CNN Week 5 – Busy Three-Day Week – AREC Sunset, Economic Incentives and Fentanyl

CNN Week 5 – Busy Three-Day Week – AREC Sunset, Economic Incentives and Fentanyl

The Alabama legislature completed its 5th calendar week of the 2023 legislative session. Using three legislative days, twenty-three (23) days remain that the legislature can meet in chamber. This week, representatives filed 53 bills and Senators filed 45 bills, or totals of 274 and 190 bills respectively (464 total). Read on for a brief summary of this week’s legislative activity, including economic incentives, cell phone bans in cars, tax cuts, tax sales and more. 


General Action Update

Three legislative days allowed legislators to file bills Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The anticipated four-bill package of economic incentives were filed, with companion bills in each chamber. Rep. Cynthia Almond and Sen. Garlan Gudger filed companion bills (HB 240/ SB 151)  requiring the publication of data related to the economic incentives (HB 241/ SB 164). Rep. Danny Garrett and Sen. Greg Reed filed the main economic incentives bill, reauthorizing the Alabama Jobs Act. Rep. Anthony Daniels and Sen. Bobby Singleton filed bills (HB 247/ SB 152) targeting innovation and small businesses in rural areas. Finally, Rep. Danny Garrett and Sen. Filed companion bills (HB 257/ SB 165) providing grants to fund site development. 

Moving to passed bills, several of the first bills of session received final passage, and some advanced from their chamber of origin. A bi-partisan priority, HB 1, sponsored by Rep. Matt Simpson, cracks down on fentanyl trafficking and possession. The bill passed the Senate and was signed by Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday. Other bills of general note that came up this week include: 

  • SB 68, sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, which improves retirement benefits for state troopers as incentive to bolster trooper numbers, passed the Senate, and 
  • HB 8, sponsored by Rep. Randy Wood, which bans physical use of mobile phones during operation of a vehicle, was debated and carried over by the House. 

REALTORS® Work on Tax Sale Bill

A common topic for the last ten years is the law on real estate sold for failure to pay taxes. This year, companion bills SB 172 and HB 190 make significant changes to Alabama’s tax sale statutes. Last Wednesday, the Alabama REALTORS® public policy team joined colleagues from the Alabama County Commission Association and the Association for Tax Officials in speaking against the bill in the House Judiciary Committee. While the bills aim to clarify some issues with the tax sale statutes, including that arising from a court case several years ago, the bills overprotect tax sale purchasers over property owners, and exacerbate an already problematic process. Alabama REALTORS® has advocated for a more fair and transparent process on tax sales and redemptions and one that ends the predatory practice of overbidding and excessive interest which unnecessarily drives up the redemption cost for property owners. At present 43 of 67 counties have moved to a more fair and transparent tax lien process the sale of tax liens rather than tax deeds for failure to pay property taxes. HB 190 has been referred to a subcommittee for further work.   


AREC Sunset Bill Advances

The bill renewing the Alabama Real Estate Commission, HB 195, sponsored by Rep. Matt Simpson, passed the House on Thursday. Required by the Alabama Sunset Law, each licensing body is subject to review and audit by the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, which then reports any findings to the Alabama legislature for the renewal or termination of the licensing body. Most licensing agencies or departments are renewed by the Legislature in four-year increments. This year, the Real Estate Commission is up for a one year renewal for the third time in three years. HB 195 renews AREC for one more year and now goes to the Senate for consideration. 


Vestavia Hills Ad Valorem Tax Increase Referendum Passes

SB 63, sponsored by Sen. Jabo Waggoner, placing a property tax increase before the voters in Vestavia Hills, received final passage by the House on Thursday. If signed by the Governor and passed by voters, the increased taxes will go to support the city’s schools. When speaking before the House Jefferson County Committee on Wednesday, Sen. Waggoner mentioned the recent population growth in Vestavia Hills as an impetus for the bill. 


Tax Cut Bills Advance Through House

Two bills cutting state income taxes passed the House on Thursday. HB 115 and 116 are both sponsored by Rep. Danny Garrett, are among several tax cuts or rebates proposed this year. HB 115 would phase in a tax decrease for the top income tax bracket from 5 percent to 4.95 percent. HB 116 eliminates the 2% income tax on those making $500 or less ($1000 or less for joint filers). Upon full implementation, the bills, if passed, would result in an estimated total reduction to the Education Trust Fund of around $70 million annually. 


Looking Ahead

The legislature returned to work today, gaveling in at 1 pm in the House and 3 pm in the Senate. We expect another three legislative days to be used, as lawmakers try to make up for the time lost to the special session in early March.