CNN Week 11 – Deborah Robinson Confirmed and REALTOR® Amendments
May 23, 2023
The 11th week of the 2023 regular legislative session continued at a rapid pace as the legislature used three days to consider various pieces of legislation. Among the bills discussed were an amended anti-ESG boycott bill, the China Property bill (now narrowed), and a bill focused on defining a woman. Additionally, the Senate confirmed Ms. Deborah Robinson to serve as an AREC commissioner beginning this October. Continue reading for brief highlights from the week.
Legislative activity continues to be high, but intermittent slowdowns are possible. In the Senate, Sen. Rodger Smitherman slowed proceedings dramatically after a Tuesday vote on a bill he sponsored did not go his way. This flowed into Thursday when Republicans put out a relatively non-controversial calendar of bills (called a special-order calendar) only to substitute it for one that contained both the ESG (environmental, social, governance) bill and the China Property Ban bill. The ESG bill (SB 261) bans companies working with the state from boycotting other businesses for stances related to specific social items, like abortion or gun rights. The Senate passed the ESG bill with amendments requested by members of the business community that limit the bill’s scope. The bill now goes to Governor Kay Ivey for her review and signature. The China Property Ban bill passed with amendments as well and is discussed further below.
In the House, a committee passed SB 206, a bill creating retail theft crimes. Although retail theft is currently a crime, the bill creates new crimes with specific penalties for retail theft and conspiracy. The bill sponsor and proponents noted the organized nature of retail theft called for more stringent and specific penalties.
The House also passed a bill that will move the 2024 primary run-off back two weeks. The bill sponsor indicated that the primary run-off falls two days after Easter in 2024, making it difficult for election officials, many of whom take off for Good Friday and the Monday after Easter Sunday.
In superfluous news, a bill designating the state cookie is nearing final passage, having passed out of a Senate committee on Wednesday. HB 421, sponsored by Rep. Reed Ingram (R-Montgomery), would name the Yellowhammer cookie as the official state cookie.
ICYMI - Deborah Robinson Confirmed to Real Estate Commission
We were thrilled to announce last week that Ms. Deborah Lucas Robinson was confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Alabama Real Estate Commission (AREC). When discussing the confirmation, Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) gave glowing remarks regarding her sorority sister, Ms. Robinson. Ms. Robinson’s term will begin on October 1 of this year, as she fills the at large commission seat. Congratulations to Ms. Robinson!
Bill Banning Property Ownership Passes Senate with REALTOR® Amendment and Narrower Scope
The Senate took up and passed HB 379, sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle), which, in its original form, would have banned the Chinese government, Chinese citizens, and Chinese companies from owning Alabama property. The Alabama REALTORS® worked with the bill sponsor and Sen. David Sessions to narrow the scope of the legislation to agriculture and timber property and add language exempting real estate licensees from liability under the bill. REALTOR® language was incorporated into the substitute bill. Further amendments expand the bill to include the countries of North Korea, Iran, and Russia. On the Senate floor, an amendment was adopted that further removed any applicability to individuals. The bill will go to the House for concurrence.
HB 379 reflects national security concerns by legislators across the country and at the federal level in Washington, D.C. about the nation’s food supply and efforts by foreign countries deemed hostile to the United States to acquire agricultural land in the United States. As a result, legislative efforts have increased to restrict foreign ownership of agricultural land. Exacerbated by the recent Chinese Spy Balloons that flew across the United States, these concerns have resulted in the filing of similar bills in other states as well as in Washington, D.C. 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.
In Alabama, HB 379 is a culmination of discussions among many stakeholder groups and legislators. The first Alabama bill on the issue was filed during the 2022 legislative session. That bill, SB 14, was far broader and would have prohibited ownership of Alabama agricultural land by all non U.S. citizens or resident aliens. The Alabama REALTORS® have closely monitored this legislation and worked with stakeholders to narrow the scope and impact of this legislation on consumers and practitioners as much as possible.
Electronic Security Board Bill Passes Legislature with REALTOR® Amendment
A bill amending the license laws related to the electronic security board, HB 260, passed the Senate 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 in the House. 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 before the Governor for her consideration.
Bill Placing Deadlines and Procedures on Property Tax Valuations Filed
Rep. David Faulkner (R-Homewood) is back this year with a bill setting procedures and deadlines for real property valuations. Very similar to a bill (HB 449) filed last year, Rep. Faulkner’s HB 491 sets a deadline for notices of increases in property valuations, requires the board of equalization to send notice of decisions on property value objections, and gives additional time after a final decision from the board of equalization to pay the taxes due or appeal. While Alabama’s property taxes are among the lowest in the nation, an unexpected increase can still amount to significant costs to the homeowner or property owner. The Alabama REALTORS® supports HB 491 as a common sense, good government approach to providing appropriate notice of upcoming property tax increases to the many Alabamians who own property.
The legislature reconvened today with the House and Senate gaveling in at 1 pm and 3 pm respectively. If the legislature uses three legislative days as anticipated, only four days will remain. With these four days, rumor has it that the legislature will not meet until next Wednesday and Thursday, due to the Memorial Day holiday, leaving two days to respond to any gubernatorial vetoes and to adjourn sine die. Of course, the main item remaining is passage of the budgets, which have yet to move after quick passage through their chamber of origin. Both budgets will likely be in committee this week and, if passed out of committee on Wednesday, could be considered by the full body on Thursday.
Stay tuned next week for an update on all the legislative action!