Legislative Session Updated for Week of 3-10 thru 3-14
Posted by: Matt Boster
Date: Mar 14 2014 12:09 PM
The following is a quick update of a number of bills the Association has been carefully monitoring during this Legislative Session. A report on the status of ACCA Bills – along with a “to do” list for counties on how to help keep those measures moving during what will surely be a hectic three-day week starting on Tuesday – will be sent out later today.
Prompt Payment HB 24 by Rep. Bill Roberts/Sen. Del Marsh It appears that your calls were instrumental in preserving the House-passed language that ensures that counties and others are not required to pay contractors on federal jobs until 10 days after federal funding is received. The bill was approved on Wednesday by a Senate committee and could be voted on in the Senate as early as Tuesday. There will be one floor amendment to require counties and others to gain approval for any grant monies before entering into a construction contract based on that grant. We consider this amendment “friendly” and do not believe it will negatively impact counties.
Examiners to State Auditor’s Office HB 350 by Rep. Ed Henry Thursday the House gave approval to legislation that places the administration of the Department of Examiners under the state auditor. The Association is still very concerned about any changes in the operation of this important agency, but worked with the sponsor to make changes that ensure the administrators charged with directing the day-to-day operation are granted merit system protection. It is very important that this agency – and its auditing functions – be protected from political interplay. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
9-1-1 Legislation SB 317 by Sen. Del Marsh A surprise bill to alter the make-up of the statewide board that oversees the distribution of the new, statewide fee to fund 9-1-1 services was the subject of a public hearing and will be amended on the Senate floor to remove language that would have increased the number of seats on the board by adding business representatives with little or no connection to the operation of 911 services in Alabama. The floor version of the bill will still contain technical changes that will enhance the collection of the 9-1-1 fee on all service providers and, therefore, is not opposed by the Association.
Vacation of Roads HB 148 by Rep. Ron Johnson/Sen. Gerald Dial After more than a month of negotiation and contacts from county engineers and commissioners, the Association is now comfortable that an revised version of legislation amending the statute on road vacation can move forward without causing significant harm to county government. The bill will set up an appeal avenue for property owners in those cases when the county refuses to vacate an unpaved, dead-end road when ALL property owners request the vacation by petition. The measure will also allow a very narrow process for a majority of the county commission to place the vacation question on the commission agenda should the commissioner representing the district that contains the road be unwilling to do so. We expect this measure to reach the Senate floor Tuesday.
Gun Reform SB 354 by Sen. Scott Beason This year’s legislation from Sen. Scott Beason, which would have amended the law he sponsored in 2013, was considered on the floor of the Senate Thursday but was not passed. The bill would have legalized the carrying of a loaded handgun in a car without the necessity of holding a valid pistol permit. The Association expressed concerns about this measure, which could still return to the floor next week.
Open Meetings SB 191 by Sen. Cam Ward A public hearing is expected Wednesday on the revisions to the existing Open Meetings Law. The Association has been involved in the negotiations on the wording of this bill since the first day of the 2014 session. Amendments to expand exceptions to the meetings law for interviewing of job candidates and for economic development issues are expected during the committee meeting Wednesday. The Association is comfortable with the amendments and has removed its objections to the legislation.
Constitutional Revision The opportunity for any comprehensive revision of Alabama’s constitution as recommended by the Constitutional Revision Commission died this week when the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee failed once again to move any of the bills proposing an “article-by-article” revision of the lengthy document. Citizen groups opposing any change to the constitution challenged this approach to revision, and while the majority of Alabama Supreme Court justices refused to weigh in on this issue in response to an advisory opinion request from the Alabama Senate, the chief justice voiced strong opposition to this approach. Based upon the chief justice’s comments and the likelihood of a court challenge to any approved changes, committee members declined to act on any of the proposals.
Two ACCA-supported bills proposing constitutional amendments to authorize counties to exercise administrative powers (SB 367 by Sen. Del Marsh) and to alter the process for placing a local constitutional amendment on a statewide ballot (SB 274 by Sen. Linda Coleman) still have a slim chance of movement if they can be passed by the Senate in the coming week. However, the proposal to alter the process for passing local bills to allow for the adoption of amendments, which was included in the bill proposing a comprehensive rewrite of the legislative article of the constitution (SB 258 by Sen. Ward), died this week with the other proposals held up in committee.
Need a recap of action this week? Check out these State House Status Reports
Coming to Montgomery on Tuesday?
The legislative session is nearing its end, and next week is the last organized County Day @ the Legislature for this year. If you have not been able to participate in any of the previous events, you are welcome to join Barbour, Calhoun, Chambers, Choctaw, Clarke, Coosa, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Lamar, Lawrence, Madison, Montgomery and Shelbycounties at the State House on Tuesday. Please call Brandy Perry at 334-263-7594 by noon on Monday to let us know you’re coming so we can make sure there’s enough food at lunch.