For many, addressing the issue of sexually explicit children's books in Alabama libraries was a significant concern that ultimately went nowhere during the 2024 session. Now, many parents and reform advocates are outraged that instead of taking steps to protect children from potentially harmful material, the state legislature instead prioritized a gambling bill that got lost in political gamesmanship.

The 2024 legislative session concluded with no lack of dissatisfaction on the part of lawmakers and citizens alike. Legislators feuded to the final day over a comprehensive gambling package pushed by House members. The combination of political tactics and gridlock caused by behind-the-scenes negotiations resulted in several pivotal pieces of House legislation failing to receive a Senate vote before the session concluded.

One of the most anticipated and controversial bills was House Bill 385 (HB 385) by State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), which addressed the statewide controversy surrounding sexually explicit or obscene children's books in Alabama libraries.

The bill attempted to remove the exceptions for public and school libraries from the state’s obscenity laws regulating what materials can be distributed to minors. On April 25, it passed the House by a 72-28 margin. It passed a Senate committee with the promise of several amendments but failed to receive a final vote on the Senate floor.

Mooney told 1819 News that he believed gambling gridlock killed his bill and plenty of others. He also said that the Senate-amended version of the bill has already been pre-filed for the 2025 legislative session.  

However, advocates supporting the legislation are displeased with the gambling gamesmanship and its role in killing a bill on an issue that has gripped the state over the past year.

The library debate has been thrust into public discourse over the past year after residents in libraries across the state have drawn attention to the prevalence of sexually explicit books in the library children’s sections. The issue garnered the attention of legislative leaders, Gov. Kay Ivey and everyone in between.

Several grassroots organizations have taken up the library book battle, including Moms for Liberty, Local Alabama, Eagle Forum of Alabama, Clean Up Alabama and more.

Emily Jones, chair of the Madison Chapter of Moms for Liberty, told 1819 News that her organization was primed to see HB385 passed but learned at the last minute that the gambling gridlock ultimately killed its chances.