Bill to restructure AL parole board clears House after long debate
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Following more than five hours of intense deliberation, Alabama House Bill 380 passes by a wide margin.
HB380 would restructure the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles and codify the current parole guidelines. It was first on the special calendar as the House of Representatives convened Thursday morning. House Democrats argued for nearly an hour over the placement of the bill, setting the stage for a partisan fight.
Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, sponsored the legislation and introduced the bill around 9:30 a.m. She echoed her desire to pass the bill to change the leadership structure of the parole board to a director that would be appointed by the governor who would handle the “business side” of the agency. Currently, the executive director is appointed by the board and the three person board manages the agency and hundreds of officers.
This was the source of great deliberation by a half dozen Democrats who argued against handing more power to the governor.
Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, proposed an amendment to add the nominating committee back to the bill, which had been struck. Those who are familiar with the appointment process say the nominating committee for the board hasn’t been utilized. With or without the committee, the governor has made the appointments to the board which are confirmed by the Senate.
Howard's amendment passed 95-0.
Other amendments were offered and quickly tabled during the lengthy and painstaking debate. A motion was even made by Rep. John Rogers to recess due to storms moving through Montgomery. That also failed.
HB380 ultimately passed 73-27. Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery, abstained.
Attorney General Steve Marshall praised the House vote, reiterating the point for a change in agency leadership.
“After Governor Ivey and I asked the Board of Pardons and Paroles to take corrective action, it became clear that needed changes to Board’s procedures could only take place through legislative action," Marshall stated. “It is telling that the Board has so far not only refused to take full responsibility for its failures, but has stubbornly refused to accept needed structural reforms. The Board has even gone so far as to lobby against legislation to make the Board more accountable to our elected leaders and the public.”
The board has been critical of aspects of the bill and opposed changes to agency leadership.
Members of the group Victims Of Crime And Leniency, or VOCAL, commended the House for taking action.
“It’s a good day for victim," stated Janette Grantham, VOCAL executive director, referencing the bill’s measure that would require the board to seek out crime victims for notifications about their offender.
Despite the level of political grandstanding in the House, some anticipate a bigger fight ahead for this bill in the Senate. Sen. Cam Ward is sponsoring the companion bill which has already cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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