Capitol News & Notes: Week 12
May 28, 2019
The 2019 Legislative Session enters possibly its last week today. The Legislature will meet for its 25th legislative day, and rumor foretells a four-day work week with the 26th, 27th, and 28th legislative days occurring on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday respectively. That leaves two legislative days remaining if the Legislature decides that work remains after this week. Likely topics this week include Senator Del Marsh’s education re-structuring bill, a revised medical marijuana bill, and the budgets, which are largely agreed upon except for $35 million in funding for children’s health insurance.
Last week, several real estate-related pieces of legislation moved, including a homestead exemption bill, a bill revising grants for rural broadband expansion, and a bill clarifying the Medicaid lien process.
Homestead Exemption Bill Heads to Governor
HB 338, sponsored by Rep. David Faulkner (R-Birmingham), passed the Senate unanimously on May 23. Supported by Alabama REALTORS®, the legislation will help home purchasers file for homestead exemptions by allowing the purchaser to fill out an affidavit. The affidavit can then be filed with the local tax official to claim the applicable homestead exemptions. Currently, home purchasers typically must wait until the recorded deed comes in the mail before claiming homestead exemptions in the county tax official’s office. For home purchasers, this often occurs in the middle of a move or house renovation projects, causing many to delay or forget to file for homestead exemptions. Completing the affidavit at closing will avoid the delay, checking off one more item from a new homeowner’s to-do list.
Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) picked the bill to be the second house bill considered by the Senate on its 24thlegislative day. Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) explained the bill to his colleagues from the Senate floor. Thank you to both Senators for their work on this important piece of legislation.
HB 338 now goes to the Governor for her signature.
Picture Above: Sen. Smitherman addresses the Senate on HB 338.
Rep. David Faulkner
Sen. Rodger Smitherman
Sen. Jabo Waggoner
Bill Clarifying Medicaid Lien Process Passes Key Committee
On May 22, the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee passed SB 76, sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur). This bill requires individuals who commence probate proceedings to provide notice of the proceeding to the Alabama Medicaid Agency.
Medicaid liens can be placed on real property as collateral when Medicaid patients go to an in-patient facility such as a hospital or nursing home to ensure that the Medicaid Agency receives reimbursement for services rendered. Medicaid already has the ability to place liens on real property under federal law. 42 U.S.C. §1396p.
The AAR public policy team was successful in working with senior Medicaid Agency officials on an amendment to the bill, which was adopted by the Senate prior to the Senate’s passage of the bill. The amendment provides further clarity in state law regarding Medicaid liens on real property. The amendment provides clear statutory guidance on how the Medicaid lien process works for real estate professionals, consumers, judges, lawyers and members of the public.
In the committee meeting, Counsel with the Alabama Medicaid Agency, provided comments on the bill. Rep. Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville) made a motion to give the bill a favorable report, and Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) seconded the motion. The bill passed unanimously.
SB 76 now moves to the House floor for final passage.
Broadband Grants Expansion Bill Advances in House
The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition supports the expansion of broadband access for underserved and rural areas throughout Alabama. Alabama REALTORS®, together with other leading business groups and trade associations in the state, is part of the coalition effort. SB 90, sponsored by Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), is a key piece of that Rural Broadband Coalition’s legislative package.
On May 22, the House Ways and Means Education Committee approved SB 90. The bill expands which “unserved areas,” defined as those rural areas where there is not at least one broadband service provider, are eligible for state and federal grant funding. These changes ensure that broadband can be extended to a wider range of end users who may currently be receiving service with inadequate speed or capacity.
During the hearing, Senator Scofield spoke in favor of the bill. Following the discussion, Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) moved to give the bill a favorable report, and Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton) seconded the motion. The bill received a unanimous vote in favor of passage. The bill has already passed the Senate and will next be considered on the House floor for final passage.
Another main component of the broadband expansion effort, HB 400 (sponsored by Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman)), has passed both houses of the legislature and was sent to Governor Ivey to be signed into law on May 23. That bill authorizes the installation and use of broadband and related communication capabilities by electric providers using their existing electrical easements. The bill also permits broadband communication components to be installed by electric providers, and allows electric providers to contract with broadband providers for the use of the electrical service’s infrastructure.