2021 Alabama legislative session

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The 2021 Alabama legislative session began on February 2, 2021 and adjourned on May 18.

The make-up of the legislature was unchanged from the 2020 Alabama legislative session, having been set by the 2018 general election. The Alabama House of Representatives consisted of 76 Republican members (all white) and 27 Democrats (26 of them Black), with two vacant seats, and was presided over by Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-District 25, Madison County). The Alabama State Senate had a 27-7 Republican majority (all 26 Republicans being white and 6 of 7 Democrats being Black), with one vacant seat, and was chaired by Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth.

Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 a group of white and Black legislators began speaking and, at the suggestion of Representative Tracy Estes and with the support of Anthony Daniels, held an unpublicized meeting at First Baptist Church of Montgomery on Friday June 12. During the session, Black Democrats discussed their personal experiences with structural racism. The group set the stage for a series of bipartisan measures to be passed in support of rural business development and addressing teacher shortages, including the Alabama Rural, Agribusiness, and Opportunity Zone Jobs Act.

Among the other major issues taken up during the 2021 session were the legalization of medical cannabis, casino gambling, and at-home wine delivery.

Notable Acts

Special sessions

The legislature failed to take up federal court-ordered changes to conditions in state prisons during the regular legislative session, even as lenders backed out of a planned build-lease program negotiated by the Governor's office. Governor Kay Ivey called a special session beginning on September 27 to consider a plan to issue bonds for the construction of new prisons. The proposal, which bypassed open procurement practices in the interest of expediting construction by approving the same development partners, passed easily on October 1.


Governor Ivey called a second special session to begin on October 28 to modify the state's voting districts based on data from the 2020 U.S. Census. The legislature's Reapportionment Committee began meeting on October 26 to consider new Congressional district lines, as well as State house and senate districts, and Alabama State Board of Education districts.

State Senators Rodger Smitherman and Bobby Singleton has been the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that the 2011 redistricting map unlawfully diluted the voting power of Black Alabamians by concentrating them into a single Congressional district. The Republican majority adopted a new district map that retained or exacerbated those conditions.

In January 2022 a panel of three federal judges heard arguments in Singleton v. Merrill and Milligan v. Merrill that the Congressional map which was passed violated 14th Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They ruled that the state legislature would need to adopt a map which achieved fairer representation within two weeks, or accept a map drawn by a court-appointed expert. Attorney General Steve Marshall appealed the ruling. On February 7 the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of the lower court's order pending its review of the appeal, thus allowing the 2022 election to be conducted using the unlawful districts. In June 2023 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and lifted their stay, returning the matter to the three-judge panel to issue further orders.

Other measures

During the second special session, additional laws limiting COVID vaccination mandates were also passed:

  • Act of Alabama No. 2021-560, requires consent of a parent in order to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to a minor, or for an educational institution to inquire about the COVID vaccination status of a minor. Colleges still require proof of vaccination against measles, mumps, rubella, viral meningitis and/or hepatitis. (link)
  • Act of Alabama No. 2021-561, prohibits employers from terminating an employee who refuses a COVID-19 vaccine by claiming a religious or medical exemption (though Alabama law does not require an employee to show cause for terminating an employee.) The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Chris Elliot (R-Fairhope). The law is scheduled to expire on May 1, 2023 unless renewed. (link)

Other proposed legislation

  • The legislature debated revisions to the 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. A failed bill sponsored by Representative Juandalynn Given (D-Birmingham) would have opened a path to turn over monuments to the Alabama Historical Commission. A different bill, HB242 sponsored by Representative Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka) would have increased fines, punished individual officials who voted to remove monuments, and outlawed the "reinterpretation" of existing monuments. Holmes' bill was referred to the House Committee on State Government and did not advance.
  • A proposed Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act, SB358 sponsored by Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) provided that, "...no appointed or elected official, officer, employee, or agent of the state, or any political subdivision of the state, when acting in an official capacity, shall implement, administer, or enforce an executive order or directive issued by the President of the United States, or any act of the United States Congress, that becomes effective after January 1, 2021, that regulates the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories." The Senate bill passed by a 21-5 vote on April 15. The legislation stalled in the House Judiciary Committee.
  • Debates on establishment of a state lottery and the legalization of casino gambling took up much of the session, with no legislation passed.


External links