MONTGOMERY — Alabama House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) says he's waiting to be sure he has the support before bringing his hotly-debated divisive concepts bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

Earlier this month, House Bill 312 (HB312) by State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) banning the teaching of "divisive concepts" in Alabama schools and universities passed the House committee.

A similar bill was sponsored by Oliver last year. It passed the House but stalled in the Senate committee.

Insider sources at that time told 1819 News the Senate GOP Caucus opted against the bill by a narrow vote of 13-12.

Democratic lawmakers have vigorously opposed the legislation. Since Democrats, although having a minority position in the legislature, can filibuster debate time throughout the legislative process, Ledbetter is reticent to bring such a contentious bill to the floor unless he is assured it will have Senate support.

"We passed out of the House last year," Ledbetter said. "And I've talked to [Oliver], and I've talked to them in the Senate. I mean, there's got to be an appetite for it in the Senate. I feel pretty good about getting it out of the House, but the Senate has got to have an appetite for it."

Ledbetter said he spoke to Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) but had no direct knowledge of the Senate's reaction or enthusiasm for the bill.  

"My thing is, we need to find out what they're going to do before we take it up to make sure that it's going to pass," Ledbetter said. "If it's not going to pass, then it may not be something we take up because it's one of those issues that's going to cost us a day of legislation. And, you know, to kill a number of bills if we can't get it out in the Senate, then we're not doing the body any good or the state."

The bill would prohibit certain public entities from conditioning enrollment or attendance in certain classes or training based on race or color. It would also authorize certain public entities to discipline or terminate employees or contractors who violate the bill's provisions.

The bill has been called a CRT (Critical Race Theory) bill since the legislation defines "divisive concepts" in ways broadly found in works on CRT.

CRT has become a matter of national and state debate in recent years. The proliferation of teachings of equity, racism, oppression, gender inclusiveness and much more that has been determined as "woke" by opponents has invited criticism of the role of state schools in teaching social theories.

Last week, Gov. Kay Ivey announced the swift resignation of Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE) Secretary Barbara Cooper after reviewing a teacher's manual that she says contained a "woke agenda."

Ledbetter did not say if having a recently-verified example of "divisive concepts" being used in Alabama schools would precipitate HB312's passing, but he did say he was broadly sympathetic to protecting the integrity of state school materials.

"I certainly respect the Governor and what she's done. I mean, she's the one that makes cabinet appointments, not us." Ledbetter said. "And she had a specific reason, and I think some of the material she was unpleased with, so she did what she thought was right. And I certainly agree with it, that we need to have literature in our schools that teaches the way it is, not making fiction up."

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