Capitol News and Notes: Week 5

Capitol News and Notes: Week 5

The Legislature begins its fifth week of the 2019 Regular Session today. The schedule this week is expected to be a two-day week with legislative days on Tuesday and Thursday and a committee day on Wednesday. The expected topics for this week are the lottery, ethics law reforms, and an abortion ban, to name a few.

Last week, the Alabama REALTORS® Public Policy team reviewed bills and attended Committee meetings, monitoring for impacts to the real estate industry and on private property rights. Highlights from these endeavors include the filing of a bill to increase mortgage recording fees, a bill on service animals passing a Senate committee, and the filing of a bill defining real estate appraisals by federal banking entities.

Bill Filed to Increase Mortgage Recording Fees

SB 189, sponsored by Senator Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham), was filed on April 2. The bill would increase the recording fee for certain instruments from $0.15 to $0.20 per $100 of indebtedness. The instruments covered include mortgages, deeds of trust, and other instruments given to secure payment of debt that convey real or personal property. SB 189 distributes the extra $0.05 to four parties – the probate judge ($0.005), the Alabama Housing Trust Fund ($0.02), the county treasury ($0.005), and the State General Fund ($0.02).

Alabama REALTORS® strongly opposes any measures that increase the cost of homeownership, including increases to the mortgage or deed recording fees.

Service Animal Bill Passes Committee

Last Wednesday, SB 10, also sponsored by Senator Coleman-Madison, received a unanimous favorable report as substituted from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In summary, SB 10 (as substituted) puts into state law the federal requirements relating to service animals for public accommodations and housing accommodations that are offered for rent, lease or compensation. The bill specifically does not apply to emotional support animals, and similar to the Alabama REALTORS® Assistance/Service Animal bill last year, includes a provision criminalizing a person’s misrepresentation of the need for a service animal.

Senator Coleman-Madison explained that the bill puts housing providers and users of service animals in compliance with federal law since Alabama does not have a specific law for service animals. She said the substitute bill is a result of both sides, including trainers of service animals, housing groups, and disability advocates, coming together. She said her goal was to be fair to both sides while not putting any undue burden on housing entities.

SB 10 now moves to the Senate floor for consideration.

Real Estate Appraisers Bill Filed

SB 181, by Senator Shay Shelnutt (R-Birmingham), establishes a state law definition for evaluations done by federal banking entities under federal guidelines. The evaluations would not be subject to regulation by the Alabama Real Estate Appraisers Board. Under the current federal threshold, an appraisal is not required for real estate transactions $250,000 or less.

Representative Merika Coleman-Evans (D-Birmingham) is sponsoring the companion legislation in the House, HB 304. 

SB 181 and HB 304 have received their first readings in the House and Senate and are pending committee action.