It’s already the fifth week of the 15-week session, and the next few days will be big for Alabama counties – both on offense and defense.
Though discussed in greater detail below, the items of top importance are:
1. ACCA’s bill to expand limited credit card use by counties is on the House working agenda for Tuesday afternoon. Contact your members of the House of Representatives and urge them to support this long-overdue change.
2. ACCA’s bill to cut election expenses is in committee Wednesday morning at 9. Resistance to these needed cuts in spending is stiff. If you can be here to help tell the county viewpoint Wednesday morning, please email Sallie Gowan.
3. There’s a public hearing on an unfunded mandate to pay retirement raises for supernumerary tax officials Wednesday afternoon. We must make sure every committee member hears from multiple county officials why this unfunded mandate is unnecessary and should not pass. If you can be here to help tell the county viewpoint Wednesday afternoon, please email Sallie Gowan.
ACCA’s bill (Rep. Alan Harper’s HB 247 with House committee amendment) to expand a county’s ability to use a credit card within certain limits is scheduled for a House floor vote late Tuesday. In conversations with legislators, you may find it helpful to mention examples of how your county could benefit, and this revised Fact sheet lists safeguards to prevent misuse. Ask your House members to SUPPORT this long-overdue change and to stay in session long enough to reach this common-sense bill.
A Senate version (SB 280 by Sen. Jimmy Holley) that incorporates the House committee amendment is up for a committee vote Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. Ask your committee members to support this long-overdue change. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee: Holley, Chairperson; Bedford, Vice chairperson; Beason, Brewbaker, Coleman, Dunn, Figures, Orr, Pittman, Sanford, Taylor.
Negotiations continue on ACCA’s push to save money for counties and the state by eliminating wasteful election expenses (HB 275 by Rep. Allen Farley). The bill is on a House committee agenda at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The proposal focuses on newspaper advertising, absentee election managers and “nickel-a-name,” and it has undergone significant changes already in the Senate. Many of these changes are likely to be mirrored in the House. (Please see this revised Fact Sheet for a summary or these documents for details: Senate committee substitute, amendment 1, amendment 2). If you need info on the potential impact in your county, check out this updated county-by-county election expense chart, which has figures from the March 2012 primary. Probate judges are reluctant to give up their “nickel-a-name” money, even though they no longer do the work. See this History of “Nickel-a-name” for background. Especially in smaller counties, it could be effective to tell legislators exactly how few absentee ballots were returned in your county for the Sept. 18 special election. (Regardless of the number of ballots, the absentee election manager – usually the circuit clerk – was eligible for $5,750 in pay.)
There is still significant opposition, so it is important for committee members to hear from you. House Constitutions, Campaigns & Elections Committee: Chair Randy Davis, Vice Chair Randy Wood, Ranking Minority Member Richard Lindsey; Paul Beckman, Paul DeMarco, Juandalynn Givan, John Merrill, Barry Moore, Demetrius Newton.
Raise for supernumerary tax officials
This unfunded mandate (HB 334 by Rep. John Merrill), which would provide a required increase in benefits for supernumerary tax officials, is set for a public hearing in committee at 3 p.m. Wednesday. This overview provides details. Ask House committee members to OPPOSE HB 334. House State Government Committee: Chair Jamie Ison, Vice Chair Mike Hill, Ranking Minority Member Johnny Mack Morrow, Barbara Boyd, Ralph Howard, Jim McClendon, Becky Nordgren, Harry Shiver, Mark Tuggle.
Redemption of property
A bill to correct technical problems in the law governing tax sales and redemption of property (SB 197 by Sen. Cam Ward) could still make the agenda in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee on Wednesday. This Fact sheet and comparison chart may be helpful. Ask committee members to SUPPORT SB 197. Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee: Orr, Chairperson; Beasley, Bedford, Brewbaker, Dunn, Holtzclaw, Pittman, Sanford, Singleton, Ward, Waggoner, Williams.
The Senate version (SB 192 by Sen. Paul Bussman, Fact Sheet) of a proposal to fund the RAMP portion of ATRIP is set for a committee vote at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Ask committee members to SUPPORT SB 192. House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee: Chair Lynn Greer, Vice Chair Victor Gaston, Ranking Minority Member John Robinson, George Bandy, Richard Baughn, Mac Buttram, Merika Coleman-Evans, Joe Faust, Mike Jones, Richard Laird, Darrio Melton, Bill Roberts, Kurt Wallace
Reinstatement of damage protection
Recent court rulings have begun to erode the $100,000 damage cap in lawsuits filed against public employees. These rulings leave open the possibility that the cap may not apply if the suit is filed directly against the public employee. SB 194 by Sen. Jerry Fielding would restore the damage cap. The bill is headed into mediation, but is still listed on a committee agenda for Wednesday afternoon. Urge committee members to OPPOSE amendments to this bill. Senate Judiciary Committee: Ward, Chairperson; Fielding, Vice Chairperson; Coleman, Figures, Keahey, Orr, Smitherman, Taylor, Whatley, Williams
Last session the Association agreed to legislation making changes in the so-called “prompt payment” statute that would requirement payments to contractors within 45 days of receipt of invoices. The compromise legislation also provided an exemption for those contracts funded with grants or other non-county funding that may not be available at the outset of the construction project. Just one year after this compromise, new legislation SB 237 by Sen. Del Marsh) has been introduced lowering the payment window to 30 days and repealing the provision regarding projects funded with grants or other outside revenue. We believe these changes would make the law unworkable for counties. There’s still time for the Senate version to make an agenda for this week. Ask committee members to OPPOSE SB 237. Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee: Williams, Chairperson; Bussman, Coleman, Glover, Keahey, Scofield, Taylor.
Restriction on business license taxes
A number of counties have authority to impose business licenses, and Rep. Barry Moore’s HB 257 proposes a constitutional amendment that would impact those counties. The amendment would prevent counties from imposing a per unit business license on residential real estate after Jan. 1, 2013.The House version is set for a floor vote Tuesday afternoon. In general, ACCA is more supportive of comprehensive business license reform, a project that is a priority of House leadership this year. The Senate version, Sen. Vivian Figures’ SB 217, is once again set for a committee vote. Urge committee members to OPPOSE SB 217. Senate Judiciary Committee: Ward, Chairperson; Fielding, Vice Chairperson; Coleman, Figures, Keahey, Orr, Smitherman, Taylor, Whatley, Williams
Tax exemption for rescue squads
Sen. Gerald Dial’s SB 272 would exempt the Alabama Association of Rescue Squads and its members from lodging taxes. You may recall that last year the Legislature exempted the associations of rescue squads and volunteer fire departments from sales, use and property taxes. There is no legitimate reason for an association of this type to be exempted, and this bill should be stopped in its tracks. There’s still time for the bill to appear on a committee agenda this week, so please ask committee members to OPPOSE this loss of revenue for counties that are already strapped for cash. Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee: Orr, Chairperson; Beasley, Bedford, Brewbaker, Dunn, Holtzclaw, Pittman, Sanford, Singleton, Ward, Waggoner, Williams.
Property tax cut for businesses
A bill that would lead to a recalculation of the value of business property was introduced this week, and it would cost counties an estimated $1.5 million a year. There’s still time for the bill (SB 281 by Sen. Shadrack McGill) to make a committee agenda for this week. Urge committee members to OPPOSE SB 281. Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee: Williams, Chairperson; Bussman, Coleman, Glover, Keahey, Scofield, Taylor.