All Hands on Deck as 2014 Session Unfolds
Forecast: Fast Paced Session
With the introduction of over five hundred bills already, the SubAla team has been busy sifting through each piece of legislation to identify the bills affecting your industry.
Tentative schedules that include the legislature meeting 3 days per week instead of the normal two, mean groups with legislative agenda items must be prepared earlier than usual this session. Generally, the legislators meet on Tuesday and Thursday, reserving Wednesday for committee meetings. By law the session consists of 30 days that must occur within a 105 calendar day period. If this trend continues the legislators will not use the 105 days allotted as they are eager to return to their districts to campaign for re-election.
Besides examining the bills introduced, SubAla has already spent time on bills not yet dropped in the hopper to possibly negotiate out provisions that might be detrimental to members and add favorable language. As stated above, the committee schedule is daunting as the legislature attempts to shorten the time period. The SubAla team spent countless hours attending committee meetings in both the House and the Senate as well as keeping a watchful eye on the measures taken up on the floor.
SubAla Backed Business Tax Reform Part of House Republican Package
Tax reform is slated to be a backdrop for the 2014 session and includes a SubAla backed bill, HB105, The Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. SubAla remains active in the Business Association Tax Coalition (BATC) who has proposed to strengthen the current law dealing with tax payers in the past few sessions. A description of that bill as well as other tax related proposals are listed below:
HB105 - Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood.
The bill which has gone as far as the Governor's desk in previous sessions, but was vetoed due to technicalities would create an independent administrative hearing process for tax appeals. These appeals are currently heard by hearing officers appointed by the Alabama Revenue Commissioner. Virtually every business group favors the bill except NFIB to date.
The bill in just the first week passed out of committee and received a 97-2 vote in the House. It was read the first time in the Senate Thursday and referred to the Fiscal Responsibility and accountability Committee.
Other Business Tax Legislation Backed by the Republican Majority
and on the Fast Track:
HB151 - The Small Business Tax Relief Act, Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise.
This bill would allow for an increase in the business estimated sales tax payment threshold from $1,000 to $2,500, thus requiring fewer businesses to make advanced payments but will not change the actual tax due by the business. It also passed the House and was referred to the Finance and Taxation Education Committee in the Senate.
HB108 - Business Tax Streamlining Act, Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery.
By creating an online filing system this bill would provide businesses with a "one-stop shop" for filing business personal property taxes. Further, it would allow businesses claiming $10,000 or less in business personal property tax to file a short form that would not require itemization of their property. This bill also passed the House and headed to the Senate.
HB97 - Tax Elimination Act, Rep. Jim Patterson, R-Meridianville.
After receiving quick passage in the House the bill was referred the F&T Education in the Senate. It gives the Alabama Department of Revenue the authority to suspend taxes and fees when the cost of collecting the tax exceeds the amount of revenue the tax brings in.
HB42 - Alabama Taxpayer Audit Protection Act, Rep. Wayne Johnson, R-Ryland.
The only snag in the Republican package came from this bill would prohibit the State Department of Revenue from targeting organizations for audits based on their political leanings. It originated due to the ongoing reports that the IRS was targeting conservative nonprofit groups that were trying to gain tax-exempt status. It is expected to be debated again next week in the House.
SubAla Supports Bills
to Strengthen Tax Credits for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties
Several SubAla members can reap the benefits of bills introduced this year that would strengthen the tax credit bill that passed last year. Representative Victor Gaston, R-Mobile introduced HB274 that among other provisions would remove the cap of $20 million currently in the statute and remove the provision that "sunsets" the entire process in three short years. Sen. Tammi Irons, D-Florence is expected to introduce a similar bill in the Senate.
There were 10 properties that received some of the initial $20 million in tax credits. Four of the 10 projects are in Birmingham, two are in Mobile, two in Tuscaloosa and one each in Montgomery and Anniston.
It is reported that altogether, private investors plan to spend $87.4 million to return 14 historic buildings to productive new uses. The projects are expected to generate more than 2,300 new jobs and add $70 million in new salaries over the next three years. Unfortunately, due to the cap and other provisions of the current law, over half the projects that applied were not able to be funded.
Subala will provide testimony and support for this important bill. It is expected to receive opposition from AEA and some other lawmakers since the tax credit will come from the Education Budget.
The projects qualifying for this year's credits are:
· Brown Marx Tower in Birmingham to be renovated into retail and apartments.
· Former Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Birmingham Branch, to be renovated for a hotel and office space.
· Redmont Hotel in Birmingham to be renovated and remain a hotel.
· Cain Furniture Company Building in Birmingham to be converted into apartments.
· 951 Government Street Building in Mobile to be renovated into retail on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors.
· Edwards Brothers Furniture Company in Mobile to be renovated into retail and apartments.
· Norton-Cochrane-Fitts Residence in Tuscaloosa to be renovated as a private residence.
· First National Bank of Tuscaloosa in Tuscaloosa to be renovated into a commercial mixed-use project.
· Jefferson Davis Hotel in Montgomery to be renovated into apartments.
· Fort McClellan Headquarters and in Anniston to be developed into an independent living facility.
Construction Bills In the Hopper
Senator Paul Sanford and Representative Mack Butler are sponsoring companion bills, SB161 and HB195 to protect the construction industry against government intrusion and mandates on pricing and other provisions. Both sponsors have ties to the construction industry.
As you may recall, Rep. Butler, an electrical contractor, sponsored a SubAla backed proposal last session.
These were introduced by ABC and they have asked for SubAla's support in passing them. Please take a moment to review the bills and provide any comments that you might have in support or against them to David Campbell at email@example.com. You can access the bills in their entirety by clicking on them above or clicking here: SB161 and HB195
These bills seek to ensure fairness in the construction company bidding process by creating a state law that bans government mandated PLA's. PLA's force contractors in a state to recognize unions and their representatives, as well as union work rules, job classifications and pension programs when hiring employees for a job.
SubAla Identifies Bills Impacting the Construction Industry
HB125 - Contractor Bid Bill - Rep. Joe Hubbard - D - Montgomery.
This bill which has been sent to the State Government Committee, would require public works authorities that are awarding contracts to give preference to a bidder that submits a bid no more than 5% greater than the lowest bidder if that bidder has at least 50% of his workforce is from Alabama and has an Alabama Drivers license or state issued ID.
SB152 - Green Building Standards - Sen. Marc Keahey - D - Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe, Washington.
This bill requires the use of certain forest certification standards when using any green building standards for construction or major building renovations. The bill was assigned tot he agriculture, conservation & forestry committee and passed unanimously. The bill was put on the Senate calendar but was carried over after a third reading.
HB142 and HB143 - HVAC and Plumber and Gas Fitters bills.
You should have received an email regarding these bills on Friday. Both bills would provide that all money remaining at the end of the fiscal year which exceeds 25 percent of the boards' budgets for the previous year shall be transferred to the Alabama Home Builders Foundation to be used exclusively for classroom training tools at educational facilities that provide curriculum in these industries to include any program approved or accredited by the State of Alabama, United States federal government, or any state or federal governmental agency or board.
Given that many members are commercial contractors, we are seeking clarification regarding the transfer of these funds solely to the control of the Alabama Home Builders Association.
Trends in the 2014 Session
The 2014 session is expected to be fast and furious. Several provisions identified as priorities for the Republican Majority are on the fast track and slated to be considered in the first two weeks of the session. Veterans of the process have identified the following items that will shape the 2014 session. They include:
ELECTION PRESSURE - Lawmakers will be eager to end the session as quickly as possible and take up as many noncontroversial proposals as possible and get back to campaigning and raising money in their districts.
GENERAL FUND WOES - With the threat of federal lawsuits in the areas of Medicaid and Prisons, the funding for those provisions are expected to take top priority. Near level funding or cuts will plaque the other state agencies. Just how much increase will State Employees receive is sure to cause a clash between legislators. State Employees could see their first pay raise in five years when Gov. Bentley lifts the current freeze that has been in effect since 2009 on merit raises.
Curriculum and Teacher Pay - AEA is seeking a pay raise for teachers and employees but many lawmakers believe that a greater priority should be paying back the state's rainy day fund as well as funding increased insurance costs for teachers. Common Core opponents would like this standard addressed but there seems to be little appetite by legislators to touch this hot button issue.
Tighten up the Revolving Door- Lawmakers act quickly to further clarify a law that would not allow legislators who drop out mid-year to lobby the legislature. A record number of legislators have taken advantage of the current loop-hole to drop out of office and lobby the legislature. SB33 introduced by Senator Brewbaker-R-Elmore,Montgomery, received unanimous approval from the Senate Constitution and Elections Committee and was slated to be atop the Senate's work agenda on Thursday.
Death Penalty Appeals - Attorney General Luther Strange and some lawmakers seek to reform and shorten the death penalty process. Joint meeting of the Judiciary are scheduled for early next week
State of the State
Applause rang out from Republicans as Governor Bentley laid out his agenda in the 2014 State of the State address. On the other side of the aisle Democrats believe his words were just another campaign speech for the voters. AL.com identified 5 key components of the address. A reprint of their take on the Governor's speech is listed below:
1. Unapologetic on Medicaid expansion: People hoping to see Gov. Robert Bentley sing a different tune on Medicaid expansion should have changed the channel. The governor was unapologetic about his decision not to expand Medicaid. Bentley said it would be irresponsible to add 300,000 people into a "system that is broken and buckling." Proponents of the expansion cite that federal money would pay for most of the cost. The Governor countered those are "your dollars" too.
2. Affordable Care Act: Calling it the "everything but Affordable" Care Act, Bentley lashed out at the federal government health care law for a significant portion of his address. He said "the Affordable Care Act - or Obama care and Medicaid expansion is taking our nation deeper into the abyss of debt, and threatens to dismantle what I believe is one of the most trusted relationships, that of doctors and their patient."
3. Teacher Pay Raise: Bentley proposed a 2 percent pay raise for K-12 teachers and support workers. That amount is below the 6 percent being sought by the influential teachers' association and Democrats. Republican lawmakers have been skeptical on how much the state can afford given other budget demands. Legislators say the Bentley administration might be trying for a higher calculation of a spending cap set by a state law that limits the budget growth that legislators can project.
4. Poverty: Bentley, who ran in 2010 on a platform of job creation, highlighted the state's ongoing struggle with poverty, with one in four children living below the federal poverty line. But lawmakers split on if he was actually doing anything to address it. Bentley said the federal government's War on Poverty had failed. Bentley said education and job opportunities were the answer. His proposals included more money for prekindergarten (he didn't give a number), more career coaches, a program aimed at small businesses and helping high school students simultaneously enroll in state technical schools.
5. What he didn't say: Bentley did not say much about his plans to address a poor General Fund outlook that is expected to be the toughest issue facing legislators this session. He proposed a conditional pay raise for state employees, but that could be difficult since the General Fund is expected to shrink next year.
There is sure to be plenty of fireworks in the coming weeks. Please be sure to contact David Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or concerns on current or proposed legislation.
HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR LEGISLATOR
HOW TO CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR
House: 334-242-7600 Senate: 334-242-7800