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This week’s work in the House and Senate followed a more traditional schedule, with both chambers adjourning Thursday for the conclusion of the fifth Legislative work day of this year’s regular session. The House continued to focus on economic development legislation, and the Senate addressed a variety of non-controversial bills. Two ACCA bills were approved by a House committee this week and are in position to be considered on the House floor as early as next week.
A number of bills that would have a negative impact on county government have also been introduced during the first five days of the session. The list includes legislation that would require counties to make partial payments to contractors every 30 days, shift liability in road-accident lawsuits from contractors to the county commission and establish a statewide commission with little county representation aimed at eventually centralizing the collection and enforcement of local sales taxes in Alabama.
The House and Senate will return to Montgomery late in the day on Tuesday because of the Mardi Gras activities in Mobile. Committee meetings are expected on Wednesday with the seventh work day of the session set for Thursday, Feb 23. Below is an overview of ACCA legislation, Danger Bills and other bills of interest slated for committee action next week.
Two bills gain committee approval
A House committee passed two ACCA bills on Wednesday, setting the legislation up for floor consideration when the House completes work on the economic incentive legislation. The bill to revamp and update the ad valorem tax exemptions for the disabled and those over age 65 (HB 120 Jack Williams) was approved the House County and Municipal Government Committee. The committee also voted in favor of the bill (HB 74 Steve McMillan) to clarify the specific circumstances under which municipal subdivision regulations can apply in those areas outside city limits but within the municipal planning jurisdictions.
The focus for these two bills now turns to the House Rules Committee, which must place the bills in position for floor consideration. The members of the House Rules Committee are listed below, and county officials are encouraged to contact the committee members to encourage their support of these two important bills.
Talks continue on other tax-related bills
Efforts continued this week to resolve disagreements over the provisions of two other ACCA proposals related to taxes – one (SB 216 Tammy Irons/ HB 219 Mac McCutcheon) requiring the actual purchase price to be listed when deeds are recorded at the county level and another (SB 177 Cam Ward) that overhauls the procedure for disbursing overbids when property is sold for failure to pay taxes.
The Senate bill requiring the actual purchase price of property to be recorded (SB 216) was delayed this week but is expected to be on the agenda of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. This legislation would provide additional revenue for both the county and the state General Fund. Please encourage the members of the committee to support SB 216.
The House version is assigned to the House Commerce and Small Business Committee, which is listed below.
SB 177 is expected on the agenda of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee on Wednesday. The bill would clarify the very confusing process of disbursing the overbid funds. Currently the ACCA staff is working to resolve problems related to the overbid on mortgaged property. Please contact the members of the committee below and ask that they support this legislation.
Election legislation introduced
Bills aimed at making corrections to the state law regarding a committee to approve future election expenditures were introduced in the House and Senate this week. HB 319 by Randy Wood was assigned to the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee. The Senate version, SB 317 by Trip Pittman, is pending action in the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee.
The ACCA staff will advise counties when these bills are scheduled for action.
Statewide 9-1-1 coordinating board and statewide service charge
At this point, all opposition to the 9-1-1 reform legislation which can be resolved has been addressed with amendments that will be offered when the comprehensive legislation (HB89 Mike Millican) is considered by a House committee. Although no official meeting has been set on the bill, the committee is expected to take action on the measure on Wednesday, Feb. 29. The members of the committee below should be contacted and encouraged to support this important legislation.
House Boards, Agencies and Commissions Committee: Sanderford, chair; Thomas, vice chair; Jackson, ranking minority member; Buttram, Farley, Greeson, Joe Hubbard, McCampbell, Melton, Mitchell, Roberts, Sessions, Jack Williams.
30-day payment of contractors
The legislation (HB 71 Bill Roberts) to require the payment of public contracts within 30 days was considered but then carried over by the House Commerce and Small Business Committee this week. In addition to requiring final payment within 30 days, the bill also requires all public agencies to make partial payments each month. The bill simply would be unworkable at the county commission level. However, the legislation is supported by the House leadership and will likely be supported by the committee members unless county officials make contacts this week. Please contact members of the committee and ask that they oppose this legislation unless provisions are made to ensure the orderly operation of county government.
Local sales tax collection
For many years the business community has hoped to repeal the authority of counties and cities to collect and enforce sales taxes at the local level. This year bills (HB 153 Jack Williams, SB 291 Greg Reed) to establish a study commission on this issue have the strong support of the House leadership. The bills create a commission with more than 25 members that will have only ONE county government representative.
The ACCA staff believes this is a very real threat to ability for counties to collect sales taxes and urges county officials to make contacts with the members of the House and Senate. It is also important for the recipients of local taxes (such as local school boards, etc.) to be informed of the likely loss of revenue should local collection be repealed.
The House version is assigned to the House Commerce and Small Business Committee, which is listed above.
The Senate version is assigned to the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee, which is listed above.
Liability protection for road builders
This week the ACCA staff and attorney Craig Dillard participated in negotiation sessions on the bills (SB 139 Clay Scofield, HB 115 Wes Long) to provide liability protection for road contractors by shifting the responsibility to county government. Representatives of the road building community have assured the staff that the bill will be changed to protect counties. However, the ACCA staff remains very concerned because the measure is the subject of an organized negotiation process that could produce some unintended consequences for counties.
The ACCA staff will alert county officials before there is any movement on this legislaton.
Solid waste bill dead for the session
HB 274 by Lynn Greer that would have prohibited counties or other governmental entities from providing any commercial solid waste collection or recycling services or operating a solid waste disposal or recycling facility has been suspended for this session. The bill’s sponsor has ensured the ACCA staff that the measure will not be considered this year. Thanks to the dozens of county officials throughout the state who made contacts on this bill. These results provide concrete evidence of the impact county officials can have on the legislative process.
Overtime hours and retirement
Legislation has been introduced to reverse an attorney general’s ruling eliminating retirement system credit for overtime pay earned by county and other employees. As introduced, it would have restored credit for state troopers only. The ACCA staff pushed for a change to include overtime credit for all employees. The bill (HB 255 Jay Love) was revised by the Ways and Means General Fund Committee on Wednesday to make all employees eligible for overtime credit toward their retirement benefit, with a limit of overtime totaling no more than 25 percent of the employee’s regular compensation.
Workers’ compensation reform
A bill (SB 77 Arthur Orr) to reduce the employer’s cost for workers’ compensation coverage by limiting some medical and benefit expenditures is to be considered by the Senate Business and Labor Committee on Wednesday. Because there is opposition to this legislation, it is important that the committee members be contacted by county officials to encourage the approval of this legislation.
Additional poll workers
A proposal (SB 288 Bryan Taylor, HB 236 by Charles Newton) designed to count all write-in ballots a week after election day would also increase county election costs. The bill would authorize the probate judge to hire additional poll workers to count these ballots. Today, the counting occurs on election night.
The ACCA staff has expressed its concern regarding the open-ended nature of this legislation and is working on an amendment that would allow the additional workers only if a substantial number of write-in ballots were cast. Please contact your House and Senate members urging them to support this bill only if language is added to restrict this additional county expenditure.
This week the ACCA staff continued discussions regarding efforts to revise the state’s controversial immigration law. The staff will keep county officials informed regarding any changes that may be seriously considered by the Legislature and will be working to ensure that county concerns are on the forefront of any discussions.