Capitol News & Notes 2020: Week Four

Capitol News & Notes 2020: Week Four

It is hard to believe, but we are already eight days through the 2020 Legislative Session. After the fourth week, we have 22 more legislative days left in the session. We saw another typical week with session on Tuesday and Thursday and committee meetings on Wednesday. So far, 360 bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives and 251 bills have been introduced in the Senate. 

No Taxation Without Representation Bill Passes First Hurdle

SB 142, sponsored by Sen. Chris Elliot (R-Fairhope), would require counties to allow voters to decide if they want to eliminate police jurisdictions. Current law allows police jurisdictions to extend three miles beyond city limits for cities with more than 6,000 people and 1.5 miles for cities with fewer than 6,000. The bill would provide a referendum for each county on the November ballot for voters to decide whether they wish to allow municipalities in their county to continue to exercise extraterritorial authority beyond the corporate limits. If the majority votes no, the police jurisdictions would cease as of January 2023. After a public hearing on Tuesday, February 25, this bill passed out of the Senate Governmental Affairs committee and is awaiting a final vote in the Senate before it would move on to the House. 

Bill Restricting Charges by Third-Party Auditors Moving Quickly Through Senate

After passing the house, HB 158, sponsored by Rep. Paul Lee (R-Dothan), gained a favorable report from the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday. Alabama REALTORS® Public Policy team continues to closely monitor HB 158 as it affects an issue that many of our members face – third-party auditors or collectors of a county or municipality’s taxes or license fees. After Alabama’s courts recently ruled that these private companies could charge additional fees to the taxpayers, HB 158 now seeks to prohibit these charges, including professional service fees like accountant service charges, travel costs, salary expenses of the firm, and auditing costs. The bill is pending its third reading and final vote in the Senate, after which it would go to the governor for her signature.  

Statewide Emergency Notification System Awaiting Final Vote from House

SB140, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), would create a statewide emergency notification system to send out alerts about imminent risks throughout Alabama, such as automated weather updates, possible chemical spills, or missing persons. Currently, the alert system is run county by county, and there is no statewide platform. The new system would allow people to receive phone calls and text messages. This bill quickly passed through the Senate and is currently awaiting its final vote from the House. 

Future Occupational Taxes Will Likely Require Legislation

As mentioned in past issues of Capitol News & Notes, HB147, sponsored by Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville), requires legislation to be passed before a municipality can enact a future occupational tax. After over three hours of debate on Thursday, February 27, the bill passed out of the Senate with a 27-7 vote and is headed to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk, who previously indicated that she would support it. If signed by Gov. Ivey, the recently passed Montgomery occupational tax would not go into effect as it was enacted after February 1, 2020. 

Tax Credit Program for Storm Shelters Passes Out of Respective Committees

Alabama is one step closer to establishing a tax credit program for taxpayers who add a storm shelter. Companion bills, or the same bill filed in both the House and Senate, passed out of respective committees on Thursday, February 27. The bills would make those who donate storm shelters to others and homeowners who install them non-refundable eligible for tax credits. If someone donates a storm shelter, he or she would be entitled to a tax credit of either $4,500 or 75% of the cost of the storm shelter, whichever is less. If a homeowner pays for and installs a storm shelter, he or she would be eligible to receive a tax credit of either $3,000 or 50% of the cost of the shelter, whichever is less. Under the bill, the program will last for four years with a maximum amount of $2,000,000 in tax credits. Next up, sponsors Rep. Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn) and Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) will present the bills to the full House and Senate. 

A Look Ahead 

The next legislative day is coming up on Tuesday, March 3, with the Senate and House convening at 2:30pm and 3pm respectively. Wednesday is expected to be a Committee day, and Thursday will likely be the 10thlegislative day.