Alabama Legislative Update - Week 3: Mother Nature and Old Man Winter Disrupt Legislative Schedule

by Baker Donelson
Contact

Alabama was taken by storm last week. Among the thousands stranded on highways or the fortunate ones at home or at work were scores of State Legislators who could not get to Montgomery or who could not leave Montgomery. The result was one of the most unusual weeks in the entire history of the Alabama Legislature. The House could not convene Tuesday due to lack of a quorum, with 62 members unable to be present. Twenty-two Senators were present and they were able to conduct business but could not return home and stayed in area hotels. Neither Chamber was able to meet Wednesday, nor were numerous committees that were scheduled to meet. By Thursday, both the House and Senate were able to convene with 59 of 102 House members present for a quorum (others arrived later in the day) and 22 of 35 Senators present.

Senate Action

SB 121, The Anti-Patent Trolling Infringement Act, by Senator Arthur Orr (R – Decatur), passed the Senate on a 20 to 1 vote and was transmitted to the House, where it received its first reading and assignment to the Technology and Research Committee. The bill prevents so-called "patent trolls" from exploiting businesses by asserting a claim of patent infringement. The term "patent troll" commonly refers to Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), or groups that acquire broadly-worded patents with the goal of suing other companies for illegally infringing on those patents. This bill prohibits a person or company from asserting a claim of patent infringement in bad faith and provides for investigation and prosecution. It provides a deterrent to what the bill sponsor says is now "legal extortion."

HB 105, The Taxpayer Bill of Rights Act, by Representative Paul DeMarco (R – Homewood), was poised for final passage Thursday, but Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh told Senators that many of their colleagues who were not present because of the weather wanted to vote for the bill and he asked that it be carried over. The bill is expected to receive Senate approval this week for final passage. The Business Council of Alabama has actively supported approval of this legislation the last four years and considers it a high priority bill for business. When enacted, the legislation will abolish the Department of Revenue's Administrative Law Division and create an independent Alabama Tax Appeals Commission under the Executive Branch. It will allow local governments the option of using the new tax appeals commission for their existing appeals process to settle local tax disputes. The bill promotes tax fairness and compliance and conforms to federal law.

SB 38, The Changes to Regulation of Private and Church Schools Act, by Senator Dick Brewbaker (R – Montgomery), received Senate approval. It would prohibit any public two-year or four-year institution of higher education from denying admittance to an otherwise qualified student on the basis that the student was home schooled or attended private, nonpublic, or church school. This bill would also prohibit the State Department of Education from denying certification to an otherwise qualified person on the basis that the person was employed by an elementary or secondary private, nonpublic, or church school. The bill was transmitted to the House, received First Reading and was assigned to the House Education Policy Committee.

SB 89, The Equalize Penalties For Automobile and Boating Alcohol Related Deaths Act, by Senator Bryan Taylor (R – Prattville), when enacted, will make the penalty for alcohol-related boating deaths the same as the penalty for deaths caused while drinking and driving an automobile. "A life is a life, and driving a car or a boat while drunk is equally irresponsible. The penalty should be the same," said Senator Taylor to fellow Senators who then voted 18 to 1 for passage. The legislation is now in the House Judiciary Committee. The House companion bill, HB 58, by Representative Paul Beckman (R – Prattville), has already received approval in this same committee and was unanimously approved by the House. The bill that first receives approval by both the House and Senate will go to the Governor for his signature.

SB 86, The Military Auto License Plate Act, by Senator Bryan Taylor (R – Prattville), provides military personnel deployed overseas with an additional 30 days from the date their deployment ends to renew their car tags without incurring the standard $15 late fee plus interest charges. Senate approval sent the bill to the House, where it was assigned to the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

The Senate delayed action on SB 168, The Ban On Smoking In Work Places and Public Places Act, by Senator Vivian Figures (D – Mobile).  If enacted, it will do exactly what the bill title says, prohibit smoking in work places and public places.

House Action

The first action in the House of Representatives this week was the unanimous passage of two resolutions by Speaker Mike Hubbard (R – Auburn): House Joint Resolutions 84 and 85 honoring the heroic acts of First Responders and Good Samaritans and Teachers and School Staff during the January 27, 2014 winter storm.

HB 129, Private School Sales and Use Taxes, by Representative Mary Sue McClurkin (R- Indian Springs), simply clarifies that, along with public schools operating within the state, private schools and educational institutions operating in the state are exempt from sales and use taxes on tangible personal property, and also establishes that both public and private educational institutions in Alabama are exempt from sales and use taxes for lunches provided to K-12 students that are not sold for a profit and provided within the school buildings. The bill was approved by the House and will be assigned to a Senate committee this week.

HB 88, The Unemployment Benefits Act, sponsored by Representative Jack Williams (R-Vestavia), passed the House on a 79 to 4 vote. The legislation is designed to encourage individuals to get off of government assistance and work for themselves, revising a formula that has not been revisited since the 1960s. The bill increases the amount people are allowed to earn while receiving unemployment benefits without having their benefits reduced. Currently, individuals can only make $15 a week without their unemployment benefits being cut. This legislation increases the threshold an individual can earn to a third of their benefit, meaning that a person drawing a $265 unemployment check, the maximum currently allowed in Alabama, could make to up to $88 a week without their benefit being reduced. The bill is now awaiting assignment to a Senate committee.

HB 44, The Farm Vehicle Tags Act, by Representative Alan Boothe (R- Troy), received approval. This legislation allows farmers to buy more than one vehicle tag at a reduced cost for vehicles that are used to haul farm products only. Previously, farmers could only purchase one tag at the reduced cost. The bill will now be assigned to a Senate committee.

School Make-Up Days Not Required

Thanks to legislation approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Robert Bentley after the 2011 tornado outbreak across Alabama, students and school systems won't have to make up days missed because of the winter storm last week. Senator Arthur Orr (R – Decatur) also included a component in his bill, which is now state law, stating that missed school days can be excused if the Governor declares a state of emergency and the State School Superintendent approves the request to forgive the missed days.

Special Elections Delayed

Special elections, which were scheduled for last Tuesday to fill three vacancies in the Alabama House of Representatives, were postponed as part of Governor Bentley's emergency declaration due to weather. Voting in the three House districts was rescheduled for Tuesday, February 4. The districts are HD 104 in Mobile County, HD 31 in parts of Elmore and Coosa Counties and HD 53 in Birmingham.

The Legislature  returns to work Tuesday, February 4. The House convenes at 1 p.m. and the Senate convenes at 2 p.m. The Alabama State Public Policy Team will continue to monitor all proposed and pending legislation and maintain a presence in the State House throughout the legislative session.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Baker Donelson | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Baker Donelson
Contact
more
less

Baker Donelson on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.