For a detailed breakdown of our priority bills this session, visit our 'Following the 2021 Alabama Legislative Session' page.
Now that the 2021 regular session of the Alabama Legislature concluded on May 17, 2021, we’ll take a look back at the important advancements and disappointing setbacks for civil rights and civil liberties in Alabama.
As we have for the past few years, the ACLU of Alabama focused on ensuring clear and consistent information about legislation and its impact for both legislators and Alabamians across the state, particularly as we all adapted to the COVID-19 restrictions at the State House.
On the positive side, we saw movement towards repealing the Habitual Felony Offender Act, a lead priority in the ACLU of Alabama’s Campaign for Smart Justice platform, which would restore discretion back to judges and address the unconstitutional undercrowding in state prisons due to extreme over-sentencing requirements. While the bill HB 107, sponsored by Rep. Chris England, ultimately ran out of time in the House, getting this bill filed and out of the House Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support is significant progress that we can build on either next year or during a possible special session later this year.
In the final hours of the session, the Legislature also passed HB 106, which will expand accountability and oversight of the Alabama Department of Corrections by the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee. Considering the well-documented problems with ADOC and the facilities they operate, more oversight is a step in the right direction, but there is certainly more work to be done to truly address the hole that Alabama has dug with its prison system.
Meanwhile, we are always on the defensive when it comes to legislative attacks on our civil rights, whether abortion access, trans rights, voting restrictions, or free speech. This year was no different, with bills filed to ban healthcare access for trans youth, ban curbside voting, attack protester rights, and more.
While the bills to ban curbside voting and to ban transgender youth from competing in student athletics both passed and were signed by Governor Ivey, we are relieved to report that HB 1/SB 10, the companion bills that would have criminalized healthcare for trans youth, died as the House adjourned before taking a vote. As we embarked on this session, we knew we would have to defend the rights of trans youth and their families, as we had already seen the “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act” filed in 2020, and know that it will likely reappear next year, too.
However, in concert with our coalition partners, we elevated opportunities for people in Alabama and across the country to express their opposition through digital and in-person actions, and together, in a push that came down to the final hours of session, we succeeded in defeating this bill.
Now, as we look ahead to the rest of 2021 and rumors of special sessions, we will continue to work with lawmakers, partner organizations, community leaders, and other advocates like yourself who want to ensure we are advancing and defending civil rights and civil liberties for all Alabamians.
Stay tuned for more opportunities from us to get involved during the off season, and in the meantime, keep watching and holding your elected officials accountable to pursue policies that are in the best interest of ALL.