February 22, 2013 Legislative Review From Last WeekRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Feb 25 2013 3:03 PM
The fast pace of the 2013 session continued this week, with Governor Bentley signing the Alabama Trust Fund repayment into law, two ACCA bills (election expenses and credit cards for counties) coming out of committee and, unfortunately, one Danger Bill (retirement raise for supernumerary tax officials) zipping through committee.
Looking ahead to Week 4, we expect the sprint to continue, since there are three ACCA bills scheduled for House floor votes on Tuesday. ACCMA members are invited to Montgomery on Tuesday, where the House is expected to take up RAMP funding, redemption of property after tax sales and income tax refund setoffs for local government. It will also be a demanding week in committees, where we fear new danger bills about engineer liability and prompt payment could begin to advance.
All of this points to the extreme importance of your active engagement in the legislative process. Your face-to-face visits, phone calls, emails and texts make a difference.
To support you in your efforts, we have scheduled another webinar for 3 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25. This session, with Sonny Brasfield and the rest of the ACCA legislative team, will focus on the week ahead with special emphasis on the retirement raise for supernumerary tax officials, a dangerous unfunded mandate that is likely to come up on the Senate floor soon.
If you would like to take part, email Sallie Gowan for the registration link. There are several options for joining the session:
- You can sign in at a computer and use your telephone to speak and hear, use your computer’s speakers to hear and type questions in using the chat function or use a headset with earphones and a microphone.
- If you are on the go, use the free Go To Meeting app for your smartphone or tablet. (We’ve gotten good reports from users with iPhones and iPads.)
Please direct any webinar questions to Sallie Gowan.
Many thanks to Sens. Sanford, Pittman, Williams, Orr, Brewbaker and Waggoner, who sided with counties on cutting out wasteful election spending. Sen. Paul Sanford’s SB 125 came out of committee on a party-line vote with several changes (Please see this revised Fact Sheet for a summary or these documents for details: Senate committee substitute, amendment 1, amendment 2). The Alabama Press Association, which represents newspapers, has removed its objections after changes were negotiated to the sharply reduced advertising requirements. Additional changes were made to the absentee ballot manager provisions to deal with issues raised by circuit clerks. ACCA agreed to a change sought by the probate judges (which was added in a committee amendment), but the probate judges are still fighting this legislation. The sponsor intends to bring this to a floor vote in the Senate next week. Urge your senators to SUPPORT this important streamlining of unnecessary election expenditures. If you need info on the potential impact in your county, check out this county-by-county election expense chart which has figures from the March 2012 primary.
The House version (HB 275 by Rep. Allen Farley) is expected to be considered in a House subcommittee next week. Encourage subcommittee members to SUPPORT HB 275. Subcommittee: Randy Wood, Chair; Paul Beckman, John Merrill, Barry Moore, Demetrius Newton.
The first ACCA bill that the House is scheduled to consider Tuesday afternoon is funding for the RAMP portion of ATRIP. Benefits are obvious for the 22 participating counties, because they get help with matching money for ATRIP projects. But the other 55 counties benefit too, since the RAMP counties are no longer competing for ATRIP dollars in round three. Additionally, the ATRIP committee made the decision that a county that decided against RAMP would receive a minimum of $10 million in ATRIP funding. Until RAMP was organized, counties had no guarantee of funding. Ask your House members to SUPPORT HB 213.
Income tax refund setoff
Does your county struggle to collect long unpaid fees, fines and taxes? HB 46 by Rep. Steve Clouse (see also this House committee substitute and Fact sheet) could help on this front, by allowing the state to set off, or divert, someone’s state income tax refund to cover the debt. This is a new idea to many legislators, so you may want to make an extra effort to reach out, since the bill is scheduled for a floor vote in the House on Tuesday. Encourage your House members to SUPPORT HB 46, and thanks to Rep. Alan Harper for putting the bill on the House’s working agenda.
Redemption of property
A bill (Rep. Steve Clouse’s HB 47, with amendment) to correct technical problems in the law governing tax sales and redemption of property is also scheduled for a vote by the full House on Tuesday afternoon. This Fact sheet and comparison chart explain the details. Ask your House members to SUPPORT HB 47, and thanks to Rep. Kerry Rich for putting the bill on the House’s working agenda.
The Senate’s version of this proposal, SB 197 by Sen. Cam Ward, could make the agenda in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee on Wednesday. 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.
County credit cards
The House County and Municipal Government Committee unanimously approved Rep. Alan Harper’s HB 247, which expand a county’s ability to use a credit card within certain limits (Fact sheet). A House committee amendment was added to establish an overall spending limit of 0.25 percent for the card. Many thanks to everyone who contacted their committee members! The next step for this legislation is a floor vote in the House, which could come as soon as Thursday. Ask your House members to support this long-overdue change. You may find it helpful to mention examples, such as one county can only renew their web domain name using a credit card, so the administrator has to use her personal card and get reimbursed.
Raise for supernumerary tax officials
The Senate version (SB 193 by Sen. Tom Whatley) of the bill providing a mandated increase in benefits for supernumerary tax officials was approved by a Senate Committee on Tuesday. The unfunded mandate is available for floor action as early as Tuesday in the Senate. The Association is strongly opposed to the bill because of the direct and immediate impact on county budgets. A detailed explanation and overview of the legislation is available online. Ask your senators to OPPOSE SB 193 and OPPOSE it reaching the Senate floor.
The House version (HB 334 by Rep. John Merrill) was introduced Thursday and has been assigned to the House State Government Committee. 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.
The Association of Alabama Tax Administrators will be holding its annual conference in Montgomery beginning Monday, and clearly they will make a push for this legislation to be considered in the House and Senate this week. There are no other groups opposing this legislation so please make sure Senators and the House Committee members hear the “county story” on this legislation.
On Thursday Rep. Jamie Ison introduced a liability protection bill for professional engineers (HB 335) that will effectively shift additional responsibilities to county engineers and governments. Today, many counties employ private consulting engineers to perform inspection work on construction sites. The broadly worded legislation would exempt such engineers from liability – leaving the county as the only potential defendant. A committee of county engineers reviewed this legislation on Thursday and is extremely concerned about the legislation. A public hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday in committee. Ask committee members to OPPOSE HB 335. 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.
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 (HB 303 by Rep. Bill Roberts and 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.
The Senate version is scheduled for a vote at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in committee. Ask committee members to OPPOSE SB 237. Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee: Williams, Chairperson; Bussman, Coleman, Glover, Keahey, Scofield, Taylor.
School Security and Firearms
The Association participated in another negotiation this week on provisions of a bill that would relax the prohibition on openly carrying firearms in Alabama, require sheriffs to issue pistol permits to all non-felons and hold officials and employees personally responsible for any actions regulating the carry of firearms. We anticipate a substitute for this bill in just a few days.
A House committee held hearings on several bills related to school safety – including a bill that would allow sheriffs to appoint armed volunteers to patrol schools. The Association raised liability concerns related to all the proposed bills, which were assigned to a sub-committee for further study and work. Again, we will keep county officials posted on the progress of these bills.
Sen. Slade Blackwell introduced legislation (SB 234) to raise the preference for local bidders from 3 to 5 percent. The bill is on a committee agenda for Tuesday. Encourage committee members to SUPPORT SB 234. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee: Holley, Chairperson; Bedford, Vice chairperson; Beason, Brewbaker, Coleman, Dunn, Figures, Orr, Pittman, Sanford, Taylor.
Tax court, taxpayers bill of rights
The House version of this proposal cleared the House Judiciary Committee on this week, and the Senate version is set for a public hearing Wednesday in committee. Contact committee members if you have concerns. Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee: Williams, Chairperson; Bussman, Coleman, Glover, Keahey, Scofield, Taylor.