This Week in the Alabama Legislature…April 15, 2011
Download a printer friendly version of the April 15 Weekly Report
Lawmakers have completed 15 of their 30 legislative days this session, so we are past the halfway mark!
Much progress was made this week in the Senate, and the Association staff worked very closely with Sen. Scott Beason on revised language for his legislation (SB 256). The House version, HB 56 by Rep. Mickey Hammon, is still sitting on the desk on the chamber floor, indicating that the Senate bill is the vehicle that will likely make its way through the process.
Sen. Beason agreed this week to amendments to address the major issues impacting county government, including an amendment to allow illegal aliens to be released on cash bonds of not less than $5,000; a requirement that any sentences under this new act would be served in a state facility; liability protection for law enforcement officers working within the line and scope of their duty; distributions of at least half of the new fines and penalties to county government; and language ensuring that the persons who cannot provide proof of citizenship can be released from custody at the end of their sentence.
The Association is extremely appreciative of Sen. Beason’s consideration of the impact his legislation can have on county governments and his willingness to change his bill in ways to protect counties. In addition, the staff is also grateful to those county officials and employees who made personal contacts on this important issue. We will keep you posted.
The Alabama Forestry Association has asked legislators to support a measure to exempt loggers from county permits and bonding requirements, allowing timber operations to begin simply after the timber buyer has provided “notice” to the county commission.
This proposal (HB 487 by Rep. Tuggle and SB 376 by Sen. Whatley) presents a very serious liability challenge for county governments while also making it extremely difficult to address those loggers who are not willing to conduct their operations in a safe and responsible manner. The Association staff and a team of five county engineers – Benjie Sanders, David Bufkin, Richard Spraggins, Josh Harvill and Richie Beyer – met with forestry association this week to work on the legislation.
As of Friday morning, the Tuggle bill had been removed from the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee’s agenda for next week, but the Whatley version is scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday morning. At this point, there is no agreement on the bill and county officials are encouraged to contact the members of the committees below to express our opposition to this measure.
House Agriculture & Forestry Committee: Chad Fincher , chair; Steve Hurst , vice chair; Richard Lindsey , ranking minority member; Donnie Chesteen , Randy Davis , Joe Faust , Dexter Grimsley , Paul Lee , A.J. McCampbell
Senate Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Committee: Whatley, chairperson; Glover, vice chairperson; Beasley, Bussman, Keahey , McGill, Sanford, Scofield, Singleton, Williams
Tax at the rack
HB 399 by Rep. McCutcheon, the ACCA bill that would change the point at which gasoline and diesel fuel taxes are levied advanced this week, receiving a favorable report in committee. Other states that have adopted similar bills have realized an increase in gasoline and diesel fuel revenue. Appreciation is expressed to the following members of the House Transportation, Utilities & Infrastructure Committee: Mac McCutcheon, chair; Richard Baughn, Mac Buttram, Merica Coleman, Joe Faust, Mike Jones, Bill Roberts and Kurt Wallace.
Several ACCA bills are in position for a floor vote in the House if they can be added to the chamber’s working agenda.
- HB 162 by Rep. McMillan would clarify whether city or county subdivision regulations apply in a municipal planning jurisdiction.
- HB 355 by Rep. Hill would create a commission charged with developing the programs and procedures necessary to bring Alabama into compliance with the Streamlined Sales & Use Tax Agreement in the event federal legislation adopting the agreement becomes law.
- HB 125 by Rep. Merrill would provide clearly that the actions of jailers are actions of the sheriff and as such, jailers are entitled to the same immunity protections granted to the sheriff under Alabama law.
The House Rules Committee sets the working agenda for each day. Encourage Rules Committee members to choose an ACCA bill when the panel meets next week.
House Rules Committee: Blaine Galliher, chair; Ron Johnson, v ice chair; James Buskey, ranking minority member; Barbara Boyd, Craig Ford, Victor Gaston, Lynn Greer, Todd Greeson, Mike Jones, Richard Laird, John Merrill, Kerry Rich, Oliver Robinson, Elwyn Thomas, Randy Wood
Employee retirement costs
Along with the state education budget, the House passed HB 414 by Rep. Love to increase the employee contributions to the retirement systems for judges, teachers and state employees. The increases will be phased in in three steps between May 2011 and October 2012. State employees have been contributing 5 percent of their salary, and that will go to 6 percent, then 7 percent and finally 7.5 percent. These increases will save money for counties and other employers. However, the increases in employee contributions will also apply to county employees who are under the retirement system.
This legislation (HB 312 by Rep. Millican), drafted by the regional telephone carriers, would completely overhaul 9-1-1 governance in the state. It would create a new statewide 9-1-1 board and start a process that would result in both wireline and wireless phone customers paying a flat fee for 9-1-1 service. The ACCA staff has not been directly involved in these negotiations, but members of the 9-1-1 community have been. At this point, the Association is not opposed to this legislation, which is due to be considered in the House Boards, Agencies & Commissions Committee on Wednesday.
HB 365 by Rep. Ison, the bill that would require Internet and catalog sellers to inform customers that they owe state and local use tax on their purchases, passed the House this week with an ACCA amendment. It clarifies that the provisions of this bill will only apply to use taxes owed by an individual making Internet purchases and will not apply to business purchases.
Rep. DeMarco’s HB 427, which would establish a Tax Court for appeals from tax assessments and would make changes to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, received a favorable report from the House Judiciary Committee this week. This bill includes language allowing self-administered counties to opt out of having local appeals heard by the Tax Court.
The real-time status of all ACCA, Danger and local bills can be found by going to www.acca-online.org and following the steps under Legislative News. Please make copies of this report for all county officials and employees. And remember, ACCA staff frequently update the Association’s web site — www.acca-online.org — with the latest information on the activities in Montgomery.