Alabama HB-104

Alabama HB-104

Hello Friends,

As most of you know, my sons and I travel to Montgomery a couple of days each week.  What we are doing there is working to pass HB-104 to make it clearer for law enforcement to determine if divers are breaking a law diving in the navigable waterways of Alabama.  Some of our opposition this week were handing out flyers to the Senators with statements that I am happy to respond to.  In bold letters are their statements followed by my response.

1. Cultural Resources are the property of the State of Alabama.
No Cultural Resources will be affected by HB-104.  We are only talking about isolated finds like coke bottles, coins in a swimming hole, single arrowheads and bullets. Not shipwrecks that are Cultural Resources. The State of Alabama belongs to the People of Alabama.  We are individuals with individual rights.  Our Constitution guarantees individual rights, not majority rights.

2. Protect My History.
We (meaning amateur archaeologists, historians, relic hunters, authors, divers, etc.) are the people who find, record, display and preserve our historical relics.  We write the books and fill the museums with our finds.  Professional Archaeologists are paid by us for little or no results. We are not trying to interfere with them but they want control and be in charge of divers, contractors and everyone else that they can extort a fee from.

3. Commercial Exploitation of Artifacts is unethical.
The only people involved in isolated finds who do it for money are the Professional Archaeologists who extort their fees, contracts and grants from the Public.

4. Protect Our Underwater Cultural Heritage.
Leaving artifacts on the bottom of a churning river to rust and erode away is not the way to preserve or present them.

5. The Alabama Underwater Cultural Resources Act (2006) is working.
The law is a 1999 law, not 2006 and we are only adding a definition of what an artifact is and clearing up a definition of Cultural Resources.  No Cultural Resources are being removed by this change.

6. Protect Tribal Interests.
The Indian Tribes of Alabama are our supporters on HB-104.  There is no opposition from any Indian Tribes.

7. Protect Civil War Sites.
This law only applies to underwater, not dry land, and only applies to the original stream bed.  All Cultural Resources continue to be controlled and permitted by the Alabama Historical Commission.

8. Protect inundated TVA property.
Inundated lands are not owned by the State of Alabama and are not affected by HB-104.  TVA and Alabama Power owns all their lands under their lakes.

9. Protect Fort Morgan.
Fort Morgan is on dry land not affected by HB-104. All Cultural Resources near Fort Morgan on land or underwater are protected and permitted by the Alabama Historical Commission. All underwater Cultural Resources in Alabama are controlled and permitted by the AHC. HB-104 is only about isolated finds, not Cultural Resources.

10. Don’t Dive in Contested Waters.
I don’t have any idea what this means.  Alabama has 77,000 miles of waterways and we want the Public to be able to use their waterways and save our lost relics that are isolated finds. We are supported by the Alabama Department of Conservation and the Alabama Department of Tourism.

11. HB-104 violates Federal Law.
Federal Law supersedes State Law and we as divers conform to all laws or we should be arrested.

Our only opposition is coming from Professional Archaeologists who are still mad because in regulations that were changed in 2006 we were able to stop their being able to charge each diver a fee to dive in the 77,000 miles of our own waters. They had written the regulations and divers were to pay them just to go in the water, not looking for anything but just diving anywhere in Alabama. They extort too much money from too many people and companies in Alabama already and we need to stop them from being our supervisors in life. HB-104 does not remove them from overseeing Cultural Resources. We had a report last week that the college students at the colleges in Alabama that are studying archaeology are being offered college credit by their professional archaeologist instructors to oppose HB-104. These instructors are paid under the Cultural Resource Assessment Program for permitting that they do on the side separate from their college job.  In 2005 I had a Federal Professional Archaeologist tell me that she was offered a contract by the Alabama Historical Commission as a bribe if she would speak against the bill we were working on at that time. These people that are trying to be our regulators for a fee are not the most honest or classy people that you could meet. The problems that divers are having are caused by these regulator wannabes giving law enforcement officers totally wrong information that causes divers to be unjustly harassed. HB-104 will prevent that from happening.

In the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting HB-104 passed with 7 for, 1 against and 1 abstaining.  It now goes to the Rules Committee.  The following are the Senators in the Rules Committee.  Please contact them and ask for their support for HB-104Beason, Chairperson; Holley, Vice Chairperson; Bedford, Brooks, Dial, Dunn, Figures, Glover, Irons, Orr, Pittman, Sanford, Waggoner. Senator Orr was the only Senator to vote against the bill coming out of committee last week. He is from north Alabama and needs to be contacted to gain his support. It is time now to contact all Senators not just the Rules committee Our opposition is active and vocal, we must be the same.

Thank You.
Steve Phillips
Southern Skin Divers Supply



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