Senator says omnibus gun bill won’t pass in its current form

The chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary committees addressed the Business Council of Alabama’s Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday and one of them predicted that the omnibus gun bill currently in the Senate won’t pass in its current form.

Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, and Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, chairmen of the respective Judiciary Committees, discussed several bills in the current 2013 legislative session that are of interest to the BCA.

The omnibus gun bill, SB 286 by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, incorporates numerous provisions.

As written the bill would prohibit business owners from telling employees they cannot bring firearms to work even in their private vehicles in the company parking lot.  Because of that provision the BCA opposes the bill in its current form.

The BCA opposes SB 286 in part because it infringes on the constitutional private property rights of business owners to determine what can be brought onto private property. “We do not have a Second Amendment problem, this is a solution seeking a problem,” said BCA President and CEO William J. Canary.

Ward said the bill has too many operating parts that probably dooms it from successfully navigating the legislative process and becoming law.

“Three things I know to be true, the sun will rise in the morning, the sun will set in the afternoon, and that bill will never make it in its current form out of the Legislature,” Ward said.

“There is the question with regards to liability for companies that has to be addressed in that bill.”

The bill is on the Senate calendar. “Unless they can get it revised before it comes up for a vote in the Senate, I don’t see it passing,” Ward said.

The BCA supports civil liability immunity, an opt-in, opt-out provision for businesses and across-the-board application. House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, on Thursday introduced the bill in the House. It was assigned as HB 430.

Ward also addressed HB 330 by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Northport, the Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act of 2013. HB 330 is referred to as the “Airbus” bill after the new passenger jet to be built in Mobile. The Airbus operation is the largest state industrial development project in a decade.

HB 330 would create a level, legal playing field for the airplane manufacturer and its suppliers. The bill would create a two-year statute of limitations for lawsuits and a 10-year statute of repose for product liability cases. The bill is on the House calendar.

Ward said under current Alabama law, an airplane made in the state could crash in 30 years and the Alabama-based manufacturer would still be legally liable for the product. HB 330 offers Airbus the same legal climate as Boeing has in Washington State, Ward said, and the bill “makes sure our legal climate is the same as those we’re competing against” such as Florida and Mississippi.

“We’re not giving them any unfair advantage,” Ward said. “We’re going to be as competitive on the legal stage as the economic incentive stage.”

The BCA supports the legislation.

DeMarco said it’s important for current and new businesses to enjoy predictability in the state’s judicial system, “a predictability that you will be treated fairly if you come to the state.”

“It incentivizes existing businesses to stay put and it might invite other businesses to come to our state because they know they will get a fair shake,” DeMarco said. “So it’s not just about the economic incentives we put out there but it’s about making sure when folks look at our judicial system that it’s a fair and balanced system.”

DeMarco said Alabama is ahead of the curve in addressing legal liability for industrial prospects. “The reason we have been able to address this issue is we have had leadership in the business community and the public leadership of elected officials who said we’re going to make sure Alabama is in a higher tier when it comes to making sure that we are open for business,” he said.

-Dana Beyerle