Legislative Update February 7 Alabama Association Of County CommissionersRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Feb 11 2014 9:37 AM
Legislative Issues Webinars
It’s never been more important for county leaders to play an active role in the state legislative process, and a great way to improve your understanding of the critical issues at stake is to take part in the next Legislative Issues Webinar. The next scheduled time for ACCA staff members to go live with county leaders all over the state is 3 p.m. Thursday. Use this link to register and you’ll get a follow-up email with instructions. You will sign on from a computer with the option to use your telephone for audio. There’s also an app (search for “gotomeeting”) for smartphones and tablets.
County Days @ the Legislature
Tuesday is time for ACCA’s second County Day @ the Legislature for 2014. The county presence was noticed earlier this week, and your ACCA staff members look forward to welcoming nine more counties — Cleburne, Coffee, Escambia, Hale, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Marion, Marshall and Russell – to Montgomery. It will be great to have county leaders in the room for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Meeting at 11 a.m. that day, since an ACCA bill on debt recovery is first on the agenda. (See below for more info on that issue.) Questions about County Days? Call Brandy Perry at 334-263-7594.
9-1-1 Law Revisions
SB 317 by Sen. Del Marsh
Legislation changing the make-up of the new statewide 9-1-1 governing board was introduced this week. The legislation would make two very troubling changes to the new law:
- It would add two business representatives to the board that establishes the statewide rate;
- It would limit the application of the monthly service charge to no more than 100 lines per location.
ACCA strongly opposes expanding board and limiting the influence of the local 9-1-1 boards. Additionally, limiting the number of lines assessed the monthly service fee at each location will almost certainly spike the statewide 9-1-1 charge, which began on Oct. 1, 2013, and currently is set at $1.60 per month.
The bill is pending in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. While the bill is not currently scheduled to be considered this week, it may be added to the agenda and will almost certainly be given priority treatment in the coming weeks. It is important that all members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee be contacted as soon as possible and asked to oppose these proposed changes to the law passed in 2012.(This committee also is considering two other county issues, discussed below.) Holley, chairperson; Bedford, vice chairperson; Beason, Brewbaker, Coleman, Dunn, Figures, Orr, Pittman, Sanford, Taylor, Marsh
Vacation of Roads
HB 148 by Rep. Ron Johnson/Sen. Gerald Dial
Every decision on vacating a county road — regardless of which way the decision went — could lead to a lawsuit under this bill pending action in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Click here for an overview of how this bill would harm the current process for vacating county roads. It is very important that county officials urge the members to oppose the bill unless major changes are made in the committee. (This committee also is considering two other county issues, discussed above and below.) Holley, chairperson; Bedford, vice chairperson; Beason, Brewbaker, Coleman, Dunn, Figures, Orr, Pittman, Sanford, Taylor, Marsh
Prompt Payment of Contracts
HB 24 by Rep. Bill Roberts
On Wednesday a House committee approved the so-called prompt payment legislation without accepting the Association’s amendment following a lengthy public hearing in which several local officials expressed concerns in the bill. In its current form, the bill would require governmental entities to make payments to contractors on a public works contract even if federal grant monies earmarked to fund the project are not yet available to the entity. Special thanks to former ACCA Presidents Ricky Harcrow and Larry White as well as Elmore County Engineer Richie Beyer, who all testified in opposition of the bill on Wednesday. Appreciation is also given to those officials who discussed this bill with their legislators during County Day activities on Tuesday.
ACCA encourages county officials to ask all House members to vote “no” when the bill reaches the floor. County officials should also contact members of the House Rules Committee and request that they oppose placing HB 24 on the Special Order Calendar. (Please also encourage Rules Committee members to “pick” HB 136 on the Local Government Health Insurance Program, discussed below.)
House Rules Committee: Chair Mac McCutcheon, Vice Chair Ron Johnson, Ranking Minority Member James Buskey, Barbara Boyd, Craig Ford, Alan Harper, Victor Gaston, Lynn Greer, Mike Jones, Richard Laird, John Merrill, Mary Sue McClurkin, Kerry Rich, Oliver Robinson, Randy Wood
Examiners’ Office to State Auditor
HB 350 by Rep. Ed Henry
A vote is expected in the House Ways & Means General Fund Committee this Wednesday on the legislation shifting the oversight for the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts. If passed, HB 350 would place the operation of the department under the State Auditor. The Association testified this week in opposition to the bill, expressing concerns about maintaining objectivity in the auditing process so essential to county government. The Association is concerned that, without important changes to the legislation, the quality and impartiality of the auditing process will be severely impacted. A meeting to discuss possible revisions with supporters of the bill is scheduled for Friday afternoon. County officials are asked to urge committee members to oppose this bill unless amendments are offered to address county concerns. Chair Steve Clouse, Vice Chair Greg Wren, Ranking Minority Member Richard Laird, Jim Carns, Merika Coleman-Evans, Chad Fincher, Victor Gaston, Lynn Greer, Laura Hall, Ken Johnson, John Knight, Richard Laird, Paul Lee, Wes Long, Mike Millican
Open Meetings Law
SB 191 by Sen. Cam Ward
For the second straight week, the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed votes on the revisions to the state’s Open Meetings law to allow the Alabama Press Association time to work on revisions requested by several different groups subject to the Open Meetings Law. The Association continues to work with the Alabama Press Association on county concerns and they have been very receptive to finding common ground. The Association is optimistic that its concerns can be addressed through continuing negotiations. Please encourage committee members to oppose the bill unless the Association’s amendments are accepted. (And encourage committee members to support SB 169 on Tax Offset for County Debts, discussed below.) Ward, Chairperson; Fielding, Vice Chairperson; Coleman, Figures, Keahey, Orr, Smitherman, Taylor, Whatley, Williams, Reed
Publishing Election Notices
HB 71 by Rep. Howard Sanderford | Fact Sheet
The bill to reduce the publication costs in Alabama elections passed the House, but by a fairly small margin with voting largely along party lines. The bill continues to have strong opposition from members of both parties in the Senate so it will be much more difficult to move the bill in the upper chamber. The Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics, and Elections Committee is scheduled to consider the bill Thursday at 8:30 a.m. (This committee’s agenda also includes another ACCA bill, discussed below, on counting write-in votes.) Please contact committee members and ask for their support of this bill that will save state and county coffers approximately $1 million statewide. Taylor, chairperson; Beasley, Brewbaker, Bussman, Irons, McGill, Pittman, Orr
Counting of Write-in Votes
HB 198 by Rep. Charles Newton | Fact Sheet
The House version of the bill to alter the process for counting write-in votes will also be taken up in the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics, and Elections Committee on Thursday. Under this proposal, write-in votes would be counted at the same time as provisional ballots when the number of write-ins for a specific office is greater than or equal to the difference in votes between the candidates receiving the most votes unless a request to count the write-in votes has been received along with a bond to cover the cost of the count.
The Senate version was approved by this committee on Wednesday, but only after lengthy debate. Several committee members expressed concerns about the need for this revision of current law requiring that all write-in votes be counted on election night. County officials need to contact all members of the committee to ask for their support of the House bill and be prepared to explain how it will improve the vote counting process. Officials should also ask their probate judges – who are partnering with the Association on this project – to contact the Senate committee members. As the chief election officials, the probate judges are in an excellent position to help explain the benefits of this legislation. (This committee is also set to consider HB 71 on publishing election notices, discussed above, on Thursday.) Taylor, chairperson; Beasley, Brewbaker, Bussman, Irons, McGill, Pittman, Orr
Tax Offset for County Debts
HB 82 by Rep. Steve Clouse | Fact Sheet
SB 169 by Sen. Jerry Fielding
The House version of the bill to allow for an offset of a taxpayer’s state income tax refund for payment of debts due the county will be the first bill on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee agenda Tuesday at 11 a.m. Please ask members of the committee to support this bill which will allow counties an effective mechanism to collect what may otherwise be an “uncollectable debt.” (This committee is also expected to consider two Danger Bills, discussed above, in the coming weeks.) Holley, chairperson; Bedford, vice chairperson; Beason, Brewbaker, Coleman, Dunn, Figures, Orr, Pittman, Sanford, Taylor, Marsh
The Senate version will also be considered in committee this week. Please ask members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote for this bill when it is taken up on the agenda. (At the same meeting, this committee is also set to discuss a Danger Bill on open meetings, discussed above.) Ward, Chairperson; Fielding, Vice Chairperson; Coleman, Figures, Keahey, Orr, Smitherman, Taylor, Whatley, Williams, Reed
Local Government Health Insurance Board
HB 136 by Rep. Mac McCutcheon & Rep. Mike Hill | Fact Sheet
Consideration on the House floor is the next step for the bill to create a separate health insurance board to make decisions affecting the health insurance policies in place for county employees. To get to the House floor, the bill needs to be “picked” by a member of the House Rules Committee, which meets Tuesday to choose priority bills for Thursday. County officials should contact members of this committee and request that HB 136 be selected as a bill to be debated on the House floor during the coming week. (Members of this committee could also delay — or block — advancement of a Danger Bill about prompt payment of contractors, discussed above.) Chair Mac McCutcheon, Vice Chair Ron Johnson, Ranking Minority Member James Buskey, Barbara Boyd, Craig Ford, Alan Harper, Victor Gaston, Lynn Greer, Mike Jones, Richard Laird, John Merrill, Mary Sue McClurkin, Kerry Rich, Oliver Robinson, Randy Wood