Weekly Report of Alabama Legislature From The Alabama Association of County CommissionersRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Feb 17 2013 9:13 AM
Weekly Report of Alabama Legislature From The Alabama Association of County Commissioners
February 15, 2013
The second week of the session was another busy one for ACCA staff and members, with four ACCA bills approved in committee and five more ACCA bills introduced. Plus, staff members engaged in negotiations with numerous groups to save money on election expenses, protect county revenue and block unfunded mandates.
Highlights of the week included committee approval of RAMP funding, the county-negotiated bill to clean up the process of redeeming property after tax sales and another pro-county measure to allow a taxpayer’s state income tax refund to be diverted, or set off, to cover any outstanding debts at the local government level. A new ACCA proposal to allow counties increased – but still limited—use of credit cards was introduced in the House, and also introduced in both the House and Senate was a proposal to protect county employees from lawsuits.
Counties were also playing defense, by securing an amendment to protect a county revenue stream, meeting with legislative leaders about gun rights proposals and standing up for your interests in school bus camera talks.
Next week looks like it will be active too, especially with a Senate committee set Tuesday afternoon to consider an unfunded mandate on counties. The bill, which would remove a cap on supernumerary retirement benefits for local tax officials, is discussed in more detail below.
Remember – there’s still time for you to register for ACCA’s first-ever Legislative Briefing webinar today at 2 p.m. The webinar will “go live” at 1:30 p.m. so you will have time to make sure your technology is working right, and the actual briefing will begin at 2 p.m. Questions? Contact Sallie Gowan.
Alabama Trust Fund repayment
The fast-tracked bill (HB 94 by Rep. Jay Love) to repay the Alabama Trust Fund, an important revenue source for counties, won approval on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. The Senate added an ACCA-supported amendment that further strengthens the repayment schedule, so the bill will have to go back to the House for concurrence before it can go to the governor’s desk for his signature. Legislative leaders want this to be the first bill passed this session, and it looks like that’s going to happen. Ask House members to CONCUR in the Senate amendment to HB 94.
Another idea that is moving quickly through the process is state funding for the RAMP portion of ATRIP. Thanks to everyone who contacted their committee members! RAMP will help 22 generally smaller counties pay the match money needed for their ATRIP projects. These bills are both ready for floor votes in their respective chambers (HB 213 by Rep. Mac McCutcheon in the House and SB 192 by Sen. Paul Bussman in the Senate). RAMP is funded through the ALDOT portion of the gasoline tax, and the establishment of match assistance through RAMP resulted in the remaining counties receiving a guaranteed $10 million worth of additional projects – so this legislation benefits all counties. Urge your legislators to SUPPORT HB 213 & SB 192.
Income tax refund setoff
Thanks to everyone who contacted the House County and Municipal Government Committee this week! The committee approved Rep. Steve Clouse’s HB 46, an ACCA bill which would allow the state to divert, or set off, a state income tax refund to pay for debts owed a county or city. Special thanks to Rep. Dexter Grimsley, who handled the bill for the sponsor. The next step will be a floor vote in the House as soon as the last week of February.
Redemption of property
Thanks to everyone who contacted members of the House Financial Services Committee, which approved Rep. Steve Clouse’s HB 47 after issues were resolved with the governor’s office. This bill would correct technical problems in the law governing tax sales and redemption of property, as this Fact sheet and comparison chart explain. The House committee did add a small amendment. Thanks also to Sen. Cam Ward, who introduced a companion bill, SB 197.
The vote on an ACCA bill (SB 125 Sen. Paul Sanford) to save money for counties and the state by reducing or eliminating wasteful election expenses was delayed in Senate committee this week, but the bill has been rescheduled for consideration Wednesday morning. As this Fact sheet details, the bill would cut the money spent on advertising election notices and voter lists in newspapers as well as eliminating the extra pay some elected officials get for election-related duties. You can definitely generate some outrage among legislators when you tell them how much your county spent on publishing the voter list, nickel-a-name and absentee ballot manager pay. Some opposition is expected, so it is important for county leaders to contact committee members and express their strong SUPPORT for these changes. Senate Finance And Taxation General Fund Committee: Orr, Chairperson; Beasley, Bedford,Brewbaker, Dunn, Holtzclaw, Pittman, Sanford, Singleton, Ward, Waggoner, Williams.
Thanks are also due to Rep. Allen Farley, who introduced the House version of the proposal, HB 275, and to the many county staff members who have supplied ACCA with dollar figures for these expenditures.
Reinstatement of damage protection
ACCA staff members are working to get two new Association bills added to committee agendas soon. The bills (HB 250 by Rep. Mac McCutcheon, SB 194 by Sen. Jerry Fielding) would restore the $100,000 damage cap on those lawsuits filed against public employees. Recent Supreme Court decisions have raised questions about whether the damage limits apply to cases filed directly against employees or officials. The court rulings are of serious concern to the ACCA and, as a result, the bill has been added to our priority list for this session.
Credit card usage
Many thanks to Rep. Alan Harper for introducing HB 247, an ACCA bill that would expand within limits a county’s authority to use a credit card. The bill was assigned to the County and Municipal Government Committee, where we are working to line up a vote soon.
Supernumerary tax officials
Local tax officials in the old supernumerary retirement system want a raise at the county’s expense. The bill (SB 193 by Sen. Tom Whatley) would remove a cap that limits their retirement pay to $44,600 a year, and the change would benefit any tax official with at least 16 years of service – even those who are already retired. We’ve posted a more detailed explanation and overview, and the bill is scheduled for a committee vote Tuesday at 1 p.m. Urge committee members to OPPOSE SB 193, an unfunded mandate that would be very costly to counties. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee: Holley, Chairperson; Bedford, Vice chairperson; Beason, Brewbaker, Coleman, Dunn, Figures, Orr, Pittman, Sanford, Taylor.
A bill to arm school personnel is scheduled for a public hearing in committee Wednesday afternoon. Like so many of the gun-related proposals, this one (HB 53 by Johnny Mack Morrow) puts counties in danger because of risks of additional costs being passed along and because of increased liability that counties would bear without question. Stress to committee members that while improved school security is a worthy endeavor, they should OPPOSE HB 53 because of the undue burdens it places on county government. House Education Policy Committee: Chair Mary Sue McClurkin, Vice Chair Phil Williams, Ranking Minority Member: Marcel Black, Elaine Beech, Mac Buttram, Ed Henry, Thomas Jackson, Joseph Mitchell, Kerry Rich, David Sessions, Lesley Vance.
Rep. Randy Wood has introduced legislation (HB 263) to establish a crime for those persons who interfere with the response to emergency communication and/or damage emergency communication equipment.
A bill (HB 264 by Rep. Paul DeMarco) has been introduced again to create a separate tax court outside the state Department of Revenue. ACCA has removed county objections on the belief that all county concerns have been addressed during the years this bill has been working through the system. The bill is scheduled for a committee vote Wednesday afternoon. Contact ACCA if you have concerns.
Merit system protection for auditors
As introduced, a bill (SB 122 by Sen. Jimmy Holley) to reorganize the Legislature’s support agencies would have removed merit system protection from auditors working for the Examiners of Public Accounts. ACCA believes that an amendment will be offered Tuesday to restore merit system protections that guarantee auditors’ independence. Ask your senators to SUPPORT the amendment to protect auditors from political pressure.