AFA Legislative Update- Week 7

house chamberThe Alabama Legislature re-convened on Tuesday, April 21st for its 7th week of work for the 2015 Legislative Regular Session. Meeting on Tuesday and Thursday, the Legislature has now used up 16 of its allotted 30 legislative days. The House has introduced 557 bills and the Senate has introduced 416 bills.

The Legislature plans to re-convene Tuesday, April 28th and is supposed to work a normal two day week.

Bills of interest that AFA is following (note: italics indicate action that occurred this week):

Forestry/Agriculture:

SB203 (Orr)- Merges Alabama Forestry Commission into the newly named Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Services.

SB103 (Scofield)/HB217 (Boothe)- Removes limit on tags receiving a discount for farm vehicles. Senate version passed out of committee and received 2nd reading. House version was passed out of committee and is on the special order calendar for consideration by the full House on 3/31. Passed House and has received first reading in the Senate and assigned to the Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee.

SB127 (Whatley)/HB 188 (Lee)- Eliminates the sales tax on farm equipment. Currently the sales tax for farm equipment is 1.5%.

SB116 (Orr)- Creates felony crime and penalties for hunting on land without permission. Passed committee and received 2nd reading.

SB123 (Whatley)- Requires permit and $50 fee for game feeders. After testimony provided in support of the bill provided by Hank Williams, Jr, an amended version passed by Senate Ag Committee. The bill failed to receive approval before the full Senate. The bill was reconsidered and brought up again and was carried over.

SB354(Scofield)- Limits liability for trapping on public lands. Passed Senate Ag & Forestry Committee and received its second reading.

Fiscal Responsibility:

SB12 (Sanford)- Establishes Alabama Recurring Revenue Fund and distributes funds to GF and ETF proportionally. Allows GF to participate in growth tax revenues. AFA supports.

SB75 (Beasley)- Medicaid Expansion- AFA opposes.

SB115 (Orr)- State ABC Agency phase out. AFA supports. Bill failed in committee on a 6-7 vote. Bill was reconsidered and passed by the committee on a 12-2 voice vote.

SB98 (Ross)- Repeals Rolling Reserve Act. AFA opposes.

HB135 (Clouse)- General Fund Appropriations Bill. Both the Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund and House Ways & Means General Fund Committee chairman (Senator Arthur Orr and Representative Steve Clouse) distributed a proposed FY16 general fund appropriations bill draft that is 11% less than the FY15 appropriations. The proposed Alabama Forestry Commission appropriation is $1.7 million less than last year.

HB155 (Poole)/SB179 (Pittman)- Education Fund Appropriations Bill. Senate version passed committee. SB179 passed Senate, received its first reading in the House and has been assigned to Ways & Means Education Committee.

SB231 (Allen)- Creates Legacy Trust Fund for BP funds and other windfalls. Passed out of committee and received 2nd reading in the Senate.

SB248 (Pittman)- Constitutional Amendment- Rolling Reserve Act- AFA supports. Passed out of committee and received 2nd reading in the Senate.

SB281 (Holley)/HB330 (Boothe)- Rolling Reserve Act changes.

HB322 (Poole)- Rolling Reserve Act changes.

HB456 (Williams)- Requires audit of RSA. AFA Supports. Public hearing held in House Committee, no vote taken at this time.

HB490 (Clouse)- Suspends repayment to ATF for FY16. AFA opposes. Passed committee on voice vote.

SJR34 (Pittman)- Resolution advising to not expand Medicaid. AFA Supports. Referred to Senate Rules Committee. Passed Senate moves to House Rules Committee.

Revenue/Taxes:

HB139 (McMillan)- Tax increase on tobacco products. Part of Governor’s tax increase package.

HB142 (Hill)- Combined reporting for corporate income tax. Part of Governor’s tax increase package. AFA opposes.

HB183 (Shiver)- Monroe County excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. AFA opposes. Passed out of House and has been assigned to Senate Committee on Local Legislation #1. Public Hearing held in Monroeville on Monday, April 13th. Senator Albritton states publicly that he will not support the bill.

HB240 (Johnson)- Repeals withholding exemptions from state income taxes. Part of Governor’s tax increase package. Passed out of committee and awaits consideration before the full House.

HB267 (Clouse)- Increases the sales tax on leased autos to 4%. Part of Governor’s tax increase package.

HB268 (Clouse)- Increases the sales tax on purchase of autos to 3%. Part of Governor’s tax increase package.

SB227 (Singleton)/HB477(Knight)- Constitutional amendment to increase ad valorem taxes. AFA opposes.

HB471(Ford)- Constitutional Amendment to establish lottery to fund Medicaid.

HB472(Ford)- Constitutional Amendment to establish lottery to fund scholarships.

HB475(Knight)- Constitutional Amendment removing federal income taxes paid as an Alabama income tax deduction.

HB478(Knight)- Constitutional Amendment removing federal income taxes paid as an Alabama income tax deduction. Also does away with sales tax on food.

HB485(Melton)- Perry County Constitutional Amendment raising ad valorem taxes by 3 mills for the use of the county’s general fund. AFA opposes.

SB409 (Hightower)- Constitutional Amendment to institute flat tax for Income taxes and remove deductions.

Education:

SB45 (Marsh)/HB192 (Collins)- School Choice/Charter School Bill- Senate bill substituted in committee and has received its second reading. Senate passed the bill and it has been transmitted to the House where it now has cleared committee and has received its second reading. It is now in position for final passage. The House passed an amended version, returned it to the Senate where they concurred and sent to the Governor who signed it.

SB71 (Marsh)- Alabama Accountability Act amendments. Received a public hearing. It was voted out of committee and is being considered by the full Senate. Senate passed and has been referred to the House Ways & Means Education committee. Passed House Committee and received its second reading.

SB101 (Glover)/HB424(Fincher)- Repeals Common Core. Hearing held, no vote. SB101 passed committee.

HB270 (Ford)- Repeals Alabama Accountability Act. AFA Opposes.

Incentives/Job Creation:

HB57 (Beech)- Alabama Veterans and Rural Jobs Act. Part of Governor’s Incentives Package works in conjunction with HB58, The Alabama Jobs Act. Provides incentives to companies making capital investments and providing jobs in rural counties and to veterans. Passed committee and received second reading. Passed by the House and received its first reading in the Senate. Received a favorable report in Senate Committee and moves to full Senate. Passed by the Senate with amendments and now awaits House to concur on the changes. House concurred, pending Governor’s signature. Governor signed on 4/14.

HB58 (Baker)- Alabama Jobs Act. Part of Governor’s Incentive Package and repeals existing statutory capital investment incentives for new and expanding businesses and replaces with new incentives. Passed committee and received second reading. Passed the House and received its first reading in the Senate. Received a favorable report in Senate Committee and moves to full Senate. Passed Senate and awaits Governor’s signature. Governor has signed into law.

HB59 (Lee)- Alabama Reinvestment and Abatements Act gives tax incentives to companies that re-invest in their businesses and extends those incentives to potentially 20 years. Passed committee and received second reading. Passed the House and received its first reading in the Senate. Received a favorable report in Senate Committee and was then passed by the full Senate. Awaits Governor’s signature. Governor has signed into law.

General Governance:

SB55 (Pittman)- Restricts state agencies to amend rule-makings only once every 10 years.

SB57 (Pittman)- Term Limits, reported out of committee and received its second reading.

SB73 (Brewbaker)/HB78 (Ball) – Initiative and Referendum- AFA opposes.

SB80 (Ward)/HB110 (Williams)- Limits manufacturer liability. AFA supports. Senate version was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee and received its 2nd reading. House version also passed the House Judiciary Committee and received its 2nd reading. Senate bill passed Senate and has been referred to House Judiciary. House bill passed House and has been referred to Senate Judiciary. House bill passed Senate Judiciary committee and awaits consideration before the full Senate. Senate bill passed House Judiciary and awaits final passage in House.

SB16 (Marsh)/HB193 (Davis)- Proposed constitutional amendment to allow statewide referendum to give counties limited home rule authority. AFA amended the bill in Senate committee and it now has been reported out and has had its second reading. The House version has also been passed through committee as amended. House version passed by the House now moves to the Senate. Received its first reading and assigned to the Senate Constitution & Elections Committee.

AFA Priority- Senate Passes Resolution Urging Governor to Not Expand Medicaid

On 22-8 vote today (one abstention- Clyde Chambliss, four other members were not present on the floor), the Alabama Senate passed SJR34 on a party line vote. The resolution now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

marsh3As mentioned previously, the resolution specifically states that the Legislature has no intention of allocating funds to support Medicaid expansion and that they (the Legislature) intend to build upon reforms enacted in 2012 and plan to work toward repairing the problems within the existing system to ensure that the most vulnerable citizens of Alabama have access to quality health care.

pittmanThe Senate leadership should be commended for making this a priority for this year’s legislative session. Senator Trip Pittman handled the resolution and was assisted by Pro Tem Senator Del Marsh and Rules Chairman Senator Jabo Waggoner.

A resolution has no binding authority. Will it stop the Governor from expanding Medicaid? Of course not. But it does send a strong message that the legislature is serious about getting the state’s finances in order.

AFA Legislative Update- Week 6

statehouseThe Alabama Legislature re-convened on Tuesday, April 14th for its sixth week of work for the 2015 Legislative Regular Session. Meeting on Tuesday and Thursday, the Legislature has now used up 14 of its allotted 30 legislative days. The House has introduced 509 bills and the Senate has introduced 390 bills.

The Legislature plans to re-convene Tuesday, April 21st and is supposed to work a normal two day week.

Bills of interest that AFA is following (note: italics indicate action that occurred this week):

 

Forestry/Agriculture:

SB203 (Orr)- Merges Alabama Forestry Commission into the newly named Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Services.

SB103 (Scofield)/HB217 (Boothe)- Removes limit on tags receiving a discount for farm vehicles. Senate version passed out of committee and received 2nd reading. House version was passed out of committee and is on the special order calendar for consideration by the full House on 3/31. Passed House and has received first reading in the Senate and assigned to the Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee.

SB127 (Whatley)/HB 188 (Lee)- Eliminates the sales tax on farm equipment. Currently the sales tax for farm equipment is 1.5%.

SB116 (Orr)- Creates felony crime and penalties for hunting on land without permission. Passed committee and received 2nd reading.

SB123 (Whatley)- Requires permit and $50 fee for game feeders. After testimony provided in support of the bill provided by Hank Williams, Jr, an amended version passed by Senate Ag Committee. The bill failed to receive approval before the full Senate. The bill was reconsidered and brought up again and was carried over.

SB354(Scofield)- Limits liability for trapping on public lands. Passed Senate Ag & Forestry Committee and received its second reading.

Fiscal Responsibility:

SB12 (Sanford)- Establishes Alabama Recurring Revenue Fund and distributes funds to GF and ETF proportionally. Allows GF to participate in growth tax revenues. AFA supports.

SB75 (Beasley)- Medicaid Expansion- AFA opposes.

SB115 (Orr)- State ABC Agency phase out. AFA supports. Bill failed in committee on a 6-7 vote.

SB98 (Ross)- Repeals Rolling Reserve Act. AFA opposes.

HB135 (Clouse)- General Fund Appropriations Bill. Both the Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund and House Ways & Means General Fund Committee chairman (Senator Arthur Orr and Representative Steve Clouse) distributed a proposed FY16 general fund appropriations bill draft that is 11% less than the FY15 appropriations. The proposed Alabama Forestry Commission appropriation is $1.7 million less than last year.

HB155 (Poole)/SB179 (Pittman)- Education Fund Appropriations Bill. Senate version passed committee. SB179 passed Senate, received its first reading in the House and has been assigned to Ways & Means Education Committee.

SB231 (Allen)- Creates Legacy Trust Fund for BP funds and other windfalls. Passed out of committee and received 2nd reading in the Senate.

SB248 (Pittman)- Constitutional Amendment- Rolling Reserve Act- AFA supports. Passed out of committee and received 2nd reading in the Senate.

SB281 (Holley)/HB330 (Boothe)- Rolling Reserve Act changes.

HB322 (Poole)- Rolling Reserve Act changes.

HB456 (Williams)- Requires audit of RSA. AFA Supports.

HB490 (Clouse)- Suspends repayment to ATF for FY16. AFA opposes.

SJR34 (Pittman)- Resolution advising to not expand Medicaid. AFA Supports. Referred to Senate Rules Committee.

Revenue/Taxes:

HB139 (McMillan)- Tax increase on tobacco products. Part of Governor’s tax increase package.

HB142 (Hill)- Combined reporting for corporate income tax. Part of Governor’s tax increase package. AFA opposes.

HB183 (Shiver)- Monroe County excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. AFA opposes. Passed out of House and has been assigned to Senate Committee on Local Legislation #1. Public Hearing held in Monroeville on Monday, April 13th.

HB240 (Johnson)- Repeals withholding exemptions from state income taxes. Part of Governor’s tax increase package. Passed out of committee and awaits consideration before the full House.

HB267 (Clouse)- Increases the sales tax on leased autos to 4%. Part of Governor’s tax increase package.

HB268 (Clouse)- Increases the sales tax on purchase of autos to 3%. Part of Governor’s tax increase package.

SB227 (Singleton)/HB477(Knight)- Constitutional amendment to increase ad valorem taxes. AFA opposes.

HB471(Ford)- Constitutional Amendment to establish lottery to fund Medicaid.

HB472(Ford)- Constitutional Amendment to establish lottery to fund scholarships.

HB475(Knight)- Constitutional Amendment removing federal income taxes paid as an Alabama income tax deduction.

HB478(Knight)- Constitutional Amendment removing federal income taxes paid as an Alabama income tax deduction. Also does away with sales tax on food.

HB485(Melton)- Perry County Constitutional Amendment raising ad valorem taxes by 3 mills for the use of the county’s general fund. AFA opposes.

Education:

SB45 (Marsh)/HB192 (Collins)- School Choice/Charter School Bill- Senate bill substituted in committee and has received its second reading. Senate passed the bill and it has been transmitted to the House where it now has cleared committee and has received its second reading. It is now in position for final passage. The House passed an amended version, returned it to the Senate where they concurred and sent to the Governor who signed it.

SB71 (Marsh)- Alabama Accountability Act amendments. Received a public hearing. It was voted out of committee and is being considered by the full Senate. Senate passed and has been referred to the House Ways & Means Education committee. Passed House Committee and received its second reading.

SB101 (Glover)/HB424(Fincher)- Repeals Common Core. Hearing held, no vote. SB101 passed committee.

HB270 (Ford)- Repeals Alabama Accountability Act. AFA Opposes.

Incentives/Job Creation:

HB57 (Beech)- Alabama Veterans and Rural Jobs Act. Part of Governor’s Incentives Package works in conjunction with HB58, The Alabama Jobs Act. Provides incentives to companies making capital investments and providing jobs in rural counties and to veterans. Passed committee and received second reading. Passed by the House and received its first reading in the Senate. Received a favorable report in Senate Committee and moves to full Senate. Passed by the Senate with amendments and now awaits House to concur on the changes. House concurred, pending Governor’s signature. Governor signed on 4/14.

HB58 (Baker)- Alabama Jobs Act. Part of Governor’s Incentive Package and repeals existing statutory capital investment incentives for new and expanding businesses and replaces with new incentives. Passed committee and received second reading. Passed the House and received its first reading in the Senate. Received a favorable report in Senate Committee and moves to full Senate. Passed Senate and awaits Governor’s signature. Governor has signed into law.

HB59 (Lee)- Alabama Reinvestment and Abatements Act gives tax incentives to companies that re-invest in their businesses and extends those incentives to potentially 20 years. Passed committee and received second reading. Passed the House and received its first reading in the Senate. Received a favorable report in Senate Committee and was then passed by the full Senate. Awaits Governor’s signature. Governor has signed into law.

General Governance:

SB55 (Pittman)- Restricts state agencies to amend rule-makings only once every 10 years.

SB57 (Pittman)- Term Limits, reported out of committee and received its second reading.

SB73 (Brewbaker)/HB78 (Ball) – Initiative and Referendum- AFA opposes.

SB80 (Ward)/HB110 (Williams)- Limits manufacturer liability. AFA supports. Senate version was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee and received its 2nd reading. House version also passed the House Judiciary Committee and received its 2nd reading. Senate bill passed Senate and has been referred to House Judiciary. House bill passed House and has been referred to Senate Judiciary. House bill passed Senate Judiciary committee and awaits consideration before the full Senate.

SB16 (Marsh)/HB193 (Davis)- Proposed constitutional amendment to allow statewide referendum to give counties limited home rule authority. AFA amended the bill in Senate committee and it now has been reported out and has had its second reading. The House version has also been passed through committee as amended. House version passed by the House now moves to the Senate. Received its first reading and assigned to the Senate Constitution & Elections Committee.

AFA Priority- Resolution Introduced in Senate to Not Expand Medicaid

medicaid2Twenty one senators cosponsored and introduced a Senate Joint Resolution yesterday advising the State of Alabama to not expand Medicaid coverage above its current eligibility levels pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The resolution, SJR34, was referred to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration prior to its being able to be brought to the floor for a vote. Since it is a joint resolution, it must also pass the House of Representatives.

The resolution specifically states that the Legislature has no intention of allocating funds to support Medicaid expansion and that they (the Legislature) intend to build upon reforms enacted in 2012 and plan to work toward repairing the problems within the existing system to ensure that the most vulnerable citizens of Alabama have access to quality health care.

AFA is a part of a coalition of organizations supporting the resolution. Medicaid costs have dramatically expanded and the agency is placing an incredible strain on state funding.

In 2012, the legislature passed reform measures that implement regional care organizations focused on holistic health care outcomes rather than the traditional “fee for services” model in the past. Regional Care Organizations (RCOs) are compensated by a “capitated payment” per enrollee. Any health care expense above the capitated payment is the risk and responsibility of the RCO, so the RCOs are incentivized to provide quality service through lower cost preventative maintenance programs.

This is a good start. However, there is a long way to go. The 2012 reforms did not address long term care or pharmaceutical expenses which are two major expense areas of Medicaid.

Medicaid enrollment in Alabama is nearing one million citizens and continues to grow. Intended originally for the healthcare of indigent children and their families, the disabled and the elderly, expansion of Medicaid would include able bodied individuals without children. Estimates indicate that expansion would add another 300,000 enrollees.

Many states have attempted to expand Medicaid by tying it to a work requirement or through a block grant designed to be utilized in conjunction with private health insurance providers. These efforts have not gotten approval with the federal government.

Rayonier CEO, Nunes, to Participate in AFA Annual Meeting

nunesDavid Nunes, President and CEO of Rayonier, has committed to participate in the Alabama Forestry Association’s Annual Meeting scheduled for September 13-15, 2015 at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Mr. Nunes will join Don Kayne, CEO of Canfor Corporation on a panel scheduled for Monday, September 14th. Further participants in the Annual Meeting will be released in the coming weeks.

Mr. Nunes joined Rayonier Inc. in June 2014 as Chief Operating Officer, and shortly thereafter assumed the role of President and CEO following Rayonier Inc.’s separation into two separate companies.

Dave has more than three decades of forest products industry experience. Prior to joining Rayonier, he served as president and CEO of Pope Resources/Olympic Resource Management from 2002 to 2014. He joined the company in 1997 as director of portfolio management, working with third-party investors and timberland owners to develop and manage timberland investment portfolios. The following year, he was named vice president of portfolio development, and then served two years as senior vice president of acquisitions and portfolio development before being named president and COO in 2000.

Previously, Dave spent nine years with the Weyerhaeuser Company, joining the organization in 1988 as a business analyst and advancing through a number of leadership roles to become director of corporate strategic planning. During his time with Weyerhaeuser, he had extensive experience involving export log sales and marketing, timberland acquisitions, mergers and acquisitions, and capital planning.

He began his career in the forest products industry in 1979 with the Seattle-Snohomish Mill Company where he worked in both sawmill operations and lumber sales capacities.
Dave holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Pomona College and an MBA from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.

As one of the largest private landowners in the U.S., Rayonier owns, leases or manages approximately 2.6 million acres of working forests in the U.S and New Zealand to supply timber to a wide variety of markets including pulp, paper, lumber, renewable energy production and other wood products. Rayonier is structured as a real estate investment trust and its stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RYN. There are 305 employees in the Rayonier family.

Registration information for the Annual Meeting will be published in the coming months.  In the meantime, hold the dates of September 13-15, 2015 to make sure that you can join us for what is shaping up to be another outstanding gathering at the beach!

Proposed Bill Will Delay Payback to Alabama Trust Fund

trustYou may recall, in 2012, the legislature, facing a revenue shortfall in the general fund, passed a constitutional amendment that the voters ratified allowing a “raid” of the Alabama Trust Fund to the tune of $145 million a year for three years, or $435 million in total.

 

You might also recall that there was not a repayment provision for the money taken from the Trust Fund.

AFA was opposed to the idea of taking money from the Trust Fund. Our position was that the state’s leaders should be focusing on addressing the systemic issues in state governance, not taking the easy way out.

AFA also believed that the money should be paid back.

Our primary legislative initiative in 2013 was legislation that provided a “payback” of the Trust Fund. Sponsored by then Senator Bryan Taylor, the legislation was the first bill passed in the legislative session and required repayment over a 12 year period. The first payment of $5 million was paid in the FY14 fiscal year (which ended 9/30/14). The second payment of $15 million is due this fiscal year. The legislature is now working on the FY16 budget and the law requires a payment of $30 million.

We were concerned at the time that the “payback” legislation was a statute and not a constitutional amendment. In other words, future legislatures could change the law as priorities changed (and they thought the voters might forget).

It appears that we were correct.

Yesterday, HB490 was introduced by Representative Steve Clouse. HB490 eliminates the payment requirement for the FY16 budget year and extends the repayment plan through the year 2027.

Clouse, powerful Chairman of the House Ways & Means General Fund Budget Committee, obviously feels that there are more pressing needs for the $30 million than paying back the Trust Fund. HB490 has been assigned to his committee.

AFA opposes HB490.

 

Sparks Fly at Monroe County Public Hearing

logtruckSenator Greg Albritton (R-Range) essentially controls the fate of HB183, a bill that enables the Monroe County Commission to hold a referendum to impose a five cents/gallon tax on fuel in Monroe County.

The bill is unique in that it transfers taxing authority on fuel from the legislature to the county commission perpetually. At first read, it doesn’t sound all that bad. If HB183 were to pass, the county commission must first pass a resolution setting the referendum. The resolution would contain the date of the referendum, how much tax (up to five cents/gallon) and the length of time the tax will be imposed (up to five years). Sixty days prior to adopting the resolution, the county commission must publish a list of transportation projects that will be addressed with the tax proceeds and only those projects will be used with the funds.

Ignoring the fact of imposing a new tax itself, that sounds like a reasonable process, right?

A careful reading of the proposed legislation tells another story.

HB183 not only would allow the commission to set this referendum, it conveys authority to set fuel taxes in the county in perpetuity. In other words, if the voters allowed the tax for five years, when that five years is up, the county doesn’t have to go back to the legislature to get additional authority to have another referendum to add another five years to the tax. Additionally, if the referendum were to fail the first time, the commission could hold additional referendums to try and get the tax at some later date without having to go back to the legislature for that authority.

That’s not good. That is really a “back door” home rule attempt.

Thankfully the voters of Monroe County get it. Last night, Senator Albritton held a public hearing in the Monroe County Courthouse in Monroeville. Over 100 people showed up to voice their opinion on the proposed legislation. In attendance were officials from the County that made a presentation in support of the legislation.

By all appearances, the proposed tax did not have much support in the audience. Loggers, timberland owners and farmers turned out to show the county officials that they were not happy with the proposed tax.

Senator Albritton deserves commendation on several fronts.

First, a public hearing was held. The county commission published notice of the local legislation (as required by law) on February 26, 2015. They formally adopted a resolution supporting the legislation prior to that. At no point in the process, did the county officials think that the public might want some input into this issue and they would never have had to face the public absent Senator Albritton holding this hearing.

Second, Senator Albritton has demonstrated the courage to listen to the voters and make his mind up independent of the pressure placed on him by the local public officials. The reality is that Senator Albritton is the new senator for Monroe County (Senator Hank Sanders also represents the county but was not present at the public hearing- he has already signed off in support of the bill) and his initial reaction is to want to work with the local officials. If he doesn’t support their wishes, it might make for a difficult experience for the next four years. However, he chose to have this public hearing in order to hear from his real constituents…the voters in Monroe County.

Senator Albritton now has a difficult decision to make. Kill the bill and offend the local public officials that support the tax increase or let the bill pass and allow the transfer of taxing authority on fuel from the legislature to the county commission and probably offend the voters of Monroe County along the way.

Whatever decision he makes, we should offer our support to him for approaching this issue in a thoughtful, intelligent manner and for listening to his constituents.

AFA is opposed to this legislation because of its disguised attempt at home rule and the poor policy of approaching rural road and bridge maintenance in a piece-meal fashion. AFA supports a policy that allocates the existing state diesel tax to the counties for this purpose.  This tax revenue is now solely at the discretion of the Alabama DOT and does not filter down to the counties.

Proposed Monroe County Fuel Tax to be Addressed at Public Hearing Tonight in Monroeville

albrittonSenator Greg Albritton (R- Range) has effectively put a hold on two pieces of local legislation proposed by the Monroe County Commission to enact a five cents/gallon fuel (gasoline and diesel) tax and a 25 cent tobacco tax. Both of these tax proposals, if they pass the legislature, will require a local referendum in order to be effective.

The fuel tax will be for a period of five years and may only be used for transportation projects specifically identified prior to the referendum. The tobacco tax will be dedicated to the county’s general fund.

The tax bills originated from the House of Representatives where they were approved by Representatives Harry Shiver and Thomas Jackson. Senator Hank Sanders has already indicated approval for the bills. The only person standing in the way of final passage is Senator Greg Albritton.

Senator Albritton has called a public meeting in Monroeville for Monday, April 13th at 6:00 pm in the New Courthouse. At this public meeting, Senator Albritton will allow advocates to speak for and against the bills.

Please help us get the word out to come to this public hearing.

AFA strongly opposes the fuel tax bill. Our position is quite clear. Currently the state taxes gasoline and diesel fuel. The gasoline tax is shared with the counties and municipalities, whereas, the diesel tax is not. AFA believes that the existing state diesel tax should be shared with counties and municipalities in the same manner as that of the gasoline tax.

Please be sure to come to the meeting and voice your opinion on this matter. If Senator Albritton only hears from advocates of the taxes, then he most likely will allow the bills to go to a referendum. We can stop these taxes by having a good showing at the public hearing.

This is how democracy is supposed to work. Let your voice be heard.

By the way, please give Senator Albritton a call and thank him for his leadership. He is going to be a great advocate for rural Alabama and he needs to hear from us.

AFA Legislative Update- Week 5

house chamberThe Alabama Legislature re-convened on Tuesday, April 7th for its fifth week of work for the 2015 Legislative Regular Session. Meeting on Tuesday and Thursday, the Legislature has now used up 12 of its allotted 30 legislative days. The House has introduced 478 bills and the Senate has introduced 371 bills.

The Legislature plans to re-convene Tuesday, April 14th and is supposed to work a normal two day week.

Bills of interest that AFA is following (note: italics indicate action that occurred this week):

Forestry/Agriculture:

SB203 (Orr)- Merges Alabama Forestry Commission into the newly named Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Services.

SB103 (Scofield)/HB217 (Boothe)- Removes limit on tags receiving a discount for farm vehicles. Senate version passed out of committee and received 2nd reading. House version was passed out of committee and is on the special order calendar for consideration by the full House on 3/31. Passed House and has received first reading in the Senate and assigned to the Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee.

SB127 (Whatley)/HB 188 (Lee)- Eliminates the sales tax on farm equipment. Currently the sales tax for farm equipment is 1.5%.

SB116 (Orr)- Creates felony crime and penalties for hunting on land without permission. Passed committee and received 2nd reading.

SB123 (Whatley)- Requires permit and $50 fee for game feeders. After testimony provided in support of the bill provided by Hank Williams, Jr, an amended version passed by Senate Ag Committee. The bill failed to receive approval before the full Senate.

SB354(Scofield)- Limits liability for trapping on public lands.

Fiscal Responsibility:

SB12 (Sanford)- Establishes Alabama Recurring Revenue Fund and distributes funds to GF and ETF proportionally. Allows GF to participate in growth tax revenues. AFA supports.

SB75 (Beasley)- Medicaid Expansion- AFA opposes.

SB115 (Orr)- State ABC Agency phase out. AFA supports. Bill failed in committee on a 6-7 vote.

SB98 (Ross)- Repeals Rolling Reserve Act. AFA opposes.

HB135 (Clouse)- General Fund Appropriations Bill. Both the Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund and House Ways & Means General Fund Committee chairman (Senator Arthur Orr and Representative Steve Clouse) distributed a proposed FY16 general fund appropriations bill draft that is 11% less than the FY15 appropriations. The proposed Alabama Forestry Commission appropriation is $1.7 million less than last year.

HB155 (Poole)/SB179 (Pittman)- Education Fund Appropriations Bill. Senate version passed committee.

SB231 (Allen)- Creates Legacy Trust Fund for BP funds and other windfalls. Passed out of committee and received 2nd reading in the Senate.

SB248 (Pittman)- Constitutional Amendment- Rolling Reserve Act- AFA supports. Passed out of committee and received 2nd reading in the Senate.

SB281 (Holley)/HB330 (Boothe)- Rolling Reserve Act changes.

HB322 (Poole)- Rolling Reserve Act changes.

HB456 (Williams)- Requires audit of RSA. AFA Supports.

Revenue/Taxes:

HB139 (McMillan)- Tax increase on tobacco products. Part of Governor’s tax increase package.

HB142 (Hill)- Combined reporting for corporate income tax. Part of Governor’s tax increase package. AFA opposes.

HB183 (Shiver)- Monroe County excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. AFA opposes. Passed out of House and has been assigned to Senate Committee on Local Legislation #1. Public Hearing to be held in Monroeville on Monday, April 13th at 6:00 pm in the Old Courthouse.

HB240 (Johnson)- Repeals withholding exemptions from state income taxes. Part of Governor’s tax increase package. Passed out of committee and awaits consideration before the full House.

HB267 (Clouse)- Increases the sales tax on leased autos to 4%. Part of Governor’s tax increase package.

HB268 (Clouse)- Increases the sales tax on purchase of autos to 3%. Part of Governor’s tax increase package.

SB227 (Singleton)/HB477(Knight)- Constitutional amendment to increase ad valorem taxes. AFA opposes.

HB471(Ford)- Constitutional Amendment to establish lottery to fund Medicaid.

HB472(Ford)- Constitutional Amendment to establish lottery to fund scholarships.

HB475(Knight)- Constitutional Amendment removing federal income taxes paid as an Alabama income tax deduction.

HB478(Knight)- Constitutional Amendment removing federal income taxes paid as an Alabama income tax deduction. Also does away with sales tax on food.

Education:

SB45 (Marsh)/HB192 (Collins)- School Choice/Charter School Bill- Senate bill substituted in committee and has received its second reading. Senate passed the bill and it has been transmitted to the House where it now has cleared committee and has received its second reading. It is now in position for final passage. The House passed an amended version, returned it to the Senate where they concurred and sent to the Governor who signed it.

SB71 (Marsh)- Alabama Accountability Act amendments. Received a public hearing. It was voted out of committee and is being considered by the full Senate. Senate passed and has been referred to the House Ways & Means Education committee.

SB101 (Glover)/HB424(Fincher)– Repeals Common Core. Hearing held, no vote.

HB270 (Ford)- Repeals Alabama Accountability Act. AFA Opposes.

Incentives/Job Creation:

HB57 (Beech)- Alabama Veterans and Rural Jobs Act. Part of Governor’s Incentives Package works in conjunction with HB58, The Alabama Jobs Act. Provides incentives to companies making capital investments and providing jobs in rural counties and to veterans. Passed committee and received second reading. Passed by the House and received its first reading in the Senate. Received a favorable report in Senate Committee and moves to full Senate. Passed by the Senate with amendments and now awaits House to concur on the changes. House concurred, pending Governor’s signature.

HB58 (Baker)- Alabama Jobs Act. Part of Governor’s Incentive Package and repeals existing statutory capital investment incentives for new and expanding businesses and replaces with new incentives. Passed committee and received second reading. Passed the House and received its first reading in the Senate. Received a favorable report in Senate Committee and moves to full Senate. Passed Senate and awaits Governor’s signature. Governor has signed into law.

HB59 (Lee)- Alabama Reinvestment and Abatements Act gives tax incentives to companies that re-invest in their businesses and extends those incentives to potentially 20 years. Passed committee and received second reading. Passed the House and received its first reading in the Senate. Received a favorable report in Senate Committee and was then passed by the full Senate. Awaits Governor’s signature. Governor has signed into law.

General Governance:

SB55 (Pittman)- Restricts state agencies to amend rule-makings only once every 10 years.

SB57 (Pittman)- Term Limits, reported out of committee and received its second reading.

SB73 (Brewbaker)/HB78 (Ball) – Initiative and Referendum- AFA opposes.

SB80 (Ward)/HB110 (Williams)- Limits manufacturer liability. AFA supports. Senate version was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee and received its 2nd reading. House version also passed the House Judiciary Committee and received its 2nd reading. Senate bill passed Senate and has been referred to House Judiciary. House bill passed House and has been referred to Senate Judiciary. House bill passed Senate Judiciary committee and awaits consideration before the full Senate.

SB16 (Marsh)/HB193 (Davis)- Proposed constitutional amendment to allow statewide referendum to give counties limited home rule authority. AFA amended the bill in Senate committee and it now has been reported out and has had its second reading. The House version has also been passed through committee as amended. House version passed by the House now moves to the Senate.

Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee Sends Troubling Message- Votes Down ABC Privatization

liquorPrivatization of the state’s retail liquor establishments met its demise today in the Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee. The bill, SB115, sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) lost on a recorded vote of 6-7 with one member absent.

There is no way to sugar coat this.

The vote clearly established that certain members of the Alabama Senate have no intention of reducing the size of state government. If ever there was a “slam dunk” opportunity, this was it.

So let’s count noses….

Those senators voting “Yes” were Senators Arthur Orr, Bill Holtzclaw, Tim Melson, Trip Pittman, Paul Sanford and Larry Stutts. These six should be commended for their courage to go against the frantic opposition of the ABC Board, the state employee unions and AlCap.

AlCap? From their website, AlCap is an interdenominational ministry that claims to serve as “Alabama’s moral compass” promoting an ethical, moral and responsible lifestyle based on biblical standards for the benefit of the state. Their executive director testified at the hearing opposing the legislation stating that the bill would increase the consumption of alcohol in the state.

Huh? Privatizing state controlled retail liquor stores is going to increase alcohol consumption? Is there anyone in the state that can’t get liquor now?

This is an extremely naïve position. Here is the reality. The funding challenge for general fund agencies is going to continue to fester to the point that the legislature will be left with three choices; (1) Increase taxes- good luck with that, (2) Fund the general fund with existing available revenues- at least a 15% reduction from current year expenditures, or (3) adopt “other” funding sources- which could include entering into a “compact” with the Poarch Creek Indians and legalizing gaming.

The irony here is that the AlCap is now partners with the state employee union and its actions will now make gambling a more likely prospect. Wonder if they thought of that?

Voting “No” were Senators Billy Beasley, Clyde Chambliss, Patricia Dunn, Steve Livingston, Bobby Singleton, Jabo Waggoner and Cam Ward. Absent from the vote was Senator Del Marsh.

Beasley, Dunn and Singleton were no surprise. As Democrats, their support of the state employee union is expected.

But what about Chambliss, Livingston, Waggoner and Ward?

This is not good news for those that support limited, more efficient government.