Legislative Reports The First Week In Session January 17Rickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Jan 26 2014 8:10 AM
Quick start to a short session
The first week of the 2014 Legislative Session has come to an end and as anticipated, the Alabama Legislature hit the ground running. The goal is to complete the session by early April and to accomplish that, lawmakers plan to move quickly to pass bills that are a priority to the House and Senate leadership. Several of these priority bills were passed in the House on Thursday, including an ACCA-priority bill and a bill with which counties still have concerns.
The first week was a good one for counties as most of our priority bills were introduced – and several were reported out of committee. The three ACCA bills included in the recommendations of the Constitutional Revision Commission have not been introduced as yet, and work continues on an agreement for business license reform legislation, but all other ACCA bills are now pending in at least one chamber. And as discussed in more detail below, the list of ACCA priority bills has grown since the ACCA Legislative Conference. We will keep counties posted on developments on the business license reform legislation but hope to have a final version ready soon. And stay tuned for updates on the Constitutional Revision bills as they are finalized and ready for introduction.
As we have been reporting throughout the week, there were several danger bills introduced this week and it appears counties have already been working to educate legislators on the problems these bills generate. Since things will be moving very quickly this year, counties will be required to react very quickly to help battle legislation that could have a negative impact on county government. Bills requiring county action before next week are discussed below.
The following is a report of ACCA and Danger Bills introduced this week with guidance on what actions county officials and staff should take to help in the ACCA legislative effort. Please also check the ACCA website daily for “real-time” status of bills, including the list of bills of interest for each ACCA affiliate group. Please also watch for your daily status reports from ACCA staff and be prepared to take action as needed.
Business Personal Property Taxes
HB 108 by Rep. Greg Wren
The bill to streamline the business personal property taxation process by establishing an online system and short form for filing personal property tax returns where the total property owned by the business is valued at less than $10,000 was passed by the House on Thursday by a vote of 99-0. Please thank all House members for their strong support of this important legislation.
The bill now moves to the Senate but has not as yet been assigned to a committee. This bill is a priority for the House and Senate leadership and could receive final passage this week. Please stayed tuned for information on how to help get this bill to the governor in the next few days.
Local Government Health Insurance Program
HB 136 by Rep. Mac McCutcheon
The bill that would create a separate board to direct the operation of the Alabama Local Government Health Insurance Program was introduced and assigned to the House State Government Committee. The bill has not been considered by the House Committee as yet, so counties should contact those committee members and ask that they support this very important measure aimed at ensuring that local representatives are making decisions about the future of the local government health insurance program. The members of the committee are: Chair Jamie Ison, Mike Hill, Johnny Mack Morrow, Barbara Boyd, Ralph Howard, Jim McClendon, Becky Nordgren, Harry Shiver, Mark Tuggle.
Qualifying Dates for Independent Candidates
HB 268 by Rep. David Standridge / SB 214 by Sen. Cam Ward
This bill would require an independent candidate to file his or her petition for ballot access by the end of qualifying for party candidates. It would also require the independent candidate to pay a filing fee similar to the qualifying fees paid by other candidates.
The Senate version of this bill is on the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee agenda for Thursday at 9 a.m. Please contact members of the committee to ask for their support of this bill that will create a level playing field for all candidates for elected office. The members of the committee are: Taylor, chairperson; Beasley, Brewbaker, Bussman, Irons, McGill, Pittman, Orr.
The House version of the bill was assigned to the House Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections Committee. Please contact members of that committee to ask that they support this bill when it comes before the committee, hopefully during the week of Jan. 27. Committee members are: Chair Randy Davis, Randy Wood, Richard Lindsey, Paul Beckman, Adline Clarke, Paul DeMarco, Juandalynn Givan, John Merrill, Barry Moore.
Publishing Election Notices
HB 71 by Rep. Howard Sanderford / SB 72 by Sen. Paul Sanford (with committee amendment)| Fact Sheet
The bill to significantly reduce costs for elections by moving the publication of the voters list and election notices from newspapers to county websites was introduced in both houses this week and received favorable committee report in the House and Senate. The bills now move to the floor in both chambers. We are hoping to have each bill considered early in the session so please talk to your House and Senate members about the importance of this legislation from the county perspective. There has been much confusion about the impact of this bill, so please report any concerns raised to the ACCA staff so we can try to address those before the bills are considered on the floor.
Counting of Write-in Votes
HB 198 by Rep. Charles Newton
This bill – a joint effort of counties and probate judges – would amend the current process for counting write-in ballots to require counting only in those races where the write-ins could impact the outcome of the race. The bill has been assigned to the House Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections Committee and is scheduled to be considered by that committee at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Please contact members of the committee to ask for their support of this legislation. Committee members are: Chair Randy Davis, Randy Wood, Richard Lindsey, Paul Beckman, Adline Clarke, Paul DeMarco, Juandalynn Givan, John Merrill, Barry Moore.
We anticipate the Senate version of this bill will be introduced next week.
State Tax Refund Offset
HB 82 by Rep. Steve Clouse (with House committee amendment)| Fact Sheet / SB 169 by Sen. Jerry Fielding
This bill would allow counties the authority to offset a person’s state income tax refund for payment of debts due to the local government such as delinquent solid waste fees or unpaid local taxes and fees. The House version of the bill was passed unanimously by the House County and Municipal Government Committee this week.
The Senate version has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please contact members of the committee and ask that they support this bill when it is considered. The members are: Ward, Chairperson; Fielding, Coleman, Figures, Keahey, Orr, Smitherman, Taylor, Whatley, Williams, Reed.
Public Safety Communication
HB 54 by Rep. Randy Wood (with committee substitute) | Fact Sheet / SB 215 by Sen. Greg Reed
This bill would create the crime of interfering with public safety communication if someone were to damage public safety communication equipment or otherwise interfere with a public safety telecommunication broadcast or transmission, including 9-1-1 services. While this was not included in the original list of ACCA priority bills for 2014, there was great interest from the 9-1-1 districts in this legislation when proposed by Rep. Wood and it would greatly benefit counties if these protections against interference were passed into law.
The House version of this bill received committee approval in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee this week, and it could come up before the full House of Representatives next week. Please ask all House members to support this important measure.
The Senate version is on the agenda for the Senate Commerce, Transportation, and Utilities Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m. Please contact the following committee members and ask for their vote in favor of this bill: Allen, Chairperson; Reed, Hightower, Holtzclaw, McGill, Ross, Scofield, Smith, Marsh.
HB 222 by Rep. Randall Shedd / SB149 by Sen. Gerald Allen
This bill would allow the Alabama Emergency Management Agency to transfer equipment and other property to county emergency management agencies for their use. Counties would benefit greatly from the ability to have state EMA equipment transferred to county EMA programs. Therefore, while this bill was not on the original ACCA priority list, the Association has been asked to help with passage of this important measure.
The Senate version of this bill was approved by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee this week.
The House version of the bill was assigned to the House State Government Committee and could be considered during the coming week. Please contact the following members and ask them to support the bill when it is considered in committee: Chair Jamie Ison, Mike Hill, Johnny Mack Morrow, Barbara Boyd, Ralph Howard, Jim McClendon, Becky Nordgren, Harry Shiver, Mark Tuggle.
Valuation of Property
HB 13 by Rep. Oliver Robinson
This bill would dramatically alter the process used for establishing the taxable value of federally-subsidized low-income housing ventures. The result would almost eliminate property taxes on such developments. The bill would reduce revenue to the counties, cities, schools, hospitals and other recipients of ad valorem taxes.
Please contact the members of the House Commerce and Small Business Committee and ask that they oppose this legislation if it is considered by the committee. Committee members are: Chair Jack Williams, Barry Moore, Craig Ford, Richard Baughn, Mack Butler, David Colston, Kurt Wallace, April Weaver, Pebblin Warren.
County officials may also want to touch base with other local groups that receive ad valorem tax revenues to make sure they are aware of the negative impact this bill would have on revenues they now receive.
HB 24 by Rep. Bill Roberts
Rep. Roberts has again introduced his bill that proposes to require counties and other entities to pay contractors every 30 days during public works contracts. Existing law, negotiated in 2012, includes a partial exemption for federally funded projects. This bill removes the exemption, ham-stringing counties seeking federal grants for construction projects.
Please contact the members of the House Transportation, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee to urge their opposition to this bill. Committee members are: Chair Lynn Greer, Victor Gaston, Richard Laird, George Bandy, Richard Baughn, Merica Coleman-Evans, Joe Faust, Mike Jones, Darrio Melton, Bill Roberts, John Robinson, Randall Shedd, Kurt Wallace.
This is the 2014 version of a decade-long effort to create a new state agency to hear tax disputes. The bill makes massive changes to the Taxpayers Bill of Rights that will negatively impact the current process for collecting taxes at the local level. The bill passed the House on Thursday, but county officials are urged to ask their senators to oppose this legislation.
Both the House and Senate versions of this bill will be considered by the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee on Wednesday at 10 a.m. ACCA has requested a public hearing on this bill to ask that county concerns be addressed. County officials should contact committee members this weekend asking them to oppose this legislation unless county issues are adequately addressed. The members of the committee are: Williams, chairperson; Bussman, Coleman, Glover, Keahey, Scofield, Taylor, Marsh
This legislation makes substantial changes to Alabama’s Open Meetings Law. Some of the changes are designed to respond to unexpected court rulings that make administration of the law very difficult. However, at least one provision aimed at so-called “serial meetings” would make it difficult for public officials to be together in public without risk of being accused of violating the new law. The House bill has been assigned to the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee and the Senate version will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
ACCA staff is set to begin work with the Alabama Press Association on this bill next week. Please urge your House and Senate members to go very slowly on any changes until we have an opportunity to work on several problem areas.
Great thanks to all who have made calls this week and keep it going. Please contact the ACCA staff if you have any questions about any bills reported – and let us know if you receive information from your legislators that would help the ACCA staff in working legislation important to county government. We will keep you posted on our progress in the daily reports sent at the end of each legislative day. We hope this new feature helps to keep you informed – and lets you know when your efforts back home have made a difference in Montgomery.