An Update as the Legislature Heads Back to Montgomery

By Shay Shelnutt

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Spring Break! The Legislature paused its meetings over the past two weeks to allow legislators to spend time with their families, but Senate and House members return to Montgomery on April 4th to resume work.

I have authored a proposal in the Senate that will allow Alabamians to purchase a pistol permit in any of Alabama’s sixty-seven counties, and will push for the bill’s passage once the Legislature is reconvened. The right to own a weapon is guaranteed by the Second Amendment, but unfortunately, that right is easier to exercise in some counties than in others. A pistol permit in Jefferson County costs $7.50 per year, but the same pistol permit costs a resident of Baldwin County $20 annually.

Alabamians should have the freedom to purchase a pistol permit from whatever county they choose. As a matter of principle, I believe the cost for a pistol permit should only reflect the necessary administrative costs; anything beyond that is essentially a tax for the purposes of generating government revenue. If Jefferson County can cover the administrative costs for a permit at $7.50, then let’s give residents of counties with higher fees the option to secure their permits elsewhere. All pistol permit applicants will still have to pass a background check, so public safety will in no way be diminished by allowing Alabamians to buy permits across county lines.

Let me take a moment to address the media rumors regarding the fate of Governor Robert Bentley. The House Judiciary Committee is investigating the Governor to understand if his actions are worthy of impeachment. If the House votes in favor of articles of impeachment against the Governor, the State Senate will be convened to act as a jury to consider the charges. Our role would be similar to that played by the U.S. Senate in 1999 during the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. As a member of the Senate, I am a prospective juror, and I have therefore declined to comment on the rumors swirling around Governor Bentley. It is important to keep an open mind and let the process take its course in the House of Representatives.

The Senate has taken steps to solve the crisis facing the state’s prison system. A few weeks ago, the Senate approved a proposal that will allow towns and counties to enter lease agreements with the State to bid for the right to build three new prison facilities. The bond issue will be capped at $350 million, significantly down from the $800 million bond issue the Governor had originally proposed. Alabama’s prisons are antiquated, plagued by endemic violence that threatens the lives of correctional officers, and are at 173 percent over capacity. The state faces a federal takeover (similar to what has happened with California’s prison system) if we don’t get our house in order.

Even in a challenging political environment, good work is being done to reform state government, save taxpayer dollars, and protect your constitutional rights. I welcome your thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing our state. Please contact me at 205-413-9022 or [email protected] – I look forward to hearing from you.

Shay Shelnutt represents District 17 in the Alabama Senate, which is comprised of all or parts of Blount, Jefferson, St. Clair, and Talladega counties. Follow him on Twitter for the latest legislative updates: @shelnutt417