For many, addressing the issue of sexually explicit children's books in Alabama libraries was a significant concern that ultimately went nowhere during the 2024 session. Now, many parents and reform advocates are outraged that instead of taking steps to protect children from potentially harmful material, the state legislature instead prioritized a gambling bill that got lost in political gamesmanship.

The 2024 legislative session concluded with no lack of dissatisfaction on the part of lawmakers and citizens alike. Legislators feuded to the final day over a comprehensive gambling package pushed by House members. The combination of political tactics and gridlock caused by behind-the-scenes negotiations resulted in several pivotal pieces of House legislation failing to receive a Senate vote before the session concluded.

SEE: State Sen. Orr: Gambling push 'sucked all the oxygen out' of passing other legislation

SEE ALSO: House passes ETF supplemental after bashing Senate for killing gambling package – 'This House bows down to the Senate too often'

One of the most anticipated and controversial bills was House Bill 385 (HB 385) by State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), which addressed the statewide controversy surrounding sexually explicit or obscene children's books in Alabama libraries.

The bill attempted to remove the exceptions for public and school libraries from the state’s obscenity laws regulating what materials can be distributed to minors. On April 25, it passed the House by a 72-28 margin. It passed a Senate committee with the promise of several amendments but failed to receive a final vote on the Senate floor.

Mooney told 1819 News that he believed gambling gridlock killed his bill and plenty of others. He also said that the Senate-amended version of the bill has already been pre-filed for the 2025 legislative session.  

However, advocates supporting the legislation are displeased with the gambling gamesmanship and its role in killing a bill on an issue that has gripped the state over the past year.

The library debate has been thrust into public discourse over the past year after residents in libraries across the state have drawn attention to the prevalence of sexually explicit books in the library children’s sections. The issue garnered the attention of legislative leaders, Gov. Kay Ivey and everyone in between.

RELATED: 'Today the people of Alabama won': State library board approves rule changes for sexually explicit library books

Several grassroots organizations have taken up the library book battle, including Moms for Liberty, Local Alabama, Eagle Forum of Alabama, Clean Up Alabama and more.

Emily Jones, chair of the Madison Chapter of Moms for Liberty, told 1819 News that her organization was primed to see HB385 passed but learned at the last minute that the gambling gridlock ultimately killed its chances.

“It is beyond frustrating knowing how much time we as an organization out into that,” Jones said. ‘We had been working with legislators since last year on a lot of these bills. We were getting messages the night before that it was set up; we think we’re in a good place. Then, literally less than 24 hours later, we’re getting text messages saying that everything’s dead. So, it was just extremely frustrating knowing how much time and effort we put into it, our members put into it, for it to completely stall out because of gambling. I mean, what an insult to the parents of our state.”

“From what I can tell, it truly came down to; they wanted to prioritize gambling and trying to negotiate on that instead of pushing multiple bills across the finish line that would have protected parental rights and kids," she added.

Hannah Rees, the executive director of Clean Up Alabama, expressed similar sentiments. Clean Up Alabama was formed out of the controversy in the Prattville library, which was ground zero for the library debate in Alabama.

“It was more of a realization that protecting the children of Alabama was obviously not their priority this year,” Rees said. “They sacrificed our children and we will not be forgetting that anytime soon. We saw how quickly they moved on IVF, when they want something they make it happen. If protecting children and strengthening Alabama families isn’t a top priority for them every year, then it may be time for a change in leadership.”

Since Mooney has already re-filed the bill for the next session, groups across the state are gearing up to push the issue for the next year, partnering to get the bill across the finish line or die trying.

“We started last week on our plans for 2025,” Jones said. “And by we, I mean Moms for Liberty, Clean Up Alabama, Decisions, Choices, Options out of Decatur, Local Alabama, Eagle Forum, and GOP groups; it is everybody you can imagine. We are pissed off that our legislators have done this to us.”

“We are forming a loose coalition of organizations," she continued. "We are strategizing on how to divide certain responsibilities as to who is doing what. But we’re going to have a statewide movement, and we are going to make sure the message is loud and clear going into 2025. If we do not prioritize bills that protect our children and our rights as parents, then 2026 will be a very uncomfortable year for reelection because we will be cleaning house if that’s what it takes."

Rees concluded, “The game plan for this year is to bring awareness to the severe lack of conscience in state leadership, strengthen the grassroots bonds that were formed over the last year, and continue to fight on the local level in every city across Alabama until our children are finally protected in Alabama libraries."

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