The BCA Governmental Affairs Committee will meet Tuesday, April 9, at 9:00 a.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Business Center of Alabama, 2 N. Jackson St., Montgomery. Our guest speaker will be Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee.
Legislative Leadership Committee Meetings
Please note this meeting
will start at 9:00 a.m
Contact Pam Ware for more information.
CONTROVERSIAL OMNIBUS GUN BILL PASSES THE SENATE
After a day filled with debate and amendments, the Alabama Senate passed SB 286 by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, by a vote of 28-5. SB 286 is the omnibus gun bill that includes a mandate that individuals must be allowed to bring firearms onto company/private property if certain requirements are met. The BCA's 2013 State Legislative Agenda states the BCA will actively oppose any legislation infringing on employers' right to provide a safe workplace by restricting unauthorized firearm possession on company property and/or creating any new causes of action against employers because of such policies.
After weeks of negotiating in good faith with the bill's sponsors as well as representatives from business and industry, law enforcement, the plaintiff's bar, non-profits and the NRA, the Business Council of Alabama was forced to announce earlier this week our opposition SB 286.
"At a time when the business community in all sectors should be focused on creating jobs, we instead are dealing with this unnecessary legislation which erodes the constitutional property rights of businesses," BCA President and CEO William Canary stated. "We have said from the beginning that in order to support this legislation, businesses must be immune from civil liability, the bill must apply equally to everyone in Alabama, and there must be an opt-in opt-out provision for businesses."
BCA Senior Vice President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Advocacy & Legal Advisory Anita L. Archie added, "None of the conditions presented by the business community have been met, and Alabama businesses are already struggling with burdensome regulations that impact productivity and increase costs."
Three business-friendly amendments were adopted during the debate yesterday. Senator Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road, offered an amendment to give absolute civil immunity to a business owner if a person disregards a posted notice of no guns at the business establishment. The person that disregarded the posting is solely responsible for any injury, damage, or death occurring as a result of any actions regarding the presence or use of the firearm. The amendment was objected to vehemently by Sen. Beason and Senator Roger Bedford, R-Russellville, co-sponsor of SB286. Despite their objections, the amendment was adopted 20-6.
The amendment offered by Senator Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, removed a provision from the bill that would have entitled a terminated employee, who proved in a civil action that their termination was due to having a firearm stowed in their vehicle, to receive lost compensation from their employer. The Senate adopted the amendment on a vote of 17-11. Upon passage, Sen. Bedford asserted that "all this [amendment] is doing is trying to cover BCA up." He went on to state that "we need to stand up for our 2nd Amendment rights" and that "we need to protect our gun rights and if somebody violates them, there ought to be punishments for that." Sen. Williams responded that it was his own amendment and that "he gave LRS the language." Sen. Williams further stated that he takes it as a personal insult that he caters to any special interests, and he supports 2nd Amendment rights.
The last amendment offered by Senator Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, and adopted by the Senate extends the "castle doctrine" to businesses. The language gives protection to business owners to use deadly force against an intruder at a business when the business is closed to the public and the intruder is committing or attempting to commit a burglary, theft, or robbery.
Other provisions of SB 286 relating to businesses are as follows:
- Allows public or private employers to restrict or prohibit its employees from carrying firearms while on the employer's property or while engaged in the duties of the person's employment, but employers may not restrict or prohibit the transportation or storage of a lawfully possessed firearm or ammunition in an employee's privately owned motor vehicle while parked or operated in a public or private parking area, if the firearm is kept in the motor vehicle away from ordinary observation and is locked within the trunk, glove box, or interior of the person's privately owned motor vehicle or a container securely affixed to the motor vehicle.
- Prohibits public or private employer from inquiring or requiring an employee to disclose whether an employee is transporting a firearm or has stored a firearm in his private motor vehicle.
- Allows an employer to report to law enforcement a complaint that the employee's motor vehicle contains: a firearm prohibited by state or federal law; a stolen or illegal item other than a firearm; or a threat made by an employee to cause bodily harm to themselves or others and the gun is in his motor vehicle.
- Provides that a business entity is not legally liable for the actions of its employees when those actions are outside the line and scope of employment and the business entity has no duty to guard against the criminal acts of a third party, regardless of whether the acts involved the third party's use of a firearm.
- Prohibits a person from carrying a firearm inside any building or facility to which access of unauthorized persons and prohibited articles is limited during normal hours of operation by the continuous posting of guards and the use of other security features, including, but not limited to, magnetometers, key cards, biometric screening devices, or turnstiles or other physical barriers.
- Prohibits a person from carrying a firearm in places where the carrying of firearms is prohibited pursuant to federal law.
The Alabama Sheriffs' Association, District Attorneys Association and the Association of Chiefs of Police all oppose SB 286.
COMPLICATED MEDICAID BILL WON'T MOVE UNTIL ALL PARTIES INVOLVED HAVE INPUT, A LEGISLATIVE SPONSOR TOLD BCA MEMBERS
The chairman of the House Health Committee told the Business Council of Alabama's Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday that parties affected by a new Medicaid bill will have input before the legislation gets a full House vote.
Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, chairman of the House Health Committee, and Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, updated BCA members on Medicaid revision bills that were later heard in separate committees on Wednesday.
McClendon promised an open process for the legislation designed to transform Medicaid from a fee-for-service plan into a model that will allow groups operating as non-profits to provide Medicaid service in as many as eight Alabama regions.
"The bill is still alive, it's not done yet," McClendon said. "I don't plan on having a vote in the House until all the parties affected by it have a grip on how it's done and affects their profession and have opportunity for input."
McClendon sponsored HB 454 and Reed sponsored the Senate version, SB 340.
The BCA supports efforts to produce better health and financial outcomes for Medicaid recipients and taxpayers.
Reed said about 940,000 Alabamians depend on Medicaid, up from about 750,000 since 2008 when the economy started shedding jobs. It has a major financial and social impact on nursing homes, hospitals, physicians, medical providers, and patients.
"Medicaid is very important not only to beneficiaries, but it's very important to the health care infrastructure of Alabama," Reed said of the $5.7-billion combined federal-state program. "Especially in rural Alabama, it's the underpinning of our health care system."
Medicaid got a $615-million General Fund appropriation this fiscal year, but the entire state cost is about $1.8 billion including provider taxes. The remainder is federal funds. McClendon said the Medicaid budget will be "short" $100 million in 2015.
"Something's got to be done about that not only to take pressure off the legislature to come up with the money but (also) take the pressure off the taxpayers," McClendon said.
Reed said the goal is to replace the current fee-for-service system that requires more state tax money as Medicaid rolls grow into a system that rewards providers who produce positive health outcomes. "The best way to minimize cost is for folks to be healthier," he said.
The legislation would authorize up to eight regions of roughly equal urban and rural patients and shift the cost-burden away from the state to those regional providers whose business acumen will, hopefully, produce better health while allowing for profits, Reed said.
"We're moving along," Reed said. "The BCA and (legislative) leadership and health providers and advocacy groups have been supportive as well as the governor of Alabama."
Governor Robert Bentley is being asked to expand Medicaid requiring more federal and state funding. He has said he will not expand Medicaid in its current form.
"We've got big problems covering what we cover now," McClendon said.
The legislation would require providers to show financial responsibility with a minimum capitalization of $2.5 million. "Once we can move the risk away from the state, the taxpayers and legislature we can begin to budget for Medicaid," McClendon said.
Reed said if a regional care organization fails, Alabama could allow commercial managed care, a state takeover, or shifting patients to neighboring regions. Reed said a revised Medicaid could save taxpayers between $60 million and $75 million a year. Better yet, Reed said, more jobs will shrink the number of Alabamians dependent on Medicaid.
GOVERNOR SIGNS AIRBUS BILL
Governor Robert Bentley on Thursday signed the Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act, which is known as the Airbus bill in reference to the European passenger jet manufacturer that is establishing itself in Mobile. "Putting Alabamians back to work is my number-one priority," Bentley said. "This bill will make sure Alabama remains competitive with neighboring states in attracting supplier jobs." Bentley's signature came just hours after the Senate voted final approval for the Airbus bill.
The Senate approved SB 238 on Feb. 28 and sent it to the House for consideration. The House on March 14 amended and passed SB 238 by a vote of 102-0. The House-amended bill went back to the Senate for consideration. The Senate approved the House amendment by a vote of 27-0. SB 238 was sponsored by Sens. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile.
SB 238 limits the legal liability of large aircraft manufacturers locating in Alabama to 12 years after acceptance of a new airplane and imposes a two-year statute of limitations for lawsuits. Airbus is a subsidiary of EADS, a European aerospace company. Airbus last year announced plans to build a $600-million, multiple-model aircraft assembly plant in Mobile that will employ 1,000 workers at full capacity.
TWO BILLS POSSIBLY IMPOSING HEALTH CARE MANDATES CARRIED OVER FOR FURTHER WORK
This week the House Insurance Committee and the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee carried over bills that need further work to prevent the potential of placing health care mandates on employers. The Business Council of Alabama has a longstanding policy of opposing health care mandates imposed by the legislature.
HB 362 by Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, among other things, hinders health care insurers' ability to negotiate terms and method of payment to eye care providers.
SB 353 by Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, includes strict language that mandates to health insurers which providers they will pay, how they will be paid and how much they will be paid for dental and optometrics services and certified registered nurse anesthetists.
The federal Affordable Care Act will bring significant changes and additional premium costs to individuals and employers. Both bills will add further costs and encourage employers to look for ways to offset those costs by reducing benefits or even dropping their benefit plans altogether. As employers look for ways to cut their healthcare benefit costs, vision and dental benefits are traditionally the first to be eliminated.
The BCA will monitor negotiations on both bills.
PROPOSED AMENDMENT WOULD SHIELD LOCAL BOARDS OF EDUCATION FROM UNFUNDED MANDATES
The Alabama Senate voted 32-0 on the passage of SB 47, by Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road. The bill proposes a constitutional amendment that upon ratification would include the local boards of education among the public entities that are not to have state mandates placed upon them, per Amendment 621 of the Constitution of Alabama. As another entity that would be shielded from unfunded mandates, the legislature must either specifically provide funding for the mandate, or the legislature must pass the act that creates the mandate by a two-thirds vote of each house.
The BCA supports this legislation.
TAX CREDITS FOR THE RESTORATION OF HISTORIC STRUCTURES PASSES THE HOUSE
On Thursday, the Alabama House passed HB 140, by Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile, by a vote of 101-0. The bill provides a tax credit of 25 percent of the qualified rehabilitation expenditures that improve "certified historic structures" and it provides a tax credit of 10 percent of the qualified rehabilitation expenditures made to improve "qualified pre-1936 non-historic structures." The aggregate annual cap of all credits allowed for historic structures shall not exceed $30 million. This bill now moves to the Senate, and if enacted, Alabama would join 31 other states that have enacted tax credits for the preservation of historic structures.
Rep. Gaston reported to the House that the 31 states that enacted similar tax credits have experienced revitalization of historic sites and communities in addition to job growth, due to the historic preservation tax credits.
The BCA supports this legislation.
HOUSE PASSES BILL TO CREATE INDEPENDENT TAX APPEALS COMMISSION
For the third straight year, the Alabama House passed a bill that creates an independent tax appeals tribunal, separate and apart from the Department of Revenue and updates the Alabama Taxpayers' Bill of Rights to conform to federal law and to promote tax fairness and compliance. The House voted 96-2 in favor of the bill which now goes to the Senate for further consideration. HB 264, by Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, provides that the governor will select successive tax appeals judges from a list of five qualified candidates recommended and vetted by a select nominating committee.
The BCA, through its affiliation with the Business Associations Tax Coalition (BATC), supports this legislation.
The Shepherds Bend / Birmingham Water Supply Resolution, HJR 191, was introduced by Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, which was drafted by the Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment. The resolution would create an 11-member commission to be responsible for securing the present and future health and economic prosperity of Greater Birmingham by assessing the quantity and quality of area drinking water supply sources. The resolution also calls for holding a minimum of 10 open public forums and a report to the governor and legislature prior to January 1, 2015. The legislation appears to be a clear effort by environmental activists to create another forum to vilify Drummond Coal's Shepherds Bend mine and other industries in the Birmingham area.
The Emelle Bill, HB 181, by Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Gallion, was referred to the Senate committee on Energy and Natural Resources. This bill, which has already passed the House, would reduce the state base fee for the disposal of hazardous waste.
The General Fund Budget, SB 143, by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, is still awaiting committee action in the Alabama House. The Senate-passed budget included two amendments that were consistent with positions taken by BCA. First, BCA supports a properly funded Alabama Department of Environmental Management, and this amended budget increased the appropriation to the Department by $1 million. If additional funds are not included in the budget for the Department, Director Lance LeFleur has stated that he will seek a permit fee increase to fill any gaps. Also, the amended budget expanded the language regarding the water assessments to include both surface and ground water assessments and to coordinate this effort with the Office of Water Resources.
The Irrigation Tax Credit Bill, SB 204 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, has been signed into law, as Act #2013-66. This legislation makes three revisions to the original bill passed last year. First, the law reduces, from 10,000 to 8,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), the size of a water body that qualifies for a tax credit without building an off-stream reservoir. This revision will open farm land in portions of the Upper Tombigbee, Warrior, and Coosa Rivers. Second, it allows a farmer to spread the tax credit over five years. Lastly, at the request of the Department of Revenue, the Legislation adds language to describe how the tax credit is distributed amongst members of a partnership that own a farm. This law is intended to encourage more withdrawals from major rivers for the purposes of irrigation.
The updated Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin Master Water Control Manual, appendices and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) were made available for public review by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The DEIS presents the results of the USACE's analysis of the environmental effects of the Proposed Action Alternative for the ACT River Basin Master Water Control Manual. In response to several requests to extend the comment period for the draft ACT water control manuals and EIS, the Corps extended the public comment period for an additional 30 days to May 31, 2013. Four public meetings took place last week.
YOUR BCA ADVOCACY TEAM
Anita L. Archie
Senior Vice President
and Legal Advisor,
Manager of Communications
William J. Canary
President and CEO
Chief of Staff and
Executive Director, ProgressPAC
Nancy Wall Hewston
Vice President for
Communications, Strategic Information and
Political Affairs and
Vice President for
Manager of Visual
Manager of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Advocacy
For more information on the Business Council of Alabama
contact Elaine Fincannon at firstname.lastname@example.org