Tell Senate Rules to Put HB 365 on Calendar
Goal Line Press to Stop Internet Advantage
Amazon.com and its lobbyists have duped some far right Republicans into believing the consumer use tax notification bill, HB 365 by Rep. Jamie Ison, R-Mobile, creates a new tax. Your ARA communicated this week
with county Republican leadership in key districts to set the record straight, but we need your help to push Ison's bill
over the legislative goal line.
The bill has cleared the Alabama House and a Senate committee. Now it is up to the Senate Rules Committee to place it on the Senate agenda. Four days remain in the 2011 regular session, plenty of time for final passage.
Call Senate Rules Committee members, especially Chairman Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and ask that the committee place HB 365 on the calendar for debate in the final full week of the 2011 regular session.
>>>Senate Rules contact information
"It all rests on Senator Scott Beason's shoulders," said ARA President Rick Brown. The Rules Committee determines what legislation comes before the entire Senate. "Senator Beason controls the fate of this legislation. We have the votes to pass it
on the Senate floor. We find out next week if Senator Beason sides with his local merchants or Amazon.com." Amazon has hired numerous contract lobbyists in an effort to kill this legislation.
Besides contacting Rules Committee members, impress upon your senator and representative one more time how important this bill is to you and other retailers in your community.
HB 365 takes three simple steps in its goal to educate Alabama consumers about taxes due when they buy goods over the Internet, by phone or by catalog.
It requires an Internet retailer to notify Alabama consumers at the time of purchase that it isn't collecting sales tax.
It makes the Internet retailer provide the consumer with a year-end summary statement totaling tax-free purchases during the preceding year.
It changes Alabama's personal income tax return to allow state taxpayers to voluntarily remit city, county and state use taxes.
Under this bill, Internet sellers lose their "no-tax advantage" once consumers realize a tax is due. Small, hometown retailers can't compete with perceived tax-free Internet sales, especially when combined city, county and state sales taxes in our state reach as high as 10 percent. Tell your lawmakers it is like giving Tennessee10 points against Alabama or Auburn in the SEC championship game.
>>>More on what to say about this legislation to your lawmakers
House Sends Governor Two Tort Reform Bills;
Two Others on Deck Tuesday
In a week that also saw final passage of the state's two budgets, the Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday sent two
of the four bills in tort reform package supported by the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee (ACJRC) and ARAto Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature.
On a vote of 71 to 22 and minimal debate, the House approved SB 212 by Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, which prohibits forum shopping of wrongful death actions by requiring that such lawsuits can only be brought in the county where the deceased could have filed suit. Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, sponsored the House companion. ACJRC has been seeking this legislation since it first championed a three-bill tort package in 1999.
SB 207 by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, which changes the rate of interest on judgments in Alabama from 12 percent to 7.5 percent, passed on a vote of 70-19. The Southeast average is 8 percent. Rep. Greg Canfield, R-Vestavia Hills, sponsored the House companion.
The House will vote Tuesday on the remaining two bills in the tort package :
- SB 184 by Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, which restricts product liability lawsuits to the makers of a hazardous product. The bill prohibits such suits against retailers, wholesalers and distributors who merely sold a product that somehow caused the owner harm. The bill is second on the House's special order calendar for Tuesday. Rep. Wes Long, R-Guntersville, sponsored the House companion.
- SB 187 by Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, which requires Alabama to apply a stricter standard for determining whether to admit scientific expert testimony. It is third on Tuesday's calendar. Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Bay Minette, sponsored the House version.
BUDGETS ALSO ON GOVERNOR'S DESK
Earlier in the week, the Legislature gave final approval to the state's two operating budgets. The $5.6 billion education budget cleared the House 67-31 Tuesday night, while the Senate worked all night before approving it 19-6 shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday. The General Fund budget cleared both chambers Wednesday on a 20-3 vote in the Senate and on a 62-35 vote
in the House. While the governor is not sure the $1.8 billion General Fund budget has sufficient revenue sources, his press secretary said he hasn't decided yet whether or not to send it back for further consideration.
Late Fee, Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, Streamlined
Sales Tax and More Await Action Next Week
Besides the two tort reform bills pending in the House, several other bills of importance to the Alabama Retail Association await action in the final full week of the 2011 regular session, including:
- HB 3 by Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, which equalizes the late fee retailers and other businesses can charge on all delinquent consumer credit transactions of $2,000 or less. If the Senate approves it next week, this bill would go to the governor for his signature. Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, sponsored the Senate companion.
- HB 427 by Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, also known as the Alabama Taxpayers' Bill of Rights II, creates an independent and qualified tax appeals court in Alabama and includes needed changes in the tax appeals process. Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, sponsored the Senate companion.
- A substitute version of HB 355 by Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, creating the Alabama Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission. The substitute removed all mentions in the original bill of the commission ultimately serving as the state's sales and use tax administrator once Alabama becomes a streamlined state.
- HB 313 by Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley, which regulates Alabama residents' power to put a security freeze on their credit report. If approved in the Senate next week, this bill would become law with the governor's signature.
- HB 193 by Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, the Common Sense Consumption Act, which protects retailers from civil action brought by those who claim the food sold by retailers made them obese. If approved next week, this bill goes
to the governor for his signature. Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, sponsored the Senate companion. ARA supports this legislation being pushed by the Alabama Restaurant Association.
- HB 195 by Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, which would prevent Alabama from having a patchwork of local food nutrition labeling laws and save small restaurants from unnecessary and costly regulation. If approved next week in the Senate, this bill goes to the governor for his signature. Allen also sponsored this Senate version. ARA supports the efforts of the Alabama Restaurant Association to pass this legislation.
- HB 230 by Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, the governor's tax incentive legislation for small business known as the Full Employment Act, which provides a one-time, $1,000 income tax credit for each new $10 or more per hour
job created by businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The credit can be applied after the employee has worked for a
business for 12 consecutive months. Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, sponsored the Senate companion.
Want to see these bills move to the governor?
Contact your legislators before Tuesday, May 31
House Rejects Senate-Revised Immigration Reform; Conference Committee Working on Compromise Bill
On Tuesday, the Alabama House refused to agree to changes the Senate made to HB 56 by Rep. Mickey Hammon, R-Decatur, an Arizona-style immigration reform bill. Hammon along with Reps. Kerry Rich, R-Boaz, and Charles Newton, D-Greenville, were appointed to represent the House in conference committee negotiations on the bill. The Senate conferees are Sens. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale; Rusty Glover, R-Semmes; and Clay Scofield, R-Arab
In the absence of any congressional movement, nearly every state in the union has tried to tackle immigration this year, according to an Associated Press report out this week. Georgia and Utah have passed comprehensive bills. South Carolina's bill, like Alabama's, is headed to conference. The Florida Legislature couldn't reach a compromise on the E-verify components of its legislation, so its proposals died. E-verify, the federal program for verifying immigration status, is a major sticking point in the dueling Alabama bills as well. Although Alabama's other Arizona-style immigration bill, SB 256 by Beason, was never assigned to a House committee, the Senate rewrote Hammon's bill with many of the same provisions in Beason's.
The Alabama Employers for Immigration Reform, a business group that includes ARA, has been monitoring both immigration bills and will continue to do so during conference negotiations.
Senate Panel OKs Fix for Gross Income Inequity;
Bill Up for Final Passage in Senate Next
The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee on a vote of 7-3 Wednesday approved HB 548 by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, a legislative fix for an inequity in the tax code regarding gross income taxes for pass-through entities, such as partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations. The bill now goes before the full Senate for final consideration.
The Business Associations' Tax Coalition, of which ARA is a member, supports Love's bill, which is a fairer solution than a regulation change proposed by the Alabama Revenue Department. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, sponsored the Senate companion.
Double-Weighted Sales Factor Nears Final Passage
The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee on a voice vote and with no discussion Wednesday unanimously approved HB 434 by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, which doubles the weight given to the sales portion of income when multi-state corporations compute net income tax. The bill now goes to the full Senate for final approval. This bill also amends the sales factor so that sales of services and other sales of intangible property as well as income made from trademark and copyright royalties are sourced to Alabama if the taxpayer's market for the sales or royalty is in Alabama.
Multi-state corporations doing business inside and outside of Alabama source their income based on a three-factor formula: property, payroll and sales. Under this legislation, the more payroll and property a company has in Alabama relative to its sales, the less tax the company owes Alabama. This legislation is expected to net about $25 million for the state's Education Trust Fund. ARA is monitoring this legislation.
POINT-OF-SALE FEE COLLECTIONS
Panels Approves E-911 Fees Bill
Retailers to Receive 4% Allowance to Collect Fees
This week, committees in both chambers agreed to substitute legislation that would regulate E-911 services and fees. Negotiations on the bills have been ongoing since the beginning of the session. The House Boards, Agencies and Commissions and the Senate Governmental Affairs committees each approved identical, agreed-upon companion legislation, under which retailers, rather than carriers, would begin collecting the E-911 fees for prepaid wireless communications services at the point of sale. The House bill was next on the special order calendar when the House adjourned shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday.
The substitute retains a provision ARA negotiated to allow the retailer to deduct and retain four percent of the prepaid wireless 911 charges collected from consumers to cover the retailer's expenses for collecting and remitting the fees, along with sales taxes, to the Alabama Revenue Department. The negotiated substitute also specifies that the fees be noted separately on the after-tax price of the service on invoices or receipts. If approved, the legislation has a graduated effective date with some provisions kicking in immediately and others becoming effective in October of this year, with a final effective date of Oct. 1, 2012.
On a voice vote Tuesday, the House Boards, Agencies and Commissions Committee approved the substitute version of HB 312 by Rep. Mike Millican, R-Hamilton.
"This is as good a bill as we are going to get," Committee Chairman Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville, told the committee. Sanderford warned that anyone considering floor amendments should make sure that all parties agreed to it. In fact, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday struck down an attempted amendment to the companion, SB 438 by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and then approved the same substitute version on a vote of 8-1.
- creates a statewide 13-member E-911 board, which will establish and collect a single statewide emergency telephone service charge to be paid into an E-911 Fund replacing all other existing landline and wireless E-911 charges. Cell phone users now pay a flat 70-cent monthly fee for E-911 services, while the monthly fee for landline users can be as high as $5.08.
- creates a Permanent Legislative Oversight Commission to approve the statewide plan and rates. By March 1, 2012, the E-911 board is to recommend E-911 rates to the Commission. By Feb. 1, 2013, the board is to bring any necessary legislation to implement the statewide plan to the Commission.
Committee Says 'No' to Prescription-Only Rule
Ephedrine/Pseudoephedrine to Remain OTC
Wednesday, the Senate Health Committee voted down SB 88 by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, which would have made ephedrine and pseudoephedrine products controlled substances in Alabama. Two weeks ago, the bill died in committee for a lack of a second. ARA opposes making these products available by prescription only as doing so would limit cold and allergy sufferers' access to medicine they need daily and drive up costs by as much as 50 percent. ARA supported an electronic tracking system for the legal products commonly used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines, which Alabama enacted last year. Several similar bills were introduced this session but none advanced.
Senate Carries over Rights of Conscience Bill;
House Panel Lacks Quorum to Consider Similar Bill
The Alabama Senate on Tuesday on a voice vote carried over SB 46 by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. Ward's bill would give healthcare providers the right to refuse to perform or participate in healthcare services that violate their conscience if they first notify their employer in writing of the objection. Under this legislation, an employer would not be able to discriminate against or discipline an employee for refusing to perform a service based on conscience if the employee first notified the employer in writing of his/her objection, The bill frees the provider of civil and criminal liability unless their conscientious objection places the life of a patient in immediate danger. ARA contends resolving the dilemma of how to make certain a patient has access to appropriate drug therapy as determined by their prescribing practitioner, while allowing pharmacists to follow their conscience, is complex and should be independent of governmental mandates.
The House Health Committee failed to get enough members at its Wednesday meeting to consider the House companion, HB 178 by Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, which the committee carried over in late March and has yet to reconsider.
Federal Healthcare Reform Opt Out Headed to Senate for Final OK
On a 7-2 vote Wednesday, the Senate Health Committee approved HB 60 by Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit mandatory participation in any health care system. The bill, which took two floor votes to make it through the House, now heads to the full Senate for final approval. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Joel Dubina of Alabama along with U.S. Circuit Judges Frank Hull of Georgia and Stanley Marcus of Florida are set to hear oral arguments June 8 from 26 states urging the 11th Circuit to uphold a federal judge's ruling that the federal overhaul's core requirement mandating health insurance is unconstitutional.
House Sends Re-labeling, Storing of Residential
Care Drugs to Governor for His Signature
Thursday, the Alabama House on a vote of 94-0 gave final approval to SB 155 by Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, authorizing the Alabama Board of Pharmacy to set up protocols so retail pharmacies can re-label and store certain prescription drugs for patients who live in residential care facilities without an on-site pharmacy. Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatom, who presented the bill on the House floor, said it allows residents to bring non-controlled prescription drugs that they have already purchased from a retail pharmacy into a residential care facility. "This legislation saves the patient and their family a lot of money," Beech said. The House then voted to indefinitely postpone the House companion.
ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO
House Gives Athens Draft Beer Bill Final OK;
Three Other Draft Bills Law; Fifth Pending
If the governor and the Athens City Council approves, the citizens of Athens may soon be able to buy draft beer. The Alabama House passed SB 405 by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, on a vote of 36-1 Tuesday with 27 representatives abstaining from the vote, sending the bill to the governor. The governor has already signed three draft beer bills into law this session:
- HB 430 (Act No. 2011-251) by Rep. Bill Roberts, R-Jasper, which would gives the Jasper City Council authority to decide if draft beer sales will be allowed in that municipality.
- HB 72 (Act No. 2011-119) and HB 73 (Act No. 2011-118), by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, which authorize Daleville and Ozark to call referendums to allow draft beer sales at the next general election.
On a vote of 44-2 with 33 abstentions, the Alabama House on Tuesday approved a fifth draft beer bill, HB 593 by Vance, which would authorize the Russell County Commission to allow properly licensed retailers to sell draft beer. The bill also would allow alcoholic beverages to be sold after 1 p.m. on Sundays in Russell County.
Three Other Sunday Sales Bills Move This Week; Northport Referendum Set for Aug. 23
The House approved two other Sunday alcohol sales bills this week, sending them to the Senate for consideration in the final legislative week. A third Sunday sales bill also received committee approval this week.
On a vote of 40-2 with 29 abstentions Tuesday, the House approved HB 587 by Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, which would allow Sunday sales in the town of St. Florian in Lauderdale County. Thursday, the House approved HB 627 by Rep. Alan Harper, D-Aliceville, which allows voters in unincorporated Tuscaloosa County to follow Tuscaloosa and Northport in voting on Sunday alcohol sales. The vote was 41-0 with 37 abstentions. The bill now heads to a Senate local legislation committee for consideration.
Earlier in the session, the Legislature approved HB 66 (Act No. 2011-120), also by Harper, calling for a Sunday alcohol sales referendum in Northport. The Northport City Council has set the referendum for Aug. 23. If voters approve the referendum, alcohol sales would be permitted there from noon to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, introduced and received committee approval this week for SB 518, which authorizes a Sunday sales referendum in the city of York in Sumter County. The York City Council will have 30 days after this bill becomes law to set a referendum date.
House OKs Special Entertainment District Liquor Licenses; Senate Panel to Consider Bill Tuesday
On a vote of 67-24, the Alabama House on Tuesday approved HB 17 by Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile, which would allow cities with populations of more than 25,000 to create entertainment districts where patrons can walk from establishment to establishment while drinking alcoholic beverages. This bill would create a separate liquor license for establishments within an entertainment district, and each municipality could have up to two separate districts with a minimum of four licenses required in each in those districts. No entertainment district can exceed a half-mile-by-half-mile area, under the bill. Right now, there is no liquor license that would allow patrons to walk out with an open container. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is set to consider the bill at its 9 a.m. meeting Tuesday.
Brewery Modernization Set for House Vote Tuesday
The "Brewery Modernization Act" is the seventh bill on Tuesday's special order calendar in the House. SB 192 by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, would allow brew pubs and draft beer manufacturers to serve and sell its product in a tasting room or a small restaurant attached to the brewery, but only in that location. The brewery could keg, bottle or can its product to a distributor, but could not offer it for direct retail sale. The bill requires breweries to collect the excise tax on any of its beverages sold on-premises. As currently required, brewpub must be located in an historic building or an historic district, but this bill also allows brewpubs to be situated in areas locally designated as "economically distressed." Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, sponsored the House companion.
Public Hearing Set for Tuesday onTobacco
Retailer Filing and Licensing Fee Legislation
The House State Government Committee has scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday public hearing on HB 505 by Rep. Alan Harper, D-Aliceville. The bill sets both a one-time, $100 filing fee and a $250 annual licensing fee for tobacco product retailers. Currently, there are no fees associated with a retail tobacco license.
Senate OKs Bill Regulating Rebates
On a vote of 30-0 Wednesday, the Alabama Senate approved SB 104 by Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, which mandates the time period for customers to send in rebate materials and for issuers to provide the rebate. The bill requires rebate issuers to remit rebates within 30 days of receipt of any rebate materials from the purchaser and give the purchaser a minimum of 45 days to submit the required rebate materials. The bill has been assigned to the House Commerce and Small Business Committee for consideration.
Lawmakers Introduce Last-Minute Legislation
Keeping to the hard-working pace they have set this session, lawmakers introduced several bills this week, the last chance
they had to propose bills and have any hope of final passage. Among bills introduced were:
- SB 489 by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, which makes the crime of identity theft a Class B felony. The legislation also expands the definition of identity theft to include obtaining the identity of another for the purpose
of gaining employment. This bill awaits action by the House Judiciary Committee.
- HB 657 by Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, which would prevent employers from using the credit history or report of an employee or applicant as a basis of action in their hiring or termination. This bill awaits action by the House Commerce and Small Business Committee.
- HB 679 by Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, a constitutional amendment allowing the state to offer a broader range
of economic incentives. The House Commerce and Small Business Committee approved the bill Thursday and it is
on the agenda for House consideration Tuesday.
- SB 515 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, which would give certain Alabama Medicaid providers a one-year-only income tax deduction of 10 percent on Medicaid payments in excess of $10,000. The bill is intended to alleviate some of the burden placed on Medicaid providers because of state budgetary constraints. This bill awaits Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee action.
- SB 517 by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, which allows for the formation of low-profit limited liability companies and reduces some of the financial and administrative responsibilities typical for LLCs for the qualifying businesses. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
New House Member on Job;
Another Representative Switches Parties
This week was the first week on the job for Rep. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay, who was elected May 10 to fill the House District 105 seat left vacant when former Republican state Rep. Spencer Collier of Irvington was named director of the Alabama Department of Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, Rep. Daniel Boman, a Sulligent lawyer elected as a Republican to represent House District 16, became a Democrat this week. After Boman's party switch, Republicans still hold a 65-40 advantage in the House. That is a large enough majority for Republicans to cut off debate and bring bills to a vote.
NEXT LEGISLATIVE DAY
The Alabama Senate will meets at 10 a.m.Tuesday, May 31, 2011, for the 27th meeting day of the 2011 regular session. The House will meet at 1 p.m.
The Legislature is expected to meet for three days next week, then return Thursday, June 9, for the session's final legislative day.
Look for the next issue of Capitol Retail Report early in the week of June 6.