CNN Week 3 – HVAC Bill, Online Auction of Land Bank Property, Picketing Prohibition and More

CNN Week 3 – HVAC Bill, Online Auction of Land Bank Property, Picketing Prohibition and More

A third of the 2024 legislative session is now behind us. After three weeks, three bills have passed out of the legislature and 381 total bills have been filed. While the legislature has been busy, much of that activity has been focused on large ticket items, like the gambling package, a ballot harvesting prohibition, an anti-DEI bill, a school safety program, and school choice, to name a few. But bill filing numbers are ticking up, and correspondingly, committee action is picking up. Continue reading for highlights from week 3!


Online Auction of State Land Bank Properties

Last Tuesday, Rep. Reed Ingram (R-Montgomery) filed a REALTOR®-supported bill to allow for an online auction of properties held by the state land bank. The state land bank has a backlog of thousands of properties, received or purchased by the state when tax-delinquent property was not purchased at a tax sale. These properties can languish for years before someone purchases them though a lengthy process. HB 196 is a commonsense bill to allow the Department of Revenue Commissioner, who oversees the state land bank, to sell these properties that have been held in the state land bank for at least five years. The properties would be sold by online public auction. Selling the state’s interest in these properties to new owners will help put these properties back into their highest and best use. Revenue generated by the auction would be split equally between the state and local governments where the properties are located. 


Bill Prohibiting Protesting and Pickets at Homes Advances

A bill that would prohibit picketing at a person’s home advanced out of a Senate committee last Wednesday. SB 57, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), would make it unlawful for anyone to picket or protest at an individual’s home with the intent to harass, intimidate or disturb the occupants. At the Committee meeting, Sen. Orr stated that the bill was filed in response to the protests outside of the homes of United States Supreme Court Justices and other nationwide public officials. Another provision would allow local governments to set specific timeframes for protesting in residential areas.

The bill also would codify the crime of swatting – when someone intentionally makes a false report to law enforcement or emergency providers. 


Statewide Residential Building Code Filed

A bill authorizing the establishment of a statewide residential building code was filed last week. HB 198, filed by Rep. Chip Brown (R-Mobile), is very similar to a bill filed last year, and would allow the Home Builders Licensure Board to adopt residential building codes and standards of practice. While municipalities usually adopt and enforce building codes, the unincorporated areas of a county often lack a standard building code or the county lacks the resources to inspect new builds. While adoption of the statewide code is not mandatory, the bill aims to improve the current situation by setting minimum standards if a local government adopts a building code and is a step toward establishing a mechanism for inspection of new buildings in rural areas. 


Reducing Costs of HVAC Work

The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee gave a favorable report to legislation by Sen. Keith Kelly (R-Anniston) that clarifies HVAC contractors may complete basic wiring work directly related to HVAC systems without the added time and expense of having to hire an electrician.

The Alabama Electrical Contractors’ Board has sought a requirement that property owners hire electricians for all forms of maintenance no matter how routine or how skilled alternative contractors may be.

Kelly filed SB101 to prevent the misinterpretation of current law that electrical contractors incorrectly claim justifies their mandate. The bill now goes to the Senate floor for consideration.

Passage of SB101 in both chambers would cut time and costs for HVAC installations, maintenance and repairs for home and property owners, homebuilders, and other stakeholders. The Alabama REALTORS® are supportive of this legislation. 


Sunset Bills Move Out of Senate Committee

A number of sunset bills passed out of Senate committee last week, including the bill for the Alabama Real Estate Commission. Every year the legislature considers so-called sunset bills, or bills that extend the operation of certain state agencies and licensing boards or commissions. By state law, these governmental bodies will “sunset” or cease operations unless the legislature passes a bill extending the time, typically for four years. The Alabama Real Estate Commission is up for renewal this year, its fourth time in four years, and would be renewed for four years upon passage of its sunset bill. The sunset bills are now up for consideration by the full Senate. 


Removing Dept. of Insurance from Sunset Process

Rep. Corley Ellis (R-Columbiana), has introduced legislation that would remove the Alabama Department of Insurance fromoversight under the state sunset Law and allow the department to operate as a permanent state agency.

The Insurance Department is currently the only cabinet-level, executive branch agency governed by the Sunset Law, which, as mentioned above, requires the legislature to review, renew, or repeal various regulatory boards and commissions every so-many years.

Rep. Ellis, who chairs the House Insurance Committee, said he introduced HB 139 because the department’s financial significance and regulatory role within the industry are too important to let it expire. The bill, which has already passed the House and received a favorable report from the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee last week, is awaiting consideration and final passage by the State Senate.


Other Bills of Interest

Several other bills of interest were filed last week related to real property or property development. These include the following:

  • HB 226, sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Almond (R-Tuscaloosa), would set a 30-day timeframe for appealing a final decision of a municipal zoning adjustment board. 
  • HB  209 would add Lake Martin to the list of water bodies covered by last year’s act that placed restrictions on wake boating and wake surfing. Sponsored by Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville), the bill would also prohibit boats from operating above idle speed within 100 feet of any shoreline, dock, pier, boathouse or other structure located on Lake Martin, Smith Lake, Lake Wedowee, or on Shoal Creek. 
  • HB 215 would create a permit program for shoreline owners at the coast to dredge and create living shoreline and is sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Fidler (R-Fairhope). The program would be administered by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.


This week the legislature plans to use another three legislative days and will focus committee meetings on Wednesday. The House reconvened today at 1:00 pm and the Senate at 2:00 pm.