Code of Alabama - Title 29: Legislature - Section 29-6-7.1 - Legislative findings as to speech and debate; definitions; privileged and confidential communication; waiver of privilege

Section 29-6-7.1 - Legislative findings as to speech and debate; definitions; privileged and confidential communication; waiver of privilege.

(a) The Legislature hereby finds and declares the following:

(1) Section 56 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 56 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, contains a speech or debate clause virtually identical to Section 6 of Article I of the Constitution of the United States, the federal speech and debate clause.

(2) In the case of Gravel v. United States, 408 U.S. 606, the Supreme Court of the United States held the speech and debate clause in the Constitution of the United States makes the communications between members of the Congress and their staff privileged and confidential.

(3) The Supreme Court explained its reasoning as follows:

"[T]he day-to-day work of [legislative] aides is so critical to the Members' performance that they must be treated as the latter's alter ego; and that if they are not so recognized, the central role of the Speech and Debate Clause-to prevent intimidation of legislators by the Executive and accountability before a possibly hostile judiciary-will inevitably be diminished and frustrated."

(4) The Legislature intends by this section to apply the holding of the Gravel case to the Legislature of Alabama.

(b) For the purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

(1) CLIENT. A member of the Legislature, the Lieutenant Governor, Governor, and any individual to whom the Director of Legislative Services determines the provision of services by the agency is in the best interests of the state.

(2) CLIENT'S AGENT. An individual authorized by a client to act as an agent of the client with legislative staff.

(3) COMMUNICATION. The sharing of information, opinions, advice, or knowledge with another. The term includes a communication in any form and in any draft, memoranda, or other work product related to or resulting from the communication.

(4) LEGISLATIVE STAFF. An officer, employee, or contractor of the Alabama Senate, Alabama House of Representatives, Office the President Pro Tempore, Office of the Speaker of the House, Legislative Services Agency, and Examiners of Public Accounts.

(c) A communication regarding legislation, potential legislation, the legislative process, or legislative activity between legislative staff and a client or a client's agent is privileged and confidential.

(d) A legislative staff member may not disclose the content of a communication or the fact that a communication occurred unless the privilege under subsection (c) is waived expressly by the client to whom the communication was made or, with respect to a communication made to a client's agent, the client on whose behalf the communication occurred.

(e) The introduction or public discussion of a bill by a client does not waive the privilege under subsection (c) with respect to any communication related to the bill.

(f) The advertising of a local bill by synopsis or in a form less than in its entirety is not, in and of itself, a waiver of the privilege under subsection (c).

(Act 2017-214, §3.)

Last modified: May 3, 2021