Senate Bill 66, sponsored by Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper), amends parts of existing Alabama law dealing with criminal tampering to include threatening a utility worker with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument with the intent to obstruct the operation of a utility. Prior to this law being enacted, it was a crime only if a person intentionally caused substantial interruption or impairment of a service rendered to the public by a utility.
Reed said utility workers are threatened on the job more often than people realize.
“Utility workers provide a vital service to the people and businesses of this state on a daily basis, and there’s no excuse for them to be threatened while carrying out their official duties,” he said. “In the past year, I’ve been made aware of 12 incidents involving the threatening of a utility worker while performing their job. I am proud to have sponsored this legislation, and I appreciate Gov. Bentley signing it into law.”
The hard work of utility workers was a driving force behind the bill, Reed said.
“We all know how important our gas, power, cable and internet are in our homes and businesses. Offering basic protection under the law to those providing these services is important,” Reed said. “For all of their sacrifices, like braving tornados, hurricanes, snow and sleet to keep our utilities on, this is the least we can do.”
Reed said he has seen the need for these changes in the law in District 5.
“Our appreciation is not only for those who are on the front lines of delivering utility services, but also for the thousands of Alabamians, particularly right here in my district, who are working to generate the utility resource that we all rely on.”
Reed added that two recent examples of utility workers being threatened include a customer approaching a crew attempting to replace a pole transformer and pointed a gun at the chest of the crew foreman and threatened that he would “drop him” if they did not agree to leave. And another where a customer shot his gun in a threatening manner while utility workers were performing their duties.
The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2013, only applies if the individual is working under the procedures of the company and has properly identified himself when asked by stating his name, employer and purpose of work.