least five years of experience as a licensed lawyer to be a circuit court judge, and at least three years of experience to be a district court judge. Previously, Alabama judges were only required to be licensed lawyers.

With the goal of recruiting new jobs to the state, a law passed that would permit industries other than manufacturing to be eligible for the state’s economic incentives. At present, most of the incentives are limited to manufacturing jobs. A bill that would have provided financial help to the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program (PACT) failed to pass. The bill would have allowed voters to decide whether to make the directors of the Alabama Trust Fund lend $150 million dollars over five years to the PACT program. Another related PACT bill that would have required the legislature to provide enough money each year to ensure the financial health of PACT did not pass. An NRA-supported bill prohibiting business and industry owners from establishing policies or rules restricting or prohibiting employees from storing firearms in vehicles while on business property likewise did not pass.