The dark road not taken in the 2021 regular session

Predicting actions and outcomes of a legislative session is never an easy bet. When the Alabama Legislature opened its 2021 regular session in February, our crystal ball was even cloudier than usual.

Strong currents of anxiety were sweeping the country amid fear and frustration over COVID-19 and precautionary measures, conflicting beliefs about racial justice and law enforcement, and the aftershocks of a bitter presidential election. In state after state, lawmakers proposed harsh reactions to each of these pressures, and Alabama appeared ready to follow suit.

On the pandemic front, governors and public health officials faced new limits on their emergency authority. Basic freedoms of assembly and speech came under threat by officials seeking to prevent protests like those that followed George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer. Dissatisfaction with election results fueled efforts to narrow access to the electoral process, particularly for communities of color.

Harmful bills targeting all of these goals began surfacing when the Legislature convened. And limited public access to the State House only raised the stakes.

But Alabama bucked the trend. Thanks to strong, persistent advocacy from Arise members and our partners, legislation that would have tied the hands of public health officials, rolled back civil liberties and erected more barriers to voting mostly died. We also made some progress on several important Arise priorities this year.

In the Legislature as in life, mistakes avoided are often a big measure of success. Alabama’s refusal to follow the reactionary path of neighboring states is a victory to celebrate. Thank you to our members for helping make that happen.