CNN Week 8 - REALTOR® Bill Passes Senate, Grocery Taxes, Anti-China Property Ownership

CNN Week 8 - REALTOR® Bill Passes Senate, Grocery Taxes, Anti-China Property Ownership

We are at the official halfway mark of the 2023 Legislative Session. The Legislature met on Tuesday and Thursday and held committee meetings on Wednesday last week - its eighth week since beginning the session. That leaves 15 legislative days and 7 weeks total remaining. The legislature must pass the two budgets and seems to have some appetite for a grocery tax cut. Read on for highlights of the week. 


General Update

Last week, one of the big topics was the unanimous passage of the 2024 General Fund budget by the House, along with the 2023 supplemental budget. The state is flush with cash, as evidenced by the record $3 billion dollar GF budget and over $200 million supplemental budget. The 2024 budget includes a 2% increase for state employees, while the 2023 supplemental main benefactor is the Department of Mental Health. The education budget has not yet moved but is expected to go before the Senate soon. 

Legislators have now filed 673 bills in the House and Senate, with 62 filed last week. A few of the general interest bills include a bill to require smart devices to come from the factory with an adult content filter installed and a year-round school calendar bill. 

For bills filed in prior weeks, the school choice bill giving parents almost $7,000 in a savings account to pay for a school of their choice failed, and a bill creating two crimes specific to retail theft passed a Senate committee but met concerns in a House committee about the lack of dollar thresholds for one of the crimes and the redundancy of having a retail theft and regular theft crime.


Alabama Homebuilding, Real Estate and Banking Industries Legislative Breakfast

The Alabama REALTORS® joined multiple industry partner associations including the Alabama Homebuilder Association and Alabama Bankers Association to host a legislative breakfast on Thursday, April 27. Attendees of the breakfast included legislators, statewide elected officials and their staffs. The breakfast was a great way to educate elected and public officials on REALTORS® issues and to say thank you for their efforts. The breakfast was a resounding success with over 300 attendees. 


Right-to-List Agreements and Wholesaling Bill Passes Senate Unanimously

The Senate unanimously passed SB 228, a REALTOR®-supported bill, that places disclosure safeguards on wholesaling and addresses 40-year listing agreements. Sponsored by Senators Dan Roberts (R-Birmingham), Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) and Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville), SB 228 passed the Senate by a vote of 31-0. Senator Roberts championed the bill on the Senate floor. We sincerely appreciate the work of the bill sponsors in addressing these two important issues and safeguarding consumers and the industry. SB 228 now moves to the House of Representatives where it will be sponsored by Representative Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn).

Backgrounder: SB 228 would address two large issues that are unfair to homeowners in Alabama. The first would address long-term right to list agreements, where companies are offering incentives to homeowners in return for a 40-year listing agreement on a home. The listing agreements are then recorded as liens against the property. Several states have already banned the practice and Florida Attorney General has filed a complaint to stop it in Florida. The second issue would address the wholesaling of residential property and require disclosure to the seller and prospective buyers by a wholesaler and provides penalties for violations. Commercial and other property types are excluded from the legislation.

Grocery Tax Reduction Bill Filed – A bill to gradually reduce state grocery taxes was filed last week. Sponsored by Senator Andrew Jones (R-Centre), SB 257 takes the state grocery tax down to 2% over a years’ long process but contains sales tax growth contingencies to make sure receipts to the Education Trust Fund are sufficient. If the growth in sales tax receipts falls below 2% year-over-year, the grocery tax decrease would be paused that year. With every Senator a co-sponsor, the bill would seem favorable to pass the Senate. 

Anti-China Property Ownership Bill– A new bill to prohibit certain foreign governments to own Alabama land was filed last week. HB 379, sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle), is limited to the Chinese government, citizens and companies directly or indirectly owned or controlled by the Chinese government or citizens. The bill is expected to be in House committee this week. 

Financial Literacy Bill – A bill requiring financial literacy classes for high school students passed favorably out of a Senate committee last Wednesday. HB 164, sponsored by Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Ardmore), requires high school students to complete a course on financial literacy and money management before graduating high school. Supported by the Alabama REALTORS®, the bill is a wonderful opportunity to improve the personal finance acumen of Alabamians, knowledge that will be of great benefit when these students will be saving to buy a home.


Looking Ahead

The legislature returned to session today with the House and Senate reconvening at 1 pm and 2:30 pm respectively. We continue to expect the budgets to be a priority and look for additional discussion on the grocery tax bill.