CNN Week 10 –Mortgage Tax Fee Increase Bill Advances on Incorrect Vote

CNN Week 10 –Mortgage Tax Fee Increase Bill Advances on Incorrect Vote

The Alabama Legislature continued its 2023 regular session last week. Tuesday and Thursday saw the Senate and House meet, while Wednesday served as a committee day. That leaves a maximum of ten days or a third of the session remaining. The general feeling, however, is that the session will end in early June. Last week saw a huge win for homeowners and homebuyers with the passage of SB 228, which was signed into law today by Governor Ivey. Continue reading for highlights from last week.


General Update

Legislative activity in committees and on the floor of both chambers continues to be spirited and elevated. However, this spirited atmosphere can sometimes slow down the legislative process, particularly when partisan politics come into play. Last week, the Senate adjourned without even reaching its special-order calendar on Tuesday, meaning that specific agenda items scheduled for that day were not addressed. On Thursday, the House faced filibusters by Democrats, which further impeded progress. Filibusters are a tactic used to prolong debate and delay or prevent a vote on a bill. 

In the face of these challenges, it appears that both chambers were not able to make significant progress on their respective calendars. The House, specifically, only managed to address five out of the 18 bills on its calendar. However, that is not to say bills did not move. Education and school choice remains a priority topic, with multiple bills on the issue passing out of committees. The Senate passed bills to increase the number of circuit and district judges in high need areas, to strengthen the public records law and to limit liability for road builders, to name a few. Among other things, the House spent a lot of time on a bill banning the Chinese government from owning property (see below), and also passed a bill to penalize doxing (i.e. publicly sharing another’s personal information) with the intent to cause harm. 


ICYMI - REALTOR® Bill Passed – Wholesaling and 40-year Listings

In case you missed it, REALTOR®-backed SB 228 passed the Legislature last Tuesday. The bill has now become law after Governor Ivey signed it today (Act number 2023-201).Sponsored by Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Birmingham), Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Hunstville), Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) and by Rep. Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn) in the House, the bill addresses two important issues that are unfair to homeowners in Alabama. The first addresses 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. Under the bill, any agreement to list a home that is recorded, or purports to run with the land or create a lien, cannot exceed one year. The bill provides punitive damages for violations. The second issue addresses the wholesaling of residential property and requires disclosure to the seller and prospective buyers by a wholesaler and provides penalties for violations. This does not prevent the parties from agreeing otherwise but provides protections to unsuspecting homeowners and homebuyers. Wholesalers will be required to disclose three things: the intent to market a purchase agreement on a home, the fact that the wholesaler only has a purchase agreement on the home, and any eventual assignation of the property. Commercial and other property types are excluded from the legislation. SB 228 is a huge win for Alabama's homeowners and real estate industry!


Mortgage and Deed Recording Tax Increase Bill Advances on Incorrect Vote Tally

An over $89 million tax increase proposal, known as SB 107, sponsored by Sen. Linda Coleman Madison (D- Birmingham), passed out of a Senate committee last week due to an incorrect vote. This bill seeks to double the tax on recording mortgages, deeds, and similar instruments from 15 cents to 30 cents per 100 dollars. The Alabama REALTORS® are opposed to the bill as a tax increase on prospective property buyers and increasing costs at a time where affordability is an at an all-time high. The bill should have failed in committee on Wednesday, but two Senators voice votes were recorded incorrectly by the Committee Clerk.  

Voting in Favor of the Tax Increase on Prospective Property Owners: Sen. Linda Coleman Madison (D); Sen. Robert Stewart (D); Sen. Bill Beasley (D); Sen. Merika Coleman (D); Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R); Sen. Andrew Jones (R).

Voting Against the Tax Increase on Prospective Property Owners: Sen. Greg Albritton (R); Sen. Chris Elliott (R); Sen. Sam Givhan (R); Sen. Steve Livingston (R); Sen. Arthur Orr (R); Sen. Randy Price (R); Sen. Larry Stutts* (R); Sen. April Weaver* (R).

* Voted Against the Tax Increase but Votes Incorrectly Recorded by Committee Clerk


Electronic Security Board Moves with REALTOR® Amendment

A bill amending the license laws related to the electronic security board, HB 260, has passed the House with a REALTOR® amendment. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville), deals with locksmiths and electronic security system installers. Alabama REALTORS® worked with the bill’s sponsor to introduce an amendment. The amendment added an exemption for owners, property managers, and their agents from needing a license as long as they are not advertising themselves as locksmiths. This exemption aims to provide flexibility for these individuals and acknowledges their role in managing properties without requiring them to obtain a locksmith license. The bill is now up for consideration in a Senate committee. 


Bill Banning Property Ownership by Chinese Government, Companies and Citizens Passes House

The Alabama REALTORS® public policy team is monitoring a bill dealing with property ownership by China. HB 379, sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle), would ban the Chinese government, Chinese citizens, and Chinese companies from owning Alabama property. The bill specifically grandfathers in existing property ownership and was amended by the House to exclude Taiwan and grant exemptions to settlement service providers. Additional changes to narrow the scope of the bill are anticipated this week when the bill reaches a Senate committee. Last legislative session in 2022, far broader legislation was introduced in SB 14 which would have prohibited ownership of Alabama agricultural land by non U.S. citizens or resident aliens. 

HB 379 reflects concerns by legislators across the country and at the federal level in Washington, D.C. about the ownership of agricultural land by countries deemed hostile to the United States and efforts to restrict that ownership. These concerns seem to have been exacerbated by the recent Chinese Spy Balloons that flew across the United States earlier this year.  U.S. Senators Katie Britt and Tom Cotton introduced the Not One More Inch or Acre Act, S.1136, that would prevent any Chinese national or entity from owning American Land. 


Voluntary Dam Safety Bill Passes Committee

A bill was filed and passed out of committee last week that would create a safety program for dams in the state. SB 284, sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), requires any state-owned dam to be put in a safety program and allows privately-owned dams to be added at the request of the owner. The bill also exempts the many dams in the state that fall under federal regulation (e.g., Martin Dam). Due to the voluntary nature of the program, we do not anticipate any impacts on private property owners but will continue to monitor the bill for any amendments. 


Looking Ahead

The House and Senate reconvened today at 1 pm and 3 pm respectively and are expected to use three legislative days this week. The budgets are not expected to be in committee until next week, as legislators in both chambers continue negotiations, especially on the $2.8 billion supplemental budget for this year, which had several programs cut out when it passed the Senate. Check back next week for all the updates in CNN Week 11!