Alabama Legislature Week In Review February 8, 2013Rickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Feb 09 2013 10:35 AM
The 2013 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature begins Feb. 5 and must end no later than May 20.
Weekly reports are released on Friday each week lawmakers are in session which are published by the Alabama Association of County Commissioners. The following report is from their website.
The 2013 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature got off to a sprinting start this week, with lawmakers in session three days instead of their regular two. So far, 401 bills have been introduced, with many more on the way.
Your ACCA legislative staff members have been negotiating vigorously with the governor’s office, state agencies, other associations and lawmakers themselves to protect county government from harm and pave the way forward for Alabama’s counties.
There are already important bills – both good and bad – scheduled for committee action next week, so please read carefully to see if a call to one of your legislators this weekend could make an impact for counties.
This is the first Weekly Report of the session, and you can look for an email like this every Friday. Committee Updates are slated for Mondays. For instructions on how to look up various pieces of legislation – local bills, Danger bills and those of interest to affiliate groups – please use this link.
Yet another way we are working to communicate more effectively with you is our new ACCA Legislative Briefing webinars. The first one will be 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15. Watch for details about how to participate next week.
An ACCA bill (SB 125 Sen. Paul Sanford) to save money for counties and the state by reducing or eliminating wasteful election expenses is set for a vote in Senate committee Wednesday morning. As this Fact sheet details, the bill would cut the money spent on advertising election notices and voter lists in newspapers as well as eliminating the extra pay some elected officials get for election-related duties. You can definitely generate some outrage among legislators when you tell them how much your county spent on publishing the voter list, nickel-a-name and absentee ballot manager pay. Some opposition is expected, so it is important for county leaders to contact committee members and express their strong SUPPORT for these changes. Senate Finance And Taxation General Fund Committee: Orr, Chairperson; Beasley, Bedford, Brewbaker, Dunn, Holtzclaw, Pittman, Sanford, Singleton, Ward, Waggoner, Williams.
Redemption of property
ACCA is again pushing to clear up confusion that results when property is sold for unpaid taxes. Oftentimes there are disputes over who is entitled to the overbid – and these disputes have landed in court, with different courts making different rulings. (Check out this fact sheet for more details.) The bill (HB 47 Rep. Steve Clouse) was carried over in House committee this week, and it could get a committee vote next week. ACCA is in communication with the governor’s staff members about concerns they have raised, and we hope to have issues resolved soon. Please urge committee members to SUPPORT HB 47 and oppose any changes that would weaken the bill. House Financial Services Committee: Steve Clouse, Chair; Lesley Vance, Vice Chair; Marcel Black, Ranking Minority Member, DuWayne Bridges, Mack Butler, Steve Hurst, Wes Long, Thad McClammy, Oliver Robinson.
Alabama Trust Fund repayment
The House approved Rep. Jay Love’s HB 94, an ACCA bill which seems to be the dominant proposal to force repayment of the Alabama Trust Fund. Voters authorized the state to borrow $437 million from the fund back on September 18. Counties get a share of the fund’s earnings, so ACCA is watching this bill closely, especially since it is on the fast track. We would support amendments that could further lock in repayment. The next step will be consideration in the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee, likely early next week.
Funding for ATRIP/RAMP projects
This week Rep. Mac McCutcheon introduced HB 213, which would allow the state to borrow money needed for the RAMP element of ATRIP. RAMP will help participating counties pay the 20 percent match required by ATRIP projects. The next step for this bill is a vote in the House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee.
Credit cards for counties
Rep. Alan Harper has agreed to sponsor ACCA’s proposal to expand somewhat the situations in which it is legal for a county to use a credit card. Several House members have signed on as co-sponsors, and this bill should be introduced next week.
Other ACCA issues
In addition, negotiations are ongoing on several other ACCA priority issues such as workers’ compensation reform, retail alcohol sales and local nexus. We expect that additional ACCA bills will be introduced next week.
The Legislature is awash in various proposals designed to preserve an individual’s right to carry a firearm. One of the most sweeping proposals is Sen. Scott Beason’s SB 129, which is still in the Senate Business and Labor Committee. These bills are of utmost concern to local law enforcement for a number of reasons. Some bills would remove a sheriff’s discretion on issuing pistol permits, and county government is also an employer that must be mindful of its right to restrict weapons among employees to ensure a safe workplace.
Another thread of the gun conversation is the issue of school security in the wake of the recent school shooting tragedy in Connecticut. Enhancing school security is a worthy goal, but some of these proposals would do it with local law enforcement or county funding. In addition to costs, there are concerns about county liability.
There is a constitutional ban on using certain funds for anything but road and bridge work, and tag and license fees are in that category. But a pair of bills (HB 145 and HB 146 Rep. Richard Laird) would turn that on its head by creating new license and registration fees for boat trailers, with the money largely going to support rescue squads. ACCA has called for public hearings on these bills, and we will notify you to contact members of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee as soon as the hearing is scheduled.
School bus cameras
There are proposals (SB 21 Sen. Jimmy Holley, HB 183 Rep. Lesley Vance) to equip school buses with cameras to catch drivers who fail to stop while students load and unload, and the bills contain all kinds of harmful entanglements for counties. Key county objections are:
1. As written, local law enforcement does most of the work. This program should be a school system function operated fully by school personnel. Counties don’t have the manpower.
2. It would cost us revenue, because drivers would be blocked from renewing their car tags and driver licenses if they had an unpaid violation.
3. The company that operates the cameras gets the first cut of the money, so the county would be serving as tax collector for a private business.
The Senate version could come up in committee as soon as Tuesday. Please ask committee members to OPPOSE SB 21 unless counties are removed from the legislation. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee: Holley, Chairperson; Bedford, Vice chairperson; Beason, Brewbaker, Coleman, Dunn, Figures, Orr, Pittman, Sanford, Taylor.
Once again there is a proposal to limit property tax reappraisal to every four years. The bill (SB 91 Sen. Paul Sanford) sailed through committee this week, and it could get a floor vote next week. The fiscal note shows a $7.5 million loss for counties in 2015, and that is just the beginning of the revenue losses which would be unsustainable. Ask your senators to OPPOSE SB 91 and take steps to prevent it from getting a floor vote.
Public safety consolidation
The Senate’s leadership and the governor have compromised on a bill to consolidate many of the state’s public safety functions. The proposal (SB 108 Sen. Del Marsh) is better for counties than an earlier version. This version would leave revenue enforcement officers in the Department of Revenue and the Department of Transportation. The bill could come up for a floor vote in the Senate at any time, so please ask senators to oppose amendments that would change enforcement abilities at DOT and DOR.
Legislative agency consolidation
Another of the “efficiency” proposals would reorganize the offices that support the Legislature, include the Examiners of Public Accounts. ACCA is seeking an amendment to keep auditors under the state merit system.