A proposed constitutional amendment to remove the Alabama Governor's unilateral authority to call the state legislature into a special session has been filed in the House of Representatives.

Under current law, the Alabama Legislature must convene yearly to conduct the people's business. In an emergency or time-sensitive issue requiring legislative action, the governor has the sole authority to call a "special session," wherein lawmakers can conduct only specific business for a limited number of calendar days.

House Bill 277 (HB277), sponsored by State Rep. Ben Harrison (R-Elkmont), would amend the current Constitutional requirement and allow the legislature to call itself into session by majority vote, removing the governor from the decision altogether.

Members of the legislature would request the convening of a special session with the Secretary of State (SOS). The SOS would then be required to poll all members of the legislature. If a majority of members of both houses vote in the affirmative, the SOS will notify the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who would be required to issue a joint proclamation calling the legislature into a special session.

The bill would also limit special sessions to 12 legislative days and 30 calendar days.

Concern for the Governor's sole authority to call a special session arose in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Kay Ivey and the State Health Officer Scott Harris imposed certain restrictions on businesses, churches and public properties that prohibited specific activities. In early 2020, "non-essential" businesses were closed, as were beaches and other public gathering places. In April 2020, Ivey issued a statewide "stay-at-home" order, requiring all non-essential persons to stay home unless they procured essential supplies.

During that time, several lawmakers desired to address certain issues through the legislative process but were prohibited due to the current law.

HB277 is assigned to the House State Government Committee, where it awaits a vote before going to the House floor for a vote.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email craig.monger@1819news.com.

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