Alabama Appleseed is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1999 whose mission is to achieve justice and equity for all Alabamians. Alabama Appleseed is a member of the national Appleseed Network, which includes 17 Appleseed Centers across the U.S. and in Mexico City.

Below is a summary of the priority issues we worked on during the 2017 session:

Bills we supported that became law

Judicial Override of Death Sentences
SB16 (Sen. Brewbaker) & HB32 (Rep. England)
SB16 & HB32 prohibit a judge from overriding a jury’s recommendation and imposing a death sentence in cases where the jury voted for life without parole in a capital case. Prior to this legislation, a judge was not required to accept a jury’s vote in the sentencing phase. Alabama Appleseed supported this legislation because it will help protect against arbitrary and unreliable death sentences.

Bills we supported that failed to pass this year

Predatory Lending Reform
SB 284 (Sen. Orr)
SB 284 would have extended the loan period to 30 days for payday loans at the existing fee, limited borrowers to four loans in a 12-month period, mandated a seven-day “cooling-off” period between payday loans, automatically converted unpaid loans to a three-month installment loan with equal payments, capped interest rates for all loans of more than $2,000 at 60 percent APR, and removed auto title loans from the Alabama Pawnshop Act. Alabama Appleseed supported this bill because it would have begun the process of reining in predatory lenders.
Outcome: Indefinitely postponed in Senate

Predatory Lending Reform
HB 321 (Rep. Fincher)
HB 321 would have proposed an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama capping the maximum interest rate a lender may charge an individual on a consumer loan, line of credit, or other financial product at 36 percent per year. Alabama Appleseed supported this bill because it would have brought Alabama in line with 15 other states and the District of Columbia that have either capped their interest rate at 36 percent or outlawed payday loans altogether.
Outcome: Left pending committee action in House

Marijuana Decriminalization
HB 269 (Rep. Todd)     

HB 269 would have made possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a fine only offense ($250/first offense & $500/subsequent offenses). A conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana would not have appeared on the individual’s criminal record. Alabama Appleseed supported this legislation because it would have reduced the likelihood that Alabamians possessing small amounts of marijuana would be funneled into our criminal justice system and reduced the disproportionate harm that the war on marijuana has on communities of color.
Outcome: Left pending committee action in House

Ban the Box
SB 200 (Sen. Ross)
SB 200 would have prohibited a state or local government employer from asking an applicant about their criminal history until a conditional offer of employment was made. The government employer would have been permitted to withdraw the job offer if the applicant’s criminal conviction was directly related to the job. The bill would also have established clear criteria for state agencies to consider during the screening process. Alabama Appleseed supported this legislation because it would have enhanced public safety, begun to remedy the long-term consequences of a criminal justice system that has disproportionately harmed African Americans, and given many Alabamians a second chance.
Outcome: Passed Senate, left pending committee action in House

Civil Asset Forfeiture
SB 299 (Sen. Orr)

SB 299 would have mandated any agency that takes property or receives proceeds under Alabama’s civil asset forfeiture program to annually report this information to the Attorney General, who would then make this information available to the public. Alabama Appleseed supported this legislation because it would have brought needed sunlight to a program that incentivises policing for profit and disproportionately harms individuals who cannot afford an attorney.
Outcome: Indefinitely postponed in Senate

Bills we opposed that became law

Predatory Lending
HB 314 (Rep. Johnson)
HB 314 amends the Alabama Small Loan Act to authorize licensed lenders to make loans up to $1500 (previously $1,000), increases non-refundable fees, and extends the loan term to 18 months. Alabama Appleseed opposed this legislation because it will increase the cost of loans for borrowers by as much as 174 percent.

Death Penalty
SB 187 (Sen. Ward)

SB 187 sets a 365‐day time limit to file a Rule 32 petition challenging an individual’s capital conviction and requires this time to run concurrently with the direct appeal. It also requires the appointment of counsel for indigent individuals for purposes of the post-conviction appeal and sets a $7,500 cap for total fees. Alabama Appleseed opposed this bill because it will further undermine the fairness and accuracy of Alabama’s death penalty process.

Bills we opposed that were defeated

Predatory Lending
HB 535 (Rep. Garrett)
HB 535 would have converted the loan of a borrower who was unable to repay the loan to a 60-day loan at no additional fee, but would have limited this to one 60-day extension per year. The bill would also have created a cap of 22 payday loans per year and would have created a 48 hour cooling off period after a loan was paid in full. Alabama Appleseed opposed this bill because it would have failed to address any of the core problems plaguing the payday loan industry, including a permissible 456 percent interest rate.
Outcome: Passed House, carried over in Senate

Prison Construction
SB 59 & SB 302 (Sen. Ward)
SB 59 & SB 302 would have authorized the construction of up to four new prisons at a cost, funded via bonds, of nearly one billion dollars. Alabama Appleseed opposed these bills because they failed to address the underlying problems that fuel Alabama’s high incarceration rate. Any solution to Alabama’s prison overcrowding must focus on the root issues – ending the drug war, prioritizing substance & mental health treatment, removing hurdles to reentry, and expanding alternatives to incarceration.
Outcomes: SB 59 – Indefinitely postponed in Senate & SB 302 – Passed Senate, read second time in House

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