Second Week Of Alabama Legislature - Some Danger BillsRIckey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Jan 26 2014 8:08 AM
Big week ahead for Danger Bills
The Legislature completed its second full week of work on Thursday, leaving town after introducing several very dangerous bills that need the attention of county officials and employees. Because many of the bills outlined below will have a negative impact on the county commission as well as other agencies, it is important that these issues be shared with other entities and employees.
Restructuring the Department of Examiners
HB 350 by Rep. Ed Henry
This legislation places the entire Department of Examiners of Public Accounts under the direction and control of a single elected official, the state auditor. Shifting control of this essential department would have an extremely negative impact on county commissions.
Today, the department reports to a legislative committee that ensures a level of objectivity that simply cannot be achieved when the ability to audit, criticize and levy administrative fines rests in the hands of one official. The Association has requested a public hearing on this bill, which will be held in the House Ways and Means – General Fund Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 1:30 p.m. County officials are urged to contact the members listed below this weekend and to notify others in county government that will also be impacted by this change.
House Ways and Means – General Fund Committee: 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, Paul Lee, Wes Long, Mike Millican, Greg Wren
Property tax on low-income housing
HB 13 by Rep. Oliver Robinson
A very influential contract lobbying group has been hired to push for the passage of legislation that completely restructures the process used to establish the taxable value of federally subsidized apartment complexes.
The bill, if passed, will significantly reduce revenue to counties, cities, schools and other entities. A hearing on this legislation is expected no later than the first week of February and the bill is expected to have strong support in the House.
County officials are encouraged to express opposition to the members of the committee listed below and to reach out to your local tax officials for information on the impact in your county. (Here is a letter from Mobile County Revenue Commissioner Marilyn Wood about impact in her county alone.)
HB 24 by Rep. Bill Roberts | Fact Sheet
A public hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, in the House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee for the long-discussed bill that would require counties and other public entities to pay contractors within 35 days of receiving an invoice. This payment requirement will even apply to those projects funded with federal dollars that are frequently unavailable until after construction is well underway.
The Association has proposed an amendment that would preserve an exemption for federally funded projects while requiring public entities to disclose the use of federal funds in bid documents, thereby allowing contractors to bid with the knowledge that payments may be delayed. Without the amendment, the bill will directly impact participation in many federal grant programs.
Every member of this committee should be contacted by county officials this weekend. Additionally, county officials should contact other local governmental entities in their area to make sure they understand the negative impact this bill would have on every entity funding public works projects with federal funds.
In addition, county leaders who can travel to Montgomery on Wednesday morning are needed. Please contact Sallie Gowan if you are available.
House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee: Chair Lynn Greer, Victor Gaston, Richard Laird, George Bandy, Richard Baughn, Merika Coleman-Evans, Joe Faust, Mike Jones, Darrio Melton, Bill Roberts, John Robinson, Randall Shedd, Kurt Wallace.
Open Meetings Law
SB 191 by Sen. Cam Ward
This bill would make it impossible for commission members to discuss public business in small groups by creating a new term known as “serial meetings.” Additionally, the bill would increase fines for those found to have violated the law. Association staff has been working with the Alabama Press Association to come up with a compromise bill that all parties could agree to, but as yet no agreement has been reached. The Senate version of this bill is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday at 1 p.m. County officials should make contact with committee members as soon as possible to express your concerns about this bill.
Court Costs Administrative Fee
SB 201 by Sen. Dick Brewbaker
A public hearing will be held Wednesday on a bill to require the court system to retain a 5 percent administrative fee on all court costs collected – including court costs distributed to counties for jails, courthouses, or other purposes. This bill would significantly reduce county revenues with no ability to replace the loss. County officials are urged to contact committee members listed below. Additionally, counties should contact their sheriff, probate judge, tax officials and any other local officials who rely on court cost monies to fund any portion of their operation. Please email your examples of how this would affect your county to Sallie Gowan.
As is always the case, there have been several bills introduced this session to allow for exemption of taxes for various groups or entities. ACCA staff has been working hard to keep these bills from being considered, but at some point, committees will be begin to look at – and possibly approve – some of these exemptions. It is important that county officials talk with legislators about the negative impact of even a small decrease in tax revenues resulting from the grant of a tax exemption and urge rejection of all efforts to reduce existing county tax revenues.
It appears that ACCA staff and counties will be extremely busy next week working against legislation that could harm county government in significant ways. However, we do anticipate some positive activities as well. As reported in Thursday’s status report, there are strong possibilities that one or more of the Association’s priority bills will be considered on the floor of either the House or Senate this coming week.
Publishing election notices
In particular, there is a good chance that Sen. Sanford’s bill to reduce election publication costs for the state and county could be debated on the Senate floor either Tuesday or Thursday. SB 72 by Sen. Paul Sanford (with committee amendment) would authorize counties to satisfy the legal requirements for the publication of election notices by posting information on a public web site and making copies available at the courthouse. This should generate a savings of over $1 million dollars statewide. Fact Sheet
Additionally, the package of Constitution Reform bills that include several priorities for counties was introduced this week and will be the subject of a public hearing in the Senate Constitution and Elections Committee on Thursday at 8:30 a.m.
SB 258 by Sen. Cam Ward
This “omnibus” bill address all proposed changes to the legislative article found in the current constitution, including the county-supported provisions to adjust the advertising requirements for local bills and allow for amendments to these bills during the legislative process.
SB 274 by Sen. Linda Coleman
This bill proposes changes to the existing procedure for the holding of county-only referendums on proposed local constitutional amendments to require three negative votes in the Senate or nine negative votes in the House to force a statewide vote on local constitutional amendments.
The changes to procedures for local legislation proposed in these reform bills are changes counties have advocated for many years and this year presents a good chance to have these issues placed on the ballot in November. County officials are urged to contact committee members and ask for their support of the proposals in the Constitution Reform package that benefit county government.