Some California governments sought to punish Alabama; state hardly noticed

Updated: Nov. 4, 2019 at 9:45 PM CST
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - When the Alabama Legislature voted to ban nearly all abortions earlier this year, some California jurisdictions aimed to hit the Heart of Dixie in the pocketbook.

The state hardly noticed.

“There hasn’t been any falling off that I’ve seen in tourism dollars or anything else from their moratorium at all,” said State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), who sponsored Alabama’s tough abortion crackdown.

The law – which is on hold by the courts – would prohibit all abortions except when the mother’s health is jeopardized. It sparked outrage on the Left Coast. Los Angeles County and the city of Long Beach were among a handful of jurisdictions that passed resolutions prohibiting official travel to the Alabama.

Long Beach Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce put it this way when she introduced the resolution in June: “We are a pro-choice city, and we will spend our resources where we see fit. And spending our resources in states that continue to take away the rights to health care, is not a priority of this city.”

Governments cannot restrict private citizens or companies from doing business with Alabama, however. And information provided to FOX10 News under California’s public records law suggests neither Los Angeles nor Long Beach send employees to the state frequently enough to hold much sway with Alabama lawmakers.

From 2014 through April of this year, Los Angeles County sponsored 242 trips to Alabama. But the vast majority of them would be exempt from the one-year travel ban passed by the county Board of Supervisors.

More than half, for example, were by the Department of Children and Family Services. Other trips that would be exempt were for law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, the public defender’s office, the probation office and emergency training and assistance.

That leaves a few dozen trips that might have bene prohibited under the resolution, but even some of those might be allowed since the policy also exempts “other legally required matters where the failure to authorize such travel would seriously harm the County’s interests as specifically authorized by the Chief Executive Office.”

For Long Beach, a city of 467,354, government-sponsored travel to Alabama was even rarer during the period examined by FOX10 News. The city provided records showing just six official visits to Alabama during those years.

In February of last year, a Long Beach police detective came to Bay Minette to pick up a criminal suspect who had been arrested in Baldwin County.

Several employees attended a pair of federally funded training conferences that took place in March of this year and in June 2017. Both of those conferences took place in Anniston, home to the federal Center for Domestic Preparedness.

In May 2016, two Long Beach employees traveled to a factory in Birmingham to inspect four street sweepers that the city had ordered. Department managers described that trip as “critical” so that the employees could “confirm that the sweepers have been built according to specifications.”

Another trip occurred in May 2016, after the Center for Families and Youth director requested training in Birmingham to support the California municipality’s My Brother’s Keeper’s Initiative and the Fatherhood Project.

And a January 2016 trip brought Long Beach’s planning bureau manager to Birmingham for a land use fellowship sponsored by the National League of Cities’ Rose Center for Public Leadership.

Even some of those trips might be exempt from the city’s travel ban. The Long Beach city manager’s office said exceptions would be granted on a case-by-case basis. The trip to pick up the criminal suspect, for instance, would have been allowed even if the travel ban had been in place.

The Long Beach resolution also calls for banning city contracts with Alabama firms. The city produced a pair of contracts with an Alabama business and a list of 31 Alabama companies – including three in Mobile and Baldwin County – that the city has purchased things from since 2014.

But Albritton said he does not think Long Beach has had much impact, if any.

“I’ve received no complaints,” he said. “I’ve received no information about any loss of revenue or loss of business because of the moratorium.”

Albritton, who chairs a state legislative committee that reviews government contracts, noted that Alabama has not retaliated.

“We continue to receive contracts from California companies to do business with the state of Alabama and its agencies,” he said. “Those continue to come in.”

As to the fate of the abortion law, most legal scholars predict the state will lose in the lower courts under existing precedent. Abortion opponents have held out hope that the U.S. Supreme Court would use the Alabama law to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Some experts have expressed doubt that the court would take a law as extreme as Alabama’s.

But Albritton said the chances that the court would take the case did not factor into his support for the law.

“The principle, though, with my vote was not whether the Supreme Court would or would not (take the case),” he said. “It was a matter of saving lives of children.”