2013 legislative session ends on positive note

The 2013 legislative session that began Feb. 5 literally lasted until the last minute Monday night with final passage of an important legal transparency bill and included early passage of a red tape reduction bill that were priorities of the Business Council of Alabama.

“We’re pleased with government-efficiency and red-tape reduction legislation and believe that businesses will benefit from the measures,” said BCA President and CEO William J. Canary. “It was a productive session for business.”

The Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting bill, or TIPAC, sponsored by Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, received final Senate passage late Monday and was sent to Governor Robert Bentley for consideration. Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, sponsored the Senate version.

The BCA is committed to advancing legal reform in Alabama.

“Over the years, we have worked closely with the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform on this type of model legislation to ensure accountability and full disclosure,” Canary said. “We applaud the House and Senate legislative leadership and our attorney general who collectively made this legislation a priority and helped ensure its passage.”

Attorney General Luther Strange strongly supported TIPAC and was significantly involved in its passage.

“Attorney General Strange is to be commended for his leadership,” said Harold Kim, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.

Strange said the legislation will limit state contracts with private attorneys. The legislation requires government attorneys to maintain control of cases, settlement decisions, and sets a sliding scale for contingency fees.

“When I became Attorney General, I took action to preserve the taxpayer’s money by utilizing the experience, knowledge and skill of our professional staff of state attorneys to handle cases of complex litigation that might have otherwise been hired out to private attorneys,” Strange said.

With passage of TIPAC, Alabama joins states such as Arizona, Florida, Indiana, and Mississippi that are bringing sunshine to the relationships between state attorneys general and private lawyers.

HB 227 conference report passed the House 98-1 and the Senate 28-1.

The legislature also approved the Red Tape Reduction Act that was supported by the BCA. Bentley signed it in April.

HB 101 by Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, requires state agencies to prepare economic impact statements prior to adopting a rule if a business claims the proposed rule would negatively impact them. This new law also requires agencies to review their administrative rules every five years.

Weaver said business owners in her district complained about bureaucratic requirements that took their time and resources and kept them from the main objective of running a business.

“State government should concentrate on giving business owners the tools they need to remain successful instead of finding ways to suffocate them under the weight of needless government oversight and mounds of paperwork,” she said.

The omnibus gun bill passed. The BCA consistently opposed SB 286 sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, because the bill would not allow businesses to exercise their constitutional right to control their own property.

The BCA sought complete immunity from civil liability, equal protection and an opt-out provision. “Without this opt-out provision we could not support it” Canary said.

The BCA opposed the provision that prohibits businesses from banning firearms in vehicles parked on company property.

The bill strengthens background checks, requires firearms to be kept out of sight in a locked vehicle, and requires a valid concealed weapon permit and a hunting license in order to keep a shotgun or hunting rifle in a locked vehicle during hunting season.

-Dana Beyerle