March 1 2013 Weekly Report Of Alabama Legislature From Alabama Association of County CommissionersRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Mar 01 2013 6:03 PM
Weekly Report | Week of March 1, 2013 From Alabama Association of County Commissioners
This week the House passed three ACCA bills (RAMP funding, redemption of property and income tax refund setoff), sending them on to the Senate for consideration, and the Senate also approved its version of the RAMP funding bill. Many thanks to everyone who contacted their legislators to build support for these proposals!
The ACCA team spent much time this week negotiating with other parties on our election expenses bills, the engineer liability protection proposal, a new approach to business license reform and possible changes to property tax exemptions for the elderly and disabled.
With the combined efforts of ACCA members and staff, the danger bill affecting supernumerary tax officials was pulled from a committee agenda, as was a danger bill for so-called prompt payment of public contracts. Your contacts on these proposals made a difference!
Tension was high in the State House Thursday evening over handling of an education reform bill, and it is not immediately clear what the ripple effects will be. We anticipate delaying tactics from Democrats that could slow progress of other legislation.
Amid any fallout from yesterday, we expect next week to be busy, with one ACCA bill (credit cards for counties) scheduled for a House floor vote on Tuesday and the hotly contested election expenses bill slated for a House committee vote Wednesday morning. If you volunteered to come to Montgomery on certain days of the week or have connections to particular legislators, please watch your email closely! Your presence will likely be needed next week.
ACCA’s bill (Rep. Alan Harper’s HB 247 with House committee amendment) to expand a county’s ability to use a credit card within certain limits is scheduled for a House floor vote late Tuesday. Thanks to Rep. John Merrill for putting the bill on the House’s working agenda. Ask your House members to SUPPORT this long-overdue change and to stay in session long enough to reach this common-sense bill. You may find it helpful to mention examples of how your county could benefit.
A Senate version (SB 280 by Sen. Jimmy Holley) that incorporates the House committee amendment was introduced this week, and it could be considered in committee on Tuesday. Ask your committee members to support this long-overdue change. You may find it helpful to mention examples of how your county could benefit. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee: Holley, Chairperson; Bedford, Vice chairperson; Beason, Brewbaker, Coleman, Dunn, Figures, Orr, Pittman, Sanford, Taylor.
ACCA’s push to save money for counties and the state by eliminating wasteful election expenses (HB 275 by Rep. Allen Farley) is on a House committee agenda at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The proposal focuses on newspaper advertising, absentee election managers and “nickel-a-name,” and it has undergone significant changes already in the Senate. Many of these changes are likely to be mirrored in the House. (Please see this revised Fact Sheet for a summary or these documents for details: Senate committee substitute, amendment 1, amendment 2). If you need info on the potential impact in your county, check out this updated county-by-county election expense chart, which has figures from the March 2012 primary. Probate judges are reluctant to give up their “nickel-a-name” money, even though they no longer do the work. See this History of “Nickel-a-name” for background. There is still significant opposition, so it is important for committee members to hear from you. House Constitutions, Campaigns & Elections Committee: Chair Randy Davis, Vice Chair Randy Wood, Ranking Minority Member Richard Lindsey; Paul Beckman, Paul DeMarco, Juandalynn Givan, John Merrill, Barry Moore, Demetrius Newton.
The Senate version (SB 125 by Sen. Paul Sanford, as substituted and amended — see above) could come up for a floor vote at any time. Be sure your senators know what these savings could mean for your county.
Especially in smaller counties, it could be effective to tell legislators exactly how few absentee ballots were returned in your county for the Sept. 18 special election. (Regardless of the number of ballots, the absentee election manager – usually the circuit clerk – was eligible for $5,750 in pay.)
Redemption of property
A bill (Rep. Steve Clouse’s HB 47) to correct technical problems in the law governing tax sales and redemption of property was approved 94-0 in the House on Tuesday. Many thanks to Rep. Clouse for his skillful handling on the floor! Thanks too to everyone who contacted their House members on this bill! 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. This Fact sheet and comparison chart may be helpful. 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.
The House and Senate versions of the proposal to fund the RAMP portion of ATRIP won overwhelming support in their original chambers this week. Thanks to the bill sponsors, Rep. Mac McCutcheon and Sen. Paul Bussman, as well as everyone who contacted their legislators! The Senate version (SB 192 by Sen. Paul Bussman) is set for a committee vote at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Ask committee members to SUPPORT SB 192. House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee: Chair Lynn Greer, Vice Chair Victor Gaston, Ranking Minority Member John Robinson, George Bandy, Richard Baughn, Mac Buttram, Merika Coleman-Evans, Joe Faust, Mike Jones, Richard Laird, Darrio Melton, Bill Roberts, Kurt Wallace
This Fact Sheet may be useful as you make your contacts.
Income tax refund setoff
On Tuesday, the House also approved HB 46 by Rep. Steve Clouse (see Fact sheet), which would allow the state to set off, or divert, someone’s state income tax refund to cover a debt owed to a county or city. Thanks again to everyone who contacted their House members, and thanks too to Rep. Clouse!
Reinstatement of damage protection
Recent court rulings have begun to erode the $100,000 damage cap in lawsuits filed against public employees. These rulings leave open the possibility that the cap may not apply if the suit is filed directly against the public employee. SB 194 by Sen. Jerry Fielding would restore the damage cap. The bill is headed into mediation before a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Urge committee members to OPPOSE amendments to this bill. Senate Judiciary Committee: Ward, Chairperson; Fielding, Vice Chairperson; Coleman, Figures, Keahey, Orr, Smitherman, Taylor, Whatley, Williams
Raise for supernumerary tax officials
This unfunded mandate, which would provide a required increase in benefits for supernumerary tax officials, did not advance procedurally this week despite large numbers of tax officials visiting the State House on Tuesday. It is still relatively early in the session, so counties cannot let up now. SB 193 by Sen. Tom Whatley could come up for a floor vote in the Senate at any time. Ask your senators to OPPOSE SB 193 and OPPOSE it reaching the Senate floor. And there’s still time for the House version (HB 334 by Rep. John Merrill) to appear on a House committee agenda next week. 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.
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. These bills did not advance this week, but county leaders should continue contact with committee members. Ask committee members to OPPOSE SB 237. Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee: Williams, Chairperson; Bussman, Coleman, Glover, Keahey, Scofield, Taylor. Ask committee members to OPPOSE HB 303. 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.
Restriction on business license taxes
A number of counties have authority to impose business licenses, and Rep. Barry Moore’s HB 257 proposes a constitutional amendment that would impact those counties. The amendment would prevent counties from imposing a per unit business license on residential real estate after Jan. 1, 2013. In general, ACCA is more supportive of comprehensive business license reform, a project that is a priority of House leadership this year.
Moore’s bill is scheduled for a House floor vote on Tuesday afternoon. Urge House members to OPPOSE HB 257. The Senate version, Sen. Vivian Figures’ SB 217, is once again set for a committee vote. Urge committee members to OPPOSE SB 217. Senate Judiciary Committee: Ward, Chairperson; Fielding, Vice Chairperson; Coleman, Figures, Keahey, Orr, Smitherman, Taylor, Whatley, Williams
There’s a liability protection bill for professional engineers (HB 335 by Rep. Jamie Ison) 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. This week’s public hearing on the bill was cancelled, but there’s still time for it to appear on next week’s committee agenda. Negotiations are nearing completion on a compromise that would remove county objections. Ask committee members to OPPOSE HB 335 in its current form. 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.
Tax exemption for rescue squads
Just introduced this week, Sen. Gerald Dial’s SB 272 would exempt the Alabama Association of Rescue Squads and its members from lodging taxes. You may recall that last year the Legislature exempted the associations of rescue squads and volunteer fire departments from sales, use and property taxes. There is no legitimate reason for an association of this type be exempted, and this bill should be stopped in its tracks. There’s still time for the bill to appear on a committee agenda next week, so please ask committee members to OPPOSE this loss of revenue for counties that are already strapped for cash. Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee: Orr, Chairperson; Beasley, Bedford, Brewbaker, Dunn, Holtzclaw, Pittman, Sanford, Singleton, Ward, Waggoner, Williams.
Property tax cut for businesses
A bill that would lead to a recalculation of the value of business property was introduced this week, and it would cost counties an estimated $1.5 million a year. There’s still time for the bill (SB 281 by Sen. Shadrack McGill) to make a committee agenda for next week. Urge committee members to OPPOSE SB 281. Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee: Williams, Chairperson; Bussman, Coleman, Glover, Keahey, Scofield, Taylor.
The bill (SB 234 by Sen. Slade Blackwell) to expand county options to select local bidders came out of committee this week, making it eligible for a floor vote in the Senate soon. Ask your senators to SUPPORT SB 234.
Tax court, taxpayers bill of rights
The House version of this proposal (HB 264 by Rep. Paul DeMarco, as amended) is set for a House floor vote Tuesday afternoon, and the Senate version (SB 223 by Sen. Bryan Taylor) is still in committee. Contact House members or Senate committee members if you have concerns. Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee: Williams, Chairperson; Bussman, Coleman, Glover, Keahey, Scofield, Taylor.
Sales tax on food
Once again, there is an attempt (SB 279 by Sen. Gerald Dial) to remove the state sales tax on food. As introduced, the bill would not apply to local sales taxes on food. ACCA will monitor the legislation for amendments that might affect county sales taxes.