Update From the Association of County Commissioner's of Alabama
Posted by: Matt Boster
Date: Mar 28 2014 2:56 PM
The list of bills which have a chance to pass during this legislative session is considerably shorter than it was before the legislative break. Even so, there are still a number of bills the ACCA staff will be monitoring carefully during the last three days of the session. The following is a list of the bills we have reported on during the session that we are still being monitored. Most have been amended to address concerns raised by county government, but it will be important to watch carefully in the closing days of the session for any changes that might negatively impact counties. And it will be important for county officials to make sure their legislators only support bills that will not harm county government in some manner.
In the Senate
Prompt Payment HB 24 by Rep. Bill Roberts/Sen. Del Marsh As we have reported, the bill amending the “prompt pay” law for construction projects was amended in the House to provide that counties and others are not required to pay contractors on federal jobs until 10 days after federal funding is received. The bill is now in position for final passage in the Senate, and at this point, it does not appear there will be an attempt to reinstate objectionable language removing the special provisions for projects funded with grants. There will be one “friendly” floor amendment to require counties and others to gain approval for any grant monies before entering into a construction contract based on that grant.
Vacation of Roads HB 148 by Rep. Ron Johnson/Sen. Gerald Dial It is anticipated that the bill altering certain procedures for the vacation of roads in very limited circumstances will be considered on the Senate floor next week. The bill as amended by a Senate committee 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. Please make sure your senators do not vote for this measure if there are any amendments that would expand the limited exceptions to regular vacation procedures that are found in current law.
Department of Examiners to State Auditor HB 350 by Rep. Ed Henry The bill that places the administration of the Department of Examiners under the state auditor is ready for final passage in the Senate and could be considered as early as Tuesday, April 1. While the ACCA is still very concerned about any changes in the operation of this important agency, the sponsor has worked with ACCA staff 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. Please share any concerns about this legislation with your senators and make sure they understand the benefits of the current process and the working relationship between the county and the state personnel auditing county books.
In the House
Statewide 9-1-1 Legislation SB 317 by Sen. Del Marsh/Rep. Jack Williams The bill originally proposing to expand members of the statewide 9-1-1 board and limit the number of lines to be assessed the statewide fee was amended in the House to remove the objections of ACCA and its affiliate group, AAND. In fact, the current version of the bill includes positive changes, including a provision ensuring that the Lifeline phones are subject to the statewide 9-1-1 service fee in Alabama. The bill is now in position for final passage in the House, but those service providers who are not collecting the fee on the Lifeline phones are opposed to the new language in the bill. Therefore, it is important that county officials and 9-1-1 directors contact the members of the House and ask that they pass SB 317 in its current form — without amendment. The bill could be considered as early as Thursday, April 3, so calls need to be made before legislators return to Montgomery for next week’s legislative session.
Open Meetings SB 191 by Sen. Cam Ward/Rep. Mike Hill As we have been reporting, the bill to make changes to the open meetings law to address concerns related to “serial meetings” and who can bring action for violations of the law has been amended to remove the objections of county government and other local governing bodies. The ACCA staff appreciates the efforts of the Alabama Press Association in working with all entities raising concerns about this legislation. It is anticipated that the bill will now be considered by the House prior to the end of this year’s session. Please let your House members know that counties do not oppose passage of this bill in its current form – but that no amendments should be accepted unless counties can consent to the change.
No Charge for Tax Collection SB 315 by Sen. Slade Blackwell This bill, which began moving through the legislative process just a few weeks ago, would prohibit the Alabama Department of Revenue from charging counties for filing or payment processing services related to local sales and use taxes. This change is proposed, in part, because the ONE SPOT law prohibits charging local governments when taxpayers file through the ONE SPOT system. The ACCA is supporting this bill which would benefit those counties paying a fee to ADOR for filing and payment processing pursuant to contracts executed before ONE SPOT became law, and would correct a technical problem with ONE SPOT for counties that have a different tax due date than the state. The bill passed the Senate last week and came out of committee in the House last Thursday. It is anticipated that it will be on the House special order calendar either Thursday or on the last day of the session. Counties should ask House members to support this bill when it comes up for a vote on the House floor.
Gun Law Reform SB 354 by Sen. Scott Beason The bill to amend the 2013 “open carry” gun law passed in the Senate before the legislative break and could be the subject of a public hearing in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. While the bill’s sponsor did accept a requested amendment to protect current law allowing the county to prohibit guns in county buildings and workplaces. However, the bill still has language that would significantly reduce the number of pistol permits issued by the sheriff, a move that would create dangerous public safety concerns and greatly reduce revenues generated through the current permit process. The ACCA staff will notify counties when and if a public hearing is called for Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. But county officials (and sheriffs) should contact members of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and urge them to oppose passage of this dangerous bill. Committee members: Chair Micky Hammon, Vice Chair Allen Farley, Ranking Minority Member Charles Newton, Napoleon Bracy, David Colston, Dickie Drake, Wayne Johnson, Harry Shiver, David Standridge.
School Bus Cameras SB 144 by Sen. Jimmy Holley The bill to allow school boards to purchase and use cameras attached to school buses to monitor for violations has now passed the Senate and will be considered by the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday, April 1. ACCA has opposed this legislation for several years because it would have required the county commission and sheriff’s office to consent to and participate in any local “school bus camera” programs. The bill was amended on the Senate floor to remove language requiring the county’s participation, and county objections to the bill were removed. It is important that the bill not be amended if it moves in the House. County officials should contact members of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and ask that they not support this legislation if it requires any action by the county commission or sheriff. Committee members: Chair Micky Hammon, Vice Chair Allen Farley, Ranking Minority Member Charles Newton, Napoleon Bracy, David Colston, Dickie Drake, Wayne Johnson, Harry Shiver, David Standridge.