Here’s a look at some of the issues small businesses will be facing in the 2019 Alabama Legislature.
SB 92 by NFIB member Sen. Arthur Orr (Decatur)/Rep. Danny Garrett (Trussville) didn’t pass in 2018, but Senator Orr will introduce the bill for the 2019 legislative session. SB 92 would have made significant changes to the current unemployment law. The bill would have reduced the maximum number of weeks that unemployment compensation benefits are payable from 26 weeks to the lesser of 14 weeks, or a maximum of 20 weeks, depending upon the average unemployment rate for any benefit year after Jan. 1, 2019. The bill would have allowed a higher weekly benefit amount increasing from $265 to $275. The bill included a 5-week extension for anyone who was enrolled in a state-approved training program. As estimated by the Legislative Fiscal Office, the bill would have lower unemployment taxes annually by $53 million for Alabama business owners.
SB 213 by Sen. Arthur Orr (Decatur) passed the Senate 25-1. The bill would establish the exclusive process for asset forfeitures. Currently, Alabama law enforcement can seize property based on their suspicion you have broken the law and not upon conviction of a crime. Reforming civil forfeiture is a bipartisan issue. An overwhelming majority of Americans are opposed to civil forfeiture. Three states, North Carolina, New Mexico and Nebraska have abolished civil forfeiture entirely. 25 states have reformed their civil forfeiture laws, fourteen states now require a criminal conviction for most or all forfeiture cases, fifteen states require the government to bear the burden of proof for innocent-owner claims and seven states have passed anti-circumvention legislation to close the equitable-sharing loophole. Alabama is not included in any of these reform measures that have passed state legislatures.
Orr will reintroduce the bill for the 2019 legislative session.
SB 226 by Sen. Paul Sanford (Huntsville)/Rep. Arnold Mooney (Birmingham) also did not pass. SB 226 specifically stated the lodging tax law only applies to overnight guests lodging and not for the rental or use of wedding chapels, banquet or conference rooms or parking associated with a meeting. The bill was in response to the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) interpretation of their expanded definition of the application of the lodging tax. NFIB member Stone Bridge Farms (Cullman) presented their case to the Alabama Tax Tribunal after DOR assessed the lodging tax on the wedding chapel and other banquet rooms at their business. DOR’s rule 810-6-5-.13 was struck down by the Alabama Tax Tribunal. The ruling stated Stone Bridge owed $0 tax. Rep. Mooney will reintroduce the bill for the 2019 legislative session.
Penalties for attorneys who encourage litigation
HB 119 by Rep. Matt Fridy (Birmingham)/Sen. Cam Ward (Alabaster) was included on the Senate Special Order Calendar but did not receive final passage. The bill would increase the penalty from $1,000 to $10,000 and imprisonment from six months to one year in the county jail or hard labor for an attorney who gives money to a person for encouraging that person to bring legal action against another. Rep. Fridy will reintroduce the bill for the 2019 legislative session.