The Alabama Legislature worked an abbreviated schedule this week due to Tuesday’s elections, so each chamber was in session on Wednesday and Thursday, leaving little time for committee meetings. Thursday’s session in both the House and Senate was cut short before the Association’s legislation on excess tax payments (HB 177) was called for a final passage vote.
The staff wishes to express its thanks to everyone who contacted their House members about HB 177 by Steve Clouse! ACCA is working to get the bill brought up on the House floor as soon as possible.
The biggest challenge of the week came when allies of the Alabama Forestry Association introduced House and Senate versions of a bill to prevent counties from requiring a bond from loggers using county roads and to establish a uniform process for notification before logging begins on county roads. (See more details below.) At the time of the writing of this report the ACCA staff is again working on a possible resolution of the conflict on this bill. Please watch Monday’s Committee Report for the latest information.
A number of county officials and employees have made direct contacts on this legislation and, should we be able to reach an agreement that protects county roads, it will be a direct result of the hard work of those who answered the call to action on this issue this week!
Lawmakers have completed 13 of their 30 meeting days, so the session is nearing the halfway mark. When they return on Tuesday, the House comes in at 1 p.m. and the Senate comes in at 2 p.m. The following week – March 26-30 – is expected to be their spring break.
Better enforcement of property taxes, and
excess at tax sales
Because a committee meeting was cancelled this week, two ACCA bills are still awaiting action in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee. These bills are expected to be considered when this committee meets Wednesday morning. HB 120 by Jack Williams would prevent abuses of existing property tax exemptions for people who are disabled or 65 or older as well as increase the exemption from $7,500 to $12,000 for state taxes. (Get the FACT SHEET) In the Senate, the bill is being handled by Priscilla Dunn.
The panel is also expected to take up Cam Ward’s SB 177, which would clarify who is entitled to the excess after a property is sold for taxes. The committee is expected to adopt a substitute version of the bill to match the current version in the House (HB 177 Steve Clouse). (Get the FACT SHEET)
Encourage the committee to give favorable reports to HB 120 and SB 177.
Local constitutional amendments
A Senate committee ran out of time Wednesday before getting to Linda Coleman’s SB 372, which proposes a constitutional amendment to make it harder to force a statewide vote on local constitutional amendments. Currently, if a local constitutional amendment gets a single dissenting vote in the legislature, it is subject to a statewide vote. The bill calls for a local vote on a local constitutional amendment unless it receives 15 dissenting votes in the House or five dissenting votes in the Senate. A statewide vote can also be required by the Local Constitutional Amendment Commission, created by the bill.
It is expected that the bill will come up for a vote when the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee meets next week.
Urge the committee to approve SB 372.
Statewide 9-1-1 board, fee
There was no action this week on HB 89’s substitute version by Mike Millican. There are no known problems with the legislation – the House has simply been focused on other priorities. It is anticipated that the bill will get a floor vote in the House on Tuesday, April 3.
Logging legislation filed in House and Senate
Companion bills were introduced this week in the House (HB 538 Mark Tuggle) and Senate (SB 409 Tom Whatley) to prevent counties from requiring a bond from loggers using county roads and to establish a uniform process for notification before logging begins on county roads.
The proposal is supported by the Alabama Forestry Association, and ACCA had been negotiating with AFA on this issue but negotiations stalled last week. Specifically, this bill would make it more difficult to take actions directly against loggers for issues such as mud or debris on the county road, damage to county rights-of-way and utilization of posted bridges. As late as Thursday evening, the negotiations took a more positive turn and the AFA seems more willing to address our concerns.
Should we be unable to work out an amendment, the bill would present a very real danger to counties because the AFA has been unwilling to include the loggers in the notification or enforcement provisions of the bill – leaving all responsibility with the timber owner who is also not made responsible for the actions of the loggers.
If you haven’t already contacted your House member who serves on the Commerce and Small Business Committee (listed below), please do so. County leaders also need to reach out to the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee (also listed below), which is scheduled to consider the bill on Wednesday. The message is that they should OPPOSE this bill unless ACCA amendments are accepted.
30-day payment of contractors
ACCA remains opposed to Bill Roberts’ HB 71, which would require all public entities to pay contractors every 30 days. Thus far negotiations have not been fruitful, and ACCA cannot support the bill in its current form. The bill also provides that public entities must have cash on hand for the full cost of any construction project and present “evidence” to the contractor that the entity has the funds on hand. Steep interest would accrue daily on any payments not made within the required 30 days. The bill can reach the floor if approved by the House Rules Committee.
Ask the committee to block HB 71 from consideration on the floor.
Road and bridge funding
Steve Clouse’s HB 543 would increase the portion of petroleum fees and penalties allocated to the Department of Agriculture and Industries from 5 to 10 percent. The department’s cut comes off the top before the remainder is divided among cities, counties and the Alabama Department of Transportation. The bill would reduce county road and bridge revenue at a time when counties are struggling to make needed road repairs while also looking for matching funds for the new ATRIP initiative. The bill is scheduled for a vote Wednesday afternoon in the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.
Urge the committee to oppose HB 543.
House Ways and Means General Fund Committee: Barton, chair; Clouse, vice chair; Laird, ranking minority member; Coleman, Gaston, Greer, Hall, Ken Johnson, Knight, Long, McCutcheon, Millican, Charles Newton, Thomas, Wren.
The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday afternoon on Mac Buttram’s HB 288, which would remove certain prefabricated storm shelters from regulation by the manufactured housing board and shift the regulation to the State Emergency Management Agency. The Association is concerned about the new regulations being applied to these storm shelters but is not sure this legislation completely corrects the problem.
Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to make significant reforms in the state retirement system — and therefore for county employees as well — for those persons hired after Jan. 1, 2013. The Association will be meeting with legislative leaders next week to discuss options for how this legislation may impact future county employees. We will inform counties in the coming days.
In the meantime, it is important for county officials and employees to know that this bill does NOT impact existing employees.