Capitol News and Notes: Week 4 - Commission Nominees and Call for Action on First-Time Homebuyer Savings Account Bill
February 15, 2022
After last week, we have 21 legislative days remaining in the 2022 Legislative Session. The Legislature continued the trend of using three legislative days, with committee meetings focused on Wednesday and a smattering on Tuesday and Thursday. Not as many bills were filed last week, with 63 filed in the House and 22 in the Senate. Although not official, it appears the Legislature will meet for five more weeks and then adjourn for spring break the week of March 20th. With the stated goal of an early departure and multiple legislative days remaining after the break, it remains to be seen how long the session will continue into April. Here is an update from week four.
AREC Nominees Approved by Committee and Confirmed by Senate
Alabama REALTORS®’ three appointees to the Alabama Real Estate Commission were approved by a Senate committee on Wednesday. The meeting was preceded by a meet-and-greet to which Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), chair of the Senate Confirmations Committee, kindly invited the three appointees - Randy McKinney, Betsy Echols, and Cerita Tucker Smith to meet with members of the Committee. Just today, the Senate confirmed the three appointees with a vote of 25-0. We greatly appreciate Sen. Chambliss’ efforts in ushering the appointees through the process.
Package of Broadband Bills Progress
Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) and Representative Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) have three companion bills (the same bills filed in each chamber) related to broadband that are moving rapidly. Sen. Scofield’s three bills passed the Senate last Thursday and now await a hearing in House committee. These broadband bills are intended to increase access to broadband in the state, a vital component to economic development in rural Alabama. Now is the time, with federal dollars available to build out the so-called “middle mile,” or the backbone of the broadband network, from which the “last mile” extends to houses and businesses. Alabama REALTORS® is supportive of the package of Broadband bills and has been a part of the Rural Broadband Coalition for several years, a group which has encouraged lawmakers to prioritize broadband expansion throughout the state.
Home Inspector Immunity Bills
Companion bills in the House and Senate would give further liability protection and immunity to home inspectors from claims for negligence or errors from faulty inspections. SB 120 and HB 275 specify that the Legislature does not disfavor contractual limitations of liability between home inspectors and their customers. Alabama REALTORS® and Alabama Home Builders are opposed to the legislation viewing the bills as unnecessary and detrimental to homeowners, homebuilders, home buyers, and real estate professionals.
Members have reported numerous issues with inconsistencies with home inspections across the state and there is very little recourse for a homeowner, buyer, builder, real estate professional, or other interested parties when a home inspector issues a faulty or negligent report. Reports by home inspectors play a huge role in the largest transaction of most people’s lives. When home inspectors report issues on things for which they are not qualified to report, like building codes, or report non-existent issues, it can cause a real estate transaction to fall through. Property owners, buyers, builders, real estate agents and others involved in the real estate transaction have little to no recourse against the bad actors. Consumer complaints and investigations against home inspectors are almost non-existent because they are limited by law. Unlike most regulated trades, professions and industries, Alabama’s sunset laws are not applicable to the home inspector licensure board which further insulates and protects bad actors from any accountability or oversight. Alabama REALTORS® will continue to work to address concerns raised by our members regarding issues related to home inspectors.
Mandated Security Camera Bill Filed
One bill of interest filed in the House of Representatives last week would mandate the use of cameras by shopping malls and their small business owner tenants, as well as courthouses in the state. HB 324 by Rep. John Rogers (D- Birmingham) defines shopping malls as any shopping center with five or more stores which would expand the impact of this legislation to a broader range of properties including many smaller business centers where five or more stores or businesses may be located. Alabama REALTORS® is opposed to the legislation, which would require and mandate costly surveillance systems for a broad range of small businesses and property owners.
Looking Ahead – Call for Action on HB 171
This week looks to be another three-day week, with both the Senate and House convening today at 2:00 pm and 1:00 pm, respectively, as well as Wednesday and Thursday, with committees primarily on Wednesday.
Stay tuned for an Alabama REALTOR® call for action in support of House Bill 171, renewing the First-Time and Second Chance Home Buyer Savings Account Act. House Bill 171, sponsored by Representative Kyle South (R-Fayette), is likely to come up in the House this week. The bill extends the program for five more years and gives first-time homebuyers ten years to make tax-deductible deposits to a savings account that can be used for closing costs and the down payment on a home. With skyrocketing affordability and housing costs, it is more important than ever to help first-time homebuyers purchase their first home.