Some Republican lawmakers urge governor to call special session

Updated: Aug. 20, 2020 at 9:18 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Georgia and Tennessee recently passed legislation to curb COVID-19-related lawsuits against businesses in certain situations. Some Republican lawmakers want Alabama to do the same.

“Unfortunately, in Alabama we sit stagnant,” said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

Orr wants to pass his legislation aimed at protecting businesses, churches, schools and some health care facilities from civil lawsuits related to COVID-19 if they follow state and federal safety guidelines.

“The number one driver is the unknown and the uncertainty of the legal world or what will happen or transpire out there in the months and years ahead related to COVID-related claims,” Orr said.

The bill would reinforce Gov. Kay Ivey’s order, which also aimed to curb lawsuits surrounding the pandemic.

But Orr said he has been advised by numerous attorneys that Alabama law does not give the governor the authority to do that.

Orr’s bill did not pass during the 2020 regular legislative session.

Another bill that did not pass during that session was one to prohibit Alabama from taxing the federal stimulus checks and the forgivable PPP loans to businesses. Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Daphne, is the sponsor.

“The purpose of the stimulus money from the feds was really to put money in people’s pockets to keep our economy going,” Elliott said. “We ought to keep that money in people’s pockets.”

For example, Elliott said someone who received a $1,200 stimulus payment would pay the state $60 in taxes.

A spokesperson for the governor said the following:

“The governor is working to ensure that any of the relief money – whether in the form of a grant, loan or reimbursement – is providing the people of Alabama the much-needed assistance during these challenging times. We continue to explore and look at the best ways to provide this relief, and as the governor has done throughout this process, we will remain transparent and provide updates as needed. We will also continue monitoring any federal guidance as we work toward a solution.”

Democratic Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, said unless it were a dire situation, she does not want lawmakers to meet for a special session. Figures is concerned about the safety of lawmakers and staff within Statehouse walls.

The governor has the authority to call a special session.

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