Last week, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a Senate bill to abolish state-funded diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, much to the displeasure of Democrat lawmakers.

Senate Bill 129 (SB129) by State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) would prohibit public entities from "promoting, endorsing, or requiring affirmation of certain divisive concepts relating to race, sex, or religion." 

The legislation would ban certain public entities from conditioning enrollment or attendance in certain classes or training based on race or color. However, it would allow those public entities to discipline or terminate employees or contractors who violate the act while allowing for some circumstances regarding accreditation, academic instruction, student groups and other related scenarios.

The bill drew fierce backlash from Democrats in both bodies. In the House, the debate dragged on until members finally voted to end the discussion on the legislation and swiftly go to a vote.

After passing, members of the House Democratic Caucus addressed the media to recap what House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) called “a day from hell.”

"As you know, today, the state of Alabama committed a sin," Daniels said. "By limiting its restrictions to a list of ideas designated as offenses, the act targets speech based upon the content. The state of Alabaman today has really taken us backward. We are in a place where we want people to enjoy diversity, equity and inclusion in our state. We want to attract people to the state of Alabama to live, work and play. But today is another example that we are trying to continue to divide our state."

"I am hopeful that organizations start to file a lawsuit. Even if we have to file a lawsuit about this particular issue, we will. But we hope that other organizations pay close attention to this and start the process of filing a lawsuit," he added.

Several House Democrats pointed to the perceived negative economic impact removing DEI programs would have in the state, specifically in universities and college sports programs.

“We know that we are in Alabama where we thrive on sports,” said State Rep. Barbara Drummond (D-Mobile). “And these young people, they are inheriting this. They are going to look at this and it’s going to be counterproductive to Alabama, not only for athletics, but it will also be counterproductive when it comes to economic development.”

Daniels went as far as to say that the bill would not have happened had Nick Saban not retired as the head coach at the University of Alabama.  

When asked if any House members had heard from the NCAA regarding concerns with the bill or its effect, Daniels responded, “They’re probably doing their due diligence, trying to figure out a way to deal with this. If Nick Saban were still coaching, this bill would have never seen the light of day.”

State Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskeegee) announced that a state ban on DEI could cause the loss of critical federal dollars for schools in her district and the state.

“There are so many programs that we have to utilize in our district that are federal programs or are designated for certain sectors of people that, if we lose those programs, we can close our schools because we live on federal dollars,” Warren said. “I mean, the state dollars are good, but when you look at Title I [and] Title III, those specific programs are the ones that, number one keep us running; number two, are correcting the deficits of our students. And without those programs, we are not going to be able to survive.”

"When enrollment starts to get impacted by your flagship institutions, then that's going to send a separate message," Daniels continued. "When we're not able to recruit families into the state of Alabama to live and to start their families or to even bring their families here, then we're going to look at making changes. It's just like the IVF issue. We got that done quickly because of the outrage and because of the economic side of it. It wasn't because of the issue itself; it was because of the economic impact. And so, economics is the only thing that they know."

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