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March 15, 2013 Alabama Legislative Breakdown For Week

Rickey Stokes

Viewed: 1295

Posted by: RStokes
Date: Mar 16 2013 11:42 AM


Week of March 15, 2013 


Alabama Legislature According To Alabama Association Of County Commissioners






Despite the general slowdown on the House and Senate floors, ACCA bills continued to advance through the process this week. Proposals relating to redemption of property and income tax refund setoffs came out of committee. Negotiations continue on several fronts, including election expenses and property tax exemptions for low-income elderly and disabled.


Next week could bring final approval for RAMP funding, which will likely occur Thursday in the House. ACCA will also welcome members of the Alabama Association of Emergency Managers to Montgomery on Tuesday for their Day @ the Legislature. AAEM members will interact with their legislators in the State House and meet with Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Art Faulkner for a legislative briefing in the afternoon. (AAEM members with questions should contact Donna Key.) Thursday of next week will mark the session’s halfway point, and lawmakers are scheduled to take off the last week of March for their spring break.


If you want more insight on legislative activities with a bearing on counties, there’s still time to sign up for today’s webinar at 2 p.m. Topics will include:


- How counties can regain momentum in the Legislature – and save big $ – with ACCA’s election expenses bill
- One-time money from the Alabama Trust Fund – how much? How can it be used? Can it help with ATRIP?
- BP settlement $ for the Alabama Trust Fund?
- Update on “prompt payment” legislation
- Local preference bill would allow counties to go with local bidder even if costs up to 5 percent more (current law only allows 3 percent variation)
- Outlook for local legislation in the second half of the session. How slow can it go?
- PLUS your questions!


To register, email Sallie Gowan for the link.



ACCA BILLS



RAMP funding


The House floor vote on funding the RAMP portion of ATRIP (SB 192 by Sen. Paul Bussman) has been delayed a few days, and we now expect it to take place Thursday. House members supported the proposal 94-0 the last time it was before them.



Gas tax for vegetation management


Sen. Roger Bedford’s SB 293 would allow “four-cent” gas tax money to be spent on vegetation management on the county right of way. The bill is set for a committee vote on Wednesday morning, so please urge committee members to SUPPORT SB 293 and give counties this needed flexibility. Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee: Orr, Chairperson; Beasley, Bedford, Brewbaker, Dunn, Holtzclaw, Pittman, Sanford, Singleton, Ward, Waggoner, Williams.



Income tax refund setoff


Thanks to everyone who contacted the Senate Judiciary Committee! The committee approved ACCA’s bill, HB 46 by Rep. Steve Clouse, which would allow the state to divert an income tax refund to cover money owed to a county. Thanks too to Sen. Jerry Fielding, who handled the bill in committee. ACCA is working to get this bill to the Senate floor in early April.



Redemption of property


ACCA’s bill (HB 47 by Rep. Steve Clouse) to correct technical problems in the statute addressing tax sales and redemption of property was also approved in committee Wednesday. Thanks again to everyone who contacted the Senate Judiciary Committee, and to Sens. Jerry Fielding and Cam Ward for their leadership! ACCA is working to get this bill to the Senate floor in early April.



Election expenses


Counties are facing an uphill battle to reduce or eliminate certain wasteful election expenses that are mandated by state law while still preserving fair elections. Legislators have been sensitive to the passionate communications they have received from circuit clerks and probate judges. Your help is urgently needed to make sure EVERY MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATURE hears why these cost savings are needed.


Need help making your case? Try these steps:


1) Read Mary’s Action Alert;


2) Consult the county-by-county election expense chart for information on what your county spent for the March 2012 primary in these specific categories;


3) Review this list of counties where state records indicate the probate judge is receiving payment for preparing multiple lists;


4) Still stuck? Call ACCA at 334-263-7594 or email any of us – Sonny Brasfield, Mary Pons, Sallie Gowan or John Hamm.



DANGER BILLS



Gun legislation


ACCA is continuing to collaborate with sheriffs and district attorneys in negotiations about comprehensive gun legislation introduced by Sen. Scott Beason (SB 286). The biggest danger for counties is the tremendous liability exposure, and we are pursuing changes to address these concerns.



Property tax cut for businesses


ACCA testified in a public hearing Wednesday against the bill (SB 281 by Sen. Shadrack McGill) that would lead to a recalculation of the value of business property. The official estimate is that it would cost counties $1.5 million a year, but we fear the impact could be greater. The committee delayed action on the bill, and we are waiting for analysis from the Department of Revenue. Thanks to everyone who contacted members of the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee, and if you haven’t already, there is still time to ask them to OPPOSE this drastic cut in county revenue! Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee: Williams, Chairperson; Bussman, Coleman, Glover, Keahey, Scofield, Taylor.



Engineer liability


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. Negotiations continue on a substitute that would address county concerns. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday afternoon. Ask committee members to OPPOSE HB 335 unless county issues are resolved. 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.



Prompt payment


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 would reduce the payment window to 30 days and repeal the provision regarding projects funded with grants or other outside revenue. We believe these changes would make the law unworkable for counties. A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Check your availability for next week in case volunteers are needed in Montgomery to help oppose this legislation. And 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.



Construction manager at risk/design-build process


Sen. Slade Blackwell’s SB 289 would allow two alternative routes for awarding construction projects, using either a “construction manager at risk” or “design-build” process. The bill raises numerous concerns for counties, and ACCA – in consultation with engineers, administrators and commissioners – is continuing to negotiate with the construction industry. A public hearing is set for Thursday morning, and we will notify you if volunteers are needed. In the meantime, ask committee members not to advance the bill unless county objections are removed. Senate Commerce, Transportation and Utilities Committee: Allen, Chairperson; Reed, Vice Chairperson; Holtzclaw, McGill, Ross, Scofield, Smith.



OTHER BILLS


Local preference


Thanks to everyone who contacted members of the House County and Municipal Government Committee! The committee unanimously approved a bill (HB 411 by Rep. John Merrill) to expand county options to select local bidders. Under current law, a local bidder can get the job if the bid is no more than 3 percent higher than the lowest responsible bid. This would change that allowance to 5 percent.



Alabama Trust Fund repayment


Though legislators have already passed – and the governor has already signed into law – one plan for repaying the Alabama Trust Fund, a Senate committee advanced another possibility this week. SB 290 by Sen. Paul Sanford would require that any money the state receives from the BP oil spill case be used to repay the trust fund. ACCA spoke in support of the bill.



Property tax exemptions for elderly, disabled


There was no formal action this week on HB 19 by Rep. Jack Williams. Negotiations continue, and the bill is again scheduled for committee consideration next week. You may recall that last year ACCA promoted legislation to change the property tax exemptions for low-income elderly and disabled homeowners. Because of unintended consequences of the new law, there are efforts to revisit the issue this year. One of the biggest sources of abuse has been homeowners who used letters from two doctors to become classified as disabled.



Tax court, taxpayers’ bill of rights


The Senate version of this proposal (SB 223 by Sen. Bryan Taylor) came out of committee Wednesday and is unlikely to come up on the Senate floor until after spring break.




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