With more than one-third of the 2019 legislative session in the books, week five saw the economic development bill head to the governor’s desk, the introduction of bills to lower the age for truck drivers, and unemployment compensation bills advance.
The Alabama House had filed 482 bills and the Senate 320 bills. The Business Council of Alabama continues to monitor and act on those that affect Alabama’s business community.
On Tuesday, the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee briefing featured Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
Economic Development Bill Headed to Governor’s Desk
HB 289, by Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, passed the Senate on Tuesday with a vote of 31-0. The bill clarifies that economic developers do not have to register as lobbyists. Should economic developers be required to list their clients, businesses seeking to locate projects in a state could avoid Alabama.
Last year, the Legislature clarified that Alabama economic developers such as site selectors, industrial developers, and chamber of commerce officials would not be classified as lobbyists; however, that law sunset on April 1, 2019.
If classified as lobbyists, economic developers would have to reveal information that could endanger economic development efforts. The rule for professional economic developers includes exemption from registering with the state, undergoing yearly training, and reporting activity.
As of Tuesday evening, it received certification from the Clerk of the House and was sent to the Governor’s office where it is awaiting her signature.
Bills to Lower Age for Truck Drivers Introduced, Will Create Jobs and Make Businesses More Competitive
On Thursday, two bills were introduced that will allow individuals at age 18 to drive combination commercial vehicles of 26,000 lbs. or more (such as truck and trailer combos) within Alabama state lines. Currently, Alabama is one of only two states that restricts a Class A commercial driver’s license to those who are 21 years or older. SB 318, by Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, was referred the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, and the House companion bill, HB 479, by Rep. Dexter Grimsley, R-Abbeville, was referred to the House Transportation, Utility, and Infrastructure Committee.
The current age restriction bars anyone under the age of 21 from operating the standard tractor-trailer combination in Alabama. Many are lost to other industries by the time they reach the age of 21. The legislation could create thousands of new jobs and will allow Alabama businesses that rely on trucks to move their goods or equipment to better compete with surrounding states for freight movement.
All new drivers must meet training and testing guidelines set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and drivers ages 18-21 may not operate a commercial motor vehicle transporting hazardous material.
At the federal level, Congress is considering the DRIVE Safe Act, which will allow individuals at age 18 to obtain a commercial driver’s license and drive a truck and trailer combo in excess of 26,000 lbs. across state lines.
The BCA thanks Sen. Chesteen and Rep. Grimsley for their leadership in introducing this legislation.
Unemployment Compensation Bills Advance in Both Chambers
On Wednesday, HB 364, by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, received a favorable report in the House Commerce and Small Business Committee. The Senate companion bill, SB 193, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, passed the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee by a vote of 10-0 on Tuesday.
Currently, if a person loses a job through no fault of their own, they are eligible to apply for 26 weeks of unemployment benefits.
The legislation would set a variable rate for Alabama’s unemployment compensation, basing it on the state’s unemployment rate. This would allow a person to receive benefits for a longer duration during difficult economic times and a shorter duration during better times. The legislation also includes a five-week extension of benefits for anyone enrolled in a state-approved training program.
The bill increases the maximum weekly benefit from $265 to $275. Alabama currently has the third lowest weekly benefit amount behind only Mississippi and Arizona. The increase would place Alabama in a three-way tie with Tennessee and Florida for the fourth lowest weekly benefit.
This is commonsense legislation that represents an estimated $45 million annual savings to Alabama employers.
Fleet Bill Passes House
HB 278, by Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston, is a bill that would streamline the process of registering fleet vehicles by requiring the Department of Revenue to establish a fleet online tax system. It has passed the House with a vote of 88-2 and was transacted to the Senate where it’s been referred to the Senate Government Affairs Committee.
Bill of Interest
- HB 183, Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, and SB 153 by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, known as the Simplified Sellers Use Tax Part II, would provide for updates to the amnesty and class action provisions for eligible sellers and clarify transactions for which simplified sellers use tax cannot be collected and remitted. HB 183 passed unanimously out of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee last week. Similarly, SB 153 passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Government Affairs.
- SB 222, by Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison, would require all county superintendents to be appointed by the county board of education. The bill passed the House Education Policy Committee by a vote 9-4.
- HB 100, by Rep. Jim Carnes, R-Vestavia Hills, would require plaintiffs in asbestos actions to file all available asbestos trust claims and produce all trust claims materials before trial.
- SB 171, by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, removes the tax provisions on meeting space and other accommodations that are not regularly furnished for overnight accommodations within a lodging facility. Taxes would still be collected on hotel rooms fees. It is pending a third reading in the Senate.
- SB 23 by Sen. Chris Elliot, R-Fairhope, would provide that the police jurisdiction of a municipality would include only property in the corporate limits of the municipality. It passed the Senate Government Affairs Committee as substituted by a vote of 10-1.
- SB 129 by Sen. Elliott would regulate the conduct of franchisors and their representatives in an effort to prevent fraud, unfair business practices, unfair methods of competition, impositions, and other abuses upon franchisees in the state. It passed the Senate Government Affairs Committee as amended by a vote of 9-1.
- SB 71 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would require any person who applies for a business license or permit from a municipality or county and who employs five or more persons to prove enrollment in E-Verify prior to issuance of a business license or permit. This bill would place additional regulation on Alabama businesses than currently mandated by the federal government.
- SB 268, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, provides for the allocation of funds to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to facilitate growth in the state’s system of inland ports and transfer facilities and for the coordination of a transportation system for inland waterways. This bill passed the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee by a vote of 8-1.
- SB 247, Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, would allow the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment to intervene in the legal action contesting the redistricting or reapportionment plan and would express the intent of the Legislature for the committee to seek intervention in actions in federal court as appropriate. This bill passed the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee by a vote of 8-3.
- HB 131, by Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, would authorize counties to levy and collect additional privilege taxes, excise taxes, alcoholic beverage taxes, and sales and use taxes with or without a referendum. Under existing law, counties are not authorized to levy and collect additional taxes unless authorized by law. The House County and Municipal Government Committee held a public hearing on the bill and no vote was taken.
- HB 476, by Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, would establish a burden of proof for withdrawals of surface or underground water. This bill would authorize the Office of Water Resources to: (1) restrict any term or condition in a certificate of use for the duration of a water shortage or emergency; (2) provide conservation credits to water users that take certain conservation measures during shortages or emergencies; (3) restrict withdrawals for which no certificate is required during a shortage or emergency; and (4) allocate water to and among users in order to alleviate a shortage or emergency. This bill would also require the state to preserve environmental flows and levels in all water sources to allow the Office of Water Resources to establish by rule an environmental flow or level in any water source after consultation with the Alabama Water Resources Council. The bill was referred to the House State Government Committee.
Tuesday’s Briefing will feature Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton
Please join us next Tuesday, April 23 at 8:30 a.m. for the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee Briefing with Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. Please email RSVP@bcatoday.org to let us know you’ll be there.
20thAnnual Manufacturer of the Year Awards
Please plan to join the BCA and the Alabama Technology Network on Wednesday, May 1 for the 20thannual Manufacturer of the Year Awards luncheon.
If you have any questions regarding the legislative session, please contact BCA’s Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs David Cole or BCA’s Vice President for Governmental Affairs Molly Cagle.