MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Returning to work after Alabama’s paralyzing ice and snow storm, the Legislature took steps Thursday to make bestiality a crime and to crack down on drunken boaters who kill.
Thursday was the first day this week that both the House and Senate met on the same day because of the ice and snow storm that closed many roads Tuesday. The Senate did meet Tuesday, but the House couldn’t get enough members to Montgomery. Neither met Wednesday because of the treacherous highways.
With the ice melting Thursday and most Montgomery roads reopened, the Statehouse was once again busy.
Alabama currently has no law specifically addressing bestiality. That has resulted in Alabama becoming the brunt of jokes on some websites about Alabama banning same-sex marriages but not sex with an animal.
Republican Sen. Tom Whatley of Auburn got the Senate to vote 20-1 Thursday for his bill to create the crime of bestiality for having sexual contact with an animal. The offense would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. His bill still must pass the House and be signed by the governor to become law.
The Senate also voted 18-1 Thursday for a bill to increase the penalties for alcohol-related boating deaths to the same as deaths caused by drunken car drivers.
“A life is a life, and driving a car or a boat while drunk is equally irresponsible. The penalty should be the same,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Bryan Taylor of Prattville.
Taylor has Lake Jordan and part of Lake Martin in his district, and he said the bill stems from fatal accidents on the lakes.
He said Alabama’s “homicide by vessel” law has a maximum penalty of five years. By making it equal to a drunken driving fatality, the maximum punishment increases to 20 years, he said.
The House voted 83-0 Thursday for a similar bill by Republican Rep. Paul Beckman of Prattville. Beckman’s bill goes to the Senate for consideration and Taylor’s bill goes to the House. One of the bills must pass both chambers and be signed by the governor to become law.
The House also voted 74-9 Thursday for a bill that would increase the amount that people on unemployment benefits could earn without reducing their benefits. It would go from $15 per week to one-third of their weekly benefit check. For someone receiving the maximum $265 weekly benefit, the income limit would be $88, said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jack Williams of Birmingham. He said that would encourage a business to put an unemployed person on the payroll for a day to see if they might work out as a regular employee.
His bill now goes to the House for consideration.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said he was pleased to get back to work Thursday. The Legislature had set its meeting schedule for this week before the National Weather Service forecast snow and ice. That resulted in the Legislature wasting one of its 30 meeting days Wednesday when neither chamber met. Hubbard said that showed the need for the Legislature to change its rules to allow the presiding officers of the House and Senate to alter the meeting schedule when the governor declares a state of emergency due to the weather.
Legislative leaders are discussing how and when to make that change.
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