Bill would allow Alabama businesses to stay open during state of emergency due to pandemic

Bill filed to keep businesses open even during states of emergencies

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - One Alabama lawmaker filed a bill that would allow businesses to remain open if they can follow the guidelines issued by the state and local government during a state of emergency related to a pandemic.

State Rep. Jamie Kiel believes many businesses were not treated fairly this year when they were told to close while their competition could stay open.

“I thought that made an unfair bias towards those businesses that were open and was looking for a way to correct that,” Kiel said.

In the spring, Gov. Kay Ivey and the state health officer mandated “nonessential” businesses like entertainment venues and hair salons close because of rising coronavirus cases.

The decision allowed some big box stores to stay open while some smaller stores had to close.

“There’s a variety of people who have been put out of business because they were not allowed to be open when really their rivals or their competition were allowed to maintain their business as normal, except for the social distancing and limited entrance,” Kiel said.

The governor, in a December one-on-one interview said it was a mistake to have deemed businesses “essential” and “nonessential.”

“I won’t do that again,” she said in the interview Dec. 13.

When asked about the legislation Monday, a spokesperson for the governor said in a statement “the governor looks forward to a productive Regular Session and will thoroughly review any piece of legislation that reaches her desk. The governor has made very clear that she believes all businesses are essential and continues to remind Alabamians that she is fully committed to supporting the Alabama worker.”

The bill would also allow houses of worship to continue if the religious entity complies with any applicable emergency order, rule, or regulation issued by the Governor, a state department or agency, or a local governing body which authorizes other business entities to operate under certain safety precautions.

The regular legislative session will begin in February.

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