More ARA Bills Than Ever Signed into Law
Late Fee Increase, Product Liability Protection Among 2011 Session's Successes
The Alabama Legislature's 2011 regular session, which may have been the most prolific in state history, will also go
into the record books as the year that more Alabama Retail Association supported legislation than ever became law.
In what has to be a record for the final day of an Alabama legislative session, 18 bills that your Alabama Retail Association supported or monitored became law Thursday along with the state's budgets and new congressional and state board of education districts.
During this session, seven planks in the ARA 2011 Legislative Agenda became law:
• An $8 increase in the minimum late fee allowed for consumer credit transactions;
• Four tort reform measures advocated by the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee, including product liability protection for retailers;
• A 200 percent income tax deduction for small businesses that provide healthcare coverage for their employees; and
• The creation of the Alabama Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission to prepare our state for participation in the federal Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement should the federal proposal become law.
The 2011 session also brought disappointments. Legislation died on the final legislative day that would have:
• taken a first step toward ending the sales tax advantage certain mega Internet retailers have over hometown, brick-and-mortar retailers;
• created an independent and qualified tax appeals court in Alabama, and;
• fixed the inequity in the state tax code regarding gross income taxes.
As is usually the case in a legislative session, your association did its fair share of knocking down detrimental legislation as well. Among flawed bills blocked in 2011 was legislation that would have:
• given Alabama shoplifters and organized retail thieves a cost-of-living increase and a get-out-of-jail free card while inviting criminals from surrounding states to come to Alabama to steal;
• made ephedrine/pseudoephedrine products controlled substances in Alabama; and
• given healthcare providers the right to refuse to perform or participate in healthcare services that violate their conscience.
ARA reported on the progress of almost 90 of the 1,205 bills introduced during the 2011 session. All told, the governor had signed 255 bills into law by the final legislative day.
An account of how select bills – among those ARA supported, opposed or monitored – fared during the 2011 regular session follows. The 2011 session summary will appear in the next issue of Alabama Retail Quarterly.
ARA AGENDA IN ACTION
Alabama Retailers No Longer
Need Fear Product Liability Lawsuits
Product liability protection for Alabama retailers is now law.
Act No. 2011-627 bars product liability suits against retailers, wholesalers and distributors in our state unless those entities also are the manufacturer/ designer of the product, altered the product to make it harmful or the manufacturer cannot be identified. Prior to the governor signing this new law Thursday, Alabama retailers could be sued even if the retailer had nothing to do with the manufacture or design of a defective product and sold it directly as provided by the manufacturer. "This protection is particularly important for small businesses," Gov. Robert Bentley said after signing the bill into law. ARA thanks Sen. Ben Brooks, R- Mobile, and Rep. Wes Long, R-Guntersville, the main sponsors of this legislation for their efforts on behalf of Alabama retailers.
Surrounded by the legislative sponsors and the business groups that supported the legislation , the governor also signed into law three other tort reform bills:
Act No. 2011-522, sponsored by Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, and Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, prohibits forum shopping of wrongful death actions by requiring that such lawsuits be brought only in the county where the deceased could have filed suit. "You can't venue shop anymore," the governor said. "Changing this was very important to industry recruitment in certain counties."
Act No. 2011-629, sponsored by Brooks and Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Bay Minette, means Alabama courts will now apply a stricter standard for determining whether to admit scientific expert testimony.
Act No. 2011-521 by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster and Rep. Greg Canfield, R-Vestavia Hills, changes the rate
of interest on judgments in Alabama from 12 percent to 7.5 percent. The Southeast average is 8 percent.
The Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee (ACJRC) and the Alabama Retail Association as a member of that coalition have sought all of these reforms since 1999, the last time the Legislature addressed tort reform. The Legislature first passed a tort-reform package in 1989. Bentley praised the entire package of bills as job creators.
$8 Increase in Minimum Late Fee and
Streamlined Sales/Use Tax Commission Now Law
Without formal ceremonies, Gov. Robert Bentley also signed two other ARA 2011 Legislative Agenda bills into law Thursday.
Retailers and other businesses can now charge a late fee of $18 or 5 percent of the scheduled payment up to $100 on all consumer credit transactions that have been delinquent for 10 days or more. Since 2007, the Alabama Retail Association and the Alabama Consumer Finance Association have sought this modest $8 increase in the minimum late fee contained in Act No. 2011-529, sponsored by Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, and Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville.
An Alabama Retail Association representative will be one of the eight members of the Alabama Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission, which will research Alabama's current sales and use tax laws to identify necessary changes to bring the state into compliance with the federal Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. The federal agreement, already adopted by 24 states, establishes uniform definitions of taxable items, sets up a system to collect and distribute sales taxes across state lines and provides retailers with software and free databases to tell them how much tax to charge. The commission will help Alabama get ready to join the agreement if the federal proposal becomes law. ARA thanks the Association of County Commissions of Alabama for pushing Act No. 2011-563 by Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana.
>> Read more about
the Streamlined Sales Tax Initiative
200 Percent Deduction for Health Insurance
Premiums Paid Applicable to 2011 Returns
Starting with 2011 tax returns, businesses with 24 or fewer employees and their employees who earn $50,000 or less can double the amount they pay out for health insurance and deduct it from their 2011 income tax returns. The Business Associations' Tax Coalition, which includes ARA, advocated for this change for the past four years. Act No. 2011-155 by Rep. April Weaver,
R-Brierfield, and Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, became law April 21. More than 90 percent of ARA members employ fewer than 25 employees and qualify for this increased deduction if they offer group health insurance.
LAST DAY TAX BILLS
Time Runs Out on Consumer Use Tax,
Taxpayers' Bill of Rights & Gross Income Tax Fix
Two of the three main pieces of tax legislation of interest to retailers pending on the 2011 session's final day made it to a special order calendar but did not receive floor votes before the midnight deadline.
Senators were debating HB 548 by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, when it adjourned sine die at midnight Thursday. Love's bill would have fixed an inequity in the tax code regarding gross income taxes for pass-through entities, such as partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporation. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, sponsored the Senate companion. BATC and ARA supported Love's and Marsh's legislation as a fairer solution than a regulation change proposed by the Alabama Revenue Department. The Revenue Department regulation now will go before the Legislative Council for review. ARA will keep you informed as the regulation develops.
Also on the final special order Senate calendar was HB 427 by Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, also known as the Alabama Taxpayers' Bill of Rights II. It would have created an independent and qualified tax appeals court in Alabama and made needed changes in the tax appeals process. Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, sponsored the Senate companion. The Business Associations' Tax Coalition, a 29-member business trade association group that ARA President Rick Brown chairs, the Alabama Society
of Certified Public Accountants, the Alabama Bar Association and the Council on State Taxation among others supported this legislation.
Senate Rules Chairman Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, stood firm in his refusal to place the consumer use tax notification bill, HB 365 by Rep. Jamie Ison, R-Mobile, on the Senate calendar. HB 365 would have educated Alabama consumers about taxes due when they buy goods over the Internet, by phone or by catalogue and taken the first step toward ending the sales tax advantage of large online retailers. Internet sellers lose their "no-tax advantage" once consumers realize a tax is due. This legislation was part of the ARA's 2011 Legislative Agenda.
Governor Signs Small Business Tax Credits
and Double-Weighted Sales Factor into Law
The governor did sign into law Thursday two tax bills of interest to retailers that ARA monitored.
Act No. 2011-551 by Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, and Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, 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. The Full Employment Act of 2011 is an enhanced version of the Reemployment Act of 2010, which Gov. Robert Bentley sponsored as a legislator.
Act No. 2011-616 by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, doubles the weight given to the sales portion of income when multi-state corporations compute net income tax. The law 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. Now, the more payroll and property a company has in Alabama relative to its sales, the less tax the company will pay
to Alabama. This legislation is expected to net about $25 million for the state's Education Trust Fund.
Immigration Law Burdensome to Business
Faces Immediate Challenges; Particulars to Come
Even before the ink dried Thursday on Gov. Robert Bentley's signature on Alabama's new law governing illegal immigrants, several groups announced plans to legally challenge the law, which the governor calls the nation's toughest.
Act No. 2011-535, titled the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, imposes additional burdens
on Alabama employers in regards to hiring and contracts. The Alabama Employers for Immigration Reform, which includes the Alabama Retail Association, sought amendments throughout the process to lessen the burden on retailers and other employers. Despite those efforts, the 71-page law contains several troublesome provisions.
For instance, the law requires any business with government contracts, grants or incentives, to obtain notarized affidavits
from subcontractors stating that the subcontractors do not employ any unauthorized aliens. If construed to include suppliers, this requirement will burden many retailers with a great deal of additional paperwork. Retailers that have received government incentives to locate in the state or certain communities, pharmacies and other medical-related retailers with Medicaid contracts and grocers that accept Women, Infant and Children (WIC) funds, may be among those subject to this provision.
The House sponsor, Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, contends the bill is written so that if any part of it is determined to be unconstitutional or violate federal law, the rest will stand.
ARA and ALEIR will provide input into any regulations and compliance issues that arise out of this new law, and provide ARA members with some practical guidance related to compliance as the law's provisions become effective.
Senate Gives Final OK to Federal Healthcare
Reform Opt Out; Bentley Signs into Law
On a 24-9 vote Thursday, the Alabama Senate approved HB 60 by Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit mandatory participation in any health care system. The governor signed the bill immediately (Act No. 2011-617), but to become Alabama law, the constitutional amendment must be approved by Alabama voters in the next statewide election. Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, sponsored the companion legislation.
The 2010 federal health care reform law requires individuals to obtain health insurance starting in 2014. In a related action,
11th 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 heard oral arguments Wednesday from Alabama and 25 other states urging the appeals court
to uphold a federal judge's ruling that the federal healthcare overhaul's core requirement mandating health insurance is unconstitutional.
Pharmacies Can Now Re-label, Store Drugs
for Residential Care; Prison Bill Also Passes
The Alabama Board of Pharmacy can now 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. Act No. 2011-520 by Sen. Billy Beasley,
D-Clayton, and Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, was signed into law Thursday.
On the final legislative day, the House of Representatives gave the final OK to SB 113 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, which authorizes the Alabama Department of Corrections to accept and re-dispense unused prescription medications. This bill is on the governor's desk.
Senate Approves and Bentley Signs
into Law Bill Protecting Secret Ballot
The Alabama Senate voted 23-7 Thursday for HB 64 by Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, which would guarantee elections
by secret ballot, including union organization. The House voted 63-31 for the bill in the second week of the session. The governor immediately signed the bill into law (Act No. 2011-656). This legislation came in response to proposed federal legislation pushed by labor unions to force employees to forego secret ballots in union representation elections. Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, told the Gadsden Times, "Maintaining privacy in the voting process allows Alabama's citizens to vote their conscience and be protected from retribution or abuse from outside forces trying to manipulate the system."
Bill Banning Local Menu Nutrition Labeling Now Law
Unless the Alabama Legislature in a subsequent session passes a statewide law, Alabama restaurants will not have to operate under menu labeling requirements other than the current federal standard. Federal law requires chain restaurants with 20 or more locations nationally to provide comprehensive nutrition information on menu offerings. Proposed rules for the federal law were issued April 6. The comment period on the federal rules has been extended to July 5.
The governor signed Act No. 2011-548 by Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, and Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, into law Thursday. It bans local food nutrition labeling laws, thus preventing Alabama from having a patchwork of local labeling laws and saving small restaurants from unnecessary and costly regulation. ARA supported the efforts of the Alabama Restaurant Association to pass this legislation.
Brewery Modernization, Draft Beer
and Sunday Sales Bills Now Law
The governor signed several bills related to alcohol sales into law Thursday, joining those that became law earlier in the session.
BREWS ON TAP AND FOR DISTRIBUTION
Under the Brewery Modernization Act, Act No. 2011-630 by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, and Rep. Joe Hubbard,
D-Montgomery, brewpubs can now sell up to 10,000 barrels of draft beer annually on premise or to a distributor. The new law allows brewpubs to sell though wholesalers, who can package and supply the product to restaurants and grocery stories. The bill also allows breweries to operate tap or tasting rooms. Brewpubs must be in an historic building or an historic district or in areas locally designated as "economically distressed." The annual license fee is $1,000.
FIVE NEW AREAS CAN EITHER SELL DRAFT BEER
OR PUT QUESTION TO VOTERS IN NEAR FUTURE
Gov. Robert Bentley signed the session's sixth draft beer authorization Thursday. Under Act No. 2011-659 by Rep. Lesley Vance, R-Phenix City, the Russell County Commission can authorize properly licensed retailers to sell draft beer in the unincorporated areas of the county. The new law also would allow alcoholic beverages to be sold after 1 p.m. on Sundays
in Russell County.
Once the Athens City Council gives the go ahead, the citizens of Athens will be able to buy draft beer. Act No. 2011-292 by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, which was signed into law May 31, and Act No. 2011-262 by Rep. Dan Williams,
R-Athens, which became law May 25, allow the council to adopt an ordinance regulating draft or keg beer.
Act No. 2011-251 by Rep. Bill Roberts, R-Jasper, gave the Jasper City Council authority to decide if draft beer sales will be allowed in that municipality. The council was expected to vote on the issue at its meeting today.
Act No. 2011-119 and Act No. 2011-118 by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, authorize Daleville and Ozark to call referendums
to allow draft beer sales at the next general election.
At least one draft beer bill died this session: SB 430 by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, which would have authorized the Prattville City Council to OK on-premise sales of draft beer, got as far as a House local legislation committee.
TWO SUNDAY SALES REFERENDUMS AHEAD;
ST. FLORIAN COUNCIL TO VOTE; YORK BILL DIES
Voters in unincorporated Tuscaloosa County will follow the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport in voting on Sunday alcohol sales. Act No. 2011-600 by Rep. Alan Harper, D-Aliceville, gives the Tuscaloosa County Commission 30 days from Thursday (the day the governor signed the law) to set a date for the referendum. The commission's next meeting is set for June 15.
Act No. 2011-120, also by Harper, calls 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. Sundays.
Thursday, the governor let HB 587 by Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, become law (Act. No. 2011-663) without his signature. It allows the St. Florian City Council to authorize Sunday sales in the Lauderdale County town.
On June 1, the Senate indefinitely postponed SB 518 by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, which would have authorized a Sunday sales referendum in the city of York in Sumter County. Not enough time remained in the session for the bill to complete the legislative process.
State to Keep 20 Extra Weeks
of Federal Unemployment Benefits
Thursday, the governor signed into law legislation that will keep Alabama from losing federal funding for 20 extra weeks
of unemployment benefits. Act No. 2011-564 by Rep. Jack Williams, R-Birmingham, makes a technical change in the formula for determining if Alabama qualifies for the 20 weeks of unemployment benefits, which are totally funded by the federal government and have no bearing on the unemployment compensation tax rate for employers, according to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations. Unemployed Alabamians can continue to qualify for up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits through the employer-funded Alabama Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund and extended benefits funded federally. The formula change applies only through Dec. 31, which is when the extended federal benefits run out.
OTHER LEGISLATION THAT
BECAME LAW IN 2011
Future State Education Budgeting
to be Based on Revenue Trends
Early in the 2011 session, the Rolling Reserve Budget Act, Act No. 2011-003, became law and ended the practice of basing Alabama's education budget on tax revenue forecasts. Instead, the budget will be based primarily on revenue trends for the past 15 years. In years when tax collections grow faster than historic trends, the extra money will be saved and used to stabilize spending in lean years. The new law by Rep. Greg Canfield, R-Vestavia Hills, and Sen. Tripp Pittman, R-Daphne, does not eliminate prorated budgets, but should make that possibility less frequent.
DETRIMENTAL LEGISLATION YOU
AND YOUR ASSOCIATION STOPPED
Shoplifter, Thief Relief in Sentencing
Package Never Gained Traction
Although the Alabama Retail Association was able to get lawmakers to tone down several of the bills in a nine-bill package aimed at easing prison overcrowding, the sentencing reform legislation recommended by Alabama Public Safety and Sentencing Coalition never received widespread legislative support.
>> Read the Alabama Public Safety & Sentencing Coalition report
ARA was able to amend SB 204 by Sen. President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and HB 218 by Rep. Rod Scott,
D-Fairfield, which originally called for a 100 percent increase in the felony shoplifting threshold to maintain the current felony shoplifting threshold of $500. Those bills also called for a 1,000 percent increase in the value of property that qualifies as organized retail theft. The Senate bill never made it to the full Senate and the House bill never came out of committee.
ARA thanks the sponsors and Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, for their willingness to negotiate this legislation. We also thank Chad Tice, corporate vice president of loss prevention for Books-A-Million Inc., one of the nation's largest book retailers and an ARA member since 1984, who testified at the public hearing on the bills. ARA most of all thanks the ARA members who called, e-mailed or wrote their lawmakers about maintaining current laws and punishments for retail theft.
>> Read Tice's full testimony
Over-the-Counter and Electronically Tracked
ARA strongly opposed several bills that would have made ephedrine/ pseudoephedrine products controlled substances
in Alabama, including SB 88 by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville. None of the bills made it out of committee. ARA supports an electronic tracking system for the legal products commonly used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines, which Alabama enacted last year. Making these products available by prescription only would limit cold and allergy sufferers' access to medicine they need daily and drive up costs by as much as 50 percent.
Unitary Tax and Federal Depreciation Decoupling
Go Nowhere in 2011 Regular Session
Two tax bills that would have been detrimental to Alabama's ability to attract new businesses and keep the ones it has also died in committee.
HB 301 by Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Roanoke, and SB 352 by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, would have required corporations to follow a set of unitary combined reporting rules when calculating their Alabama income taxes. Opposition to required unitary combined reporting for corporate taxpayers was part of ARA's 2011 Legislative Agenda.
HB 300 by Lindsey and SB 351 by Sen. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, would have decoupled Alabama from the federal depreciation schedule, preventing Alabama businesses from taking advantage of the bonus depreciation offered in the federal Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization & Job Creation Act of 2010. ARA opposed this bill.
Healthcare Rights of Conscience Legislation Fizzles
The Alabama Senate carried over and never returned to SB 46 by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, which would have given healthcare providers the right to refuse to perform or participate in healthcare services that violate their conscience. The House Health Committee carried over and then couldn't get enough members to attend a meeting to consider the House companion, HB 178 by Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs. 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.
Attempts to Regulate Rebates Fail to Cross Finish
Two bills related to rebates died in the 2011 session. SB 104 by Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, which would have mandated the time period for customers to send in rebate materials and for issuers to provide the rebate, died in a House committee. SB 30, also by Coleman, would have classified advertising manufacturer's rebates without providing the rebate
to the consumer at the time of purchase as a deceptive trade practice. It never made it out of committee.
$35 Alcohol Server ID Card Never Made It to Floor
Committee approval is as far as HB 555 by Rep Mike Ball, R-Huntsville, got. It would have required anyone who serves, dispenses or provides alcoholic beverages at any licensed, on-premise liquor location to register with the state and to obtain a $35 server ID card for four years.
Concealing Unemployment Comp Facts;
Equal Pay Commission; Cigarette Tax Die
Three perennial bills once again never made it out of committee.
SB 381 by Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, would have kept findings of fact made under unemployment compensation statutes from consideration as evidence in other proceedings.
SB 384 by Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, and HB 380 by Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, would have created an Equal Pay Commission to study wage disparities and report its findings and recommendations to the House speaker, governor and Alabama Legislature. The ultimate result of this legislation could have been exposure to regulations and laws broader than those required by the federal government.
HB 457 by Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, would have raised the state tax on cigarettes from 42.5 cents per pack to $1.42.5 cents per pack. ARA continues to support comprehensive tax reform over patchwork tax policy.
LEGISLATION THAT DIED IN 2011
Common Sense Consumption and
Security Freeze Bills Lacked Senate OK
Although not part of its legislative agenda, the Alabama Retail Association supported a couple of bills that just ran out of time.
The Common Sense Consumption Act, HB 193 by Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, would have protected retailers
from civil action brought by those who claim the food sold by retailers made them obese. The only step between this bill and final passage was Senate passage. It came up on the Senate calendar June 2, was carried over at the call of the chair and never came back up for consideration. Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, sponsored the Senate companion. ARA supported this legislation being pushed by the Alabama Restaurant Association.
HB 313 by Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley, would have regulated Alabama residents' power to put a security freeze on their credit report. It would have prohibited a credit reporting agency from releasing a credit report or score to a third party without the explicit consent of the consumer. The bill incorporated ARA requested changes and would have provided free credit freezes for senior citizens. It never made it onto a Senate special order for consideration.
Long List of Monitored Legislation
Fell Short of Final Passage in 2011
ARA simply monitored some legislation that did not make it through the legislative process, including:
HB 312 by Rep. Mike Millican, R-Hamilton, and SB 438 by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, would have regulated E-911 services and fees. Under this legislation, retailers, rather than carriers, would have collected the E-911 fees for prepaid wireless communications services at the point of sale. ARA negotiated a provision that would have allowed 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 House approved HB 312 on a vote of 85-13 on June 1, but that is as far as the bill got.
SB 254 by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, would have exempted many of the state's smallest businesses from having
to estimate and remit their sales tax obligations on a monthly basis. Taylor's bill would have raised the threshold
at which a retailer is responsible for making estimated monthly payments to the Alabama Revenue Department
to $2,500. It received committee approval but did not make it to floor debate.
SB 272 by Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, and HB 303 by Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, would have exempted prescriptions from business licenses taxes based on gross receipts. Both bills received committee approval but neither made it on a calendar.
HB 217 by Rep. Mike Millican, R-Hamilton, would have required the Alabama Medicaid Agency to establish a competitive bid process for generic drug manufacturers to assure that generic drugs were furnished to Medicaid recipients at a competitively bid low cost. It never even received committee consideration.
SB 515 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would have given certain Alabama Medicaid providers a one-year-only income tax deduction of 10 percent on Medicaid payments in excess of $10,000. This bill was intended to alleviate some of the burden placed on Medicaid providers because of state budgetary constraints. The Senate approved the bill 30-0 on May 31 and the House Ways and Means Committee amended it on June 1, but it did not come up for a House vote.
SB 152 by Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, would have given businesses that employ fewer than 100 people property tax exemptions to expand or locate in Alabama. The Senate approved it 30-0 on April 5.
SB 50 by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, would have provided tax credits for qualifying companies for job creation, depending on the amount of jobs, the wages paid and the county in which the jobs were located.It received committee approval but did not make it to a floor vote.
HB 117 by Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery, would have allowed Class 3 municipalities to provide income tax credits for businesses hiring those under the age of 19. The House OK'd it 90-0 on March 31 and it received Senate committee approval on April 26, but it never made it to the Senate for debate.
HB 17 by Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile, would have allowed cities with populations of more than 25,000 to create entertainment districts where patrons could walk from establishment to establishment. All it lacked was Senate OK.
HB 402 by Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, would have done away with an outdated law that prohibits working at more than one business that sells alcoholic beverages. The bill received full House and Senate committee approval.
HB 281 by Rep. Bill Roberts, R-Jasper, would have allowed cities to schedule a wet/dry referendum at any time, rather than having to wait for a regularly scheduled election. It received committee approval but never reached the full House.
ARA monitored another group of bills that might have proved problematic if they had made it through the process:
For the fourth year, Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, introduced a state constitutional amendment to remove the
4 percent state sales tax from groceries state by reducing the income tax deduction for federal income taxes paid. HB 242/HB 380 also would have exempted over-the-counter drugs from sales tax. SB 363 by Sen. Hank Sanders,
D-Selma, was similar. None of the bills ever received committee consideration.
SB 109 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would have given county or city officials the authority to exempt food, as defined by the Federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or as defined by the county commission or municipal governing body, from their local sales taxes. In many areas of the state this would have reduced sales taxes by as much as 6 percent. It received committee approval but not Senate consideration.
HB 505 by Rep. Alan Harper, D-Aliceville, would have set a one-time, $100 filing fee and a $250 annual licensing fee
for tobacco product retailers. There are no fees associated with a retail tobacco license. A committee never even heard the bill.
HB 461 by Rep. Harry Shiver, R-Bay Minette, would have banned obscuring, removing, or otherwise rendering illegible any product information on food or beverage labels and prohibited storing, transporting or selling any food or beverage without a label or with a label that has been obscured, removed or otherwise rendered illegible. It received committee approval but never received a floor vote.
A whole group of bills that would have changed current law related to alcohol licensing never got out of committee:
HB 520 by Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, would have more than doubled liquor license fees and impose the first increase in these fees in 30 years.
HB 498 by Rep. Lesley Vance, R-Phenix City, would have doubled the application filing fee for an alcoholic beverage license from $50 to $100.
HB 499 by Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy, would have changed the timing for alcohol license renewals. The bill sought to have licenses renewed between June 1 and July 31, while increasing the fee for late filing from 50 percent to 75 percent of the license fee. It also would have allowed the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to setup an online renewal process and charge a "reasonable fee."
NEXT LEGISLATIVE DAY:
The Alabama Legislature next meets in regular session on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012.
Debit Swipe Fee Reform Apparently
Forward; Fee Decrease Set for July 21
A 2010 law that caps the fees banks can charge retailers for swiping debit cards remains intact after the U.S. Senate failed last week to garner enough votes to delay implementation. Although it has yet to issue proposed rules, the Federal Reserve has recommended moving to a flat debit card swipe fee of between 7 and 12 cents per transaction for the 100 biggest banks. Currently, debit swipe fees have reached about 44 cents per transaction. Effective July 21, retailers will see an at least 32-cent-per-transaction savings each time customers choose a debit card for their payment method under the Durbin amendment to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010.
Wednesday, the U.S. Senate fell six short of the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster of an amendment by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that would have delayed the debit fee reduction by six months to a year. Alabama senators, however, were among the 54 who voted for delay.
U.S. House legislation, H.R. 1081, also calls for delay of the Durbin amendment, but general consensus is there will be little appetite to continue the fight now that the Senate has rejected it. Corker dismissed any hopes for the credit and bank industry reviving the issue. "I got other fish to fry, and we pretty well cooked this one," he said.
"Debit interchange drives up the cost of goods for consumers and eats into the profits of small retailers," ARA President Rick Brown said. "We are glad the Senate decided to maintain the reforms supported by Alabama’s retailers and hope Congress will make similar changes to credit card interchange rates."