Legislative Update: Unemployment Tax Changes Pass the Senate

Date: January 26, 2018

SB 92 by NFIB member Sen. Arthur Orr (Decatur) passed the Senate 21-8 on Thursday. SB 92 makes significant changes to the current unemployment law.

The bill would reduce 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. It would allow a higher weekly benefit amount increasing from $265 to $275.

The bill includes a 5-week extension for anyone who is enrolled in a state-approved training program. As estimated by the Legislative Fiscal Office, the bill would lower unemployment taxes annually by $53 million for Alabama business owners.

NFIB Tax Advisory Committee recommendations
The NFIB Tax Advisory Committee recommended changes to the Alabama Administrative Procedures Act. SB 5 by Sen. Paul Sanford (Huntsville) requires state agencies promulgating rules and regulations to include notification to the Alabama Legislative Council that the proposed rule change is being litigated in court. SB 5 passed the Senate unanimously this week.

HB 107 by Rep. Paul Lee (Dothan) is another recommendation from the NFIB Tax Advisory Committee. The bill would prevent cities from requiring businesses who are “driving through a taxing jurisdiction” to purchase a business license if the business is not operating a branch office or doing business in the municipality. HB 107 unanimously passed the House State Government Committee and is on the House Calendar.

Veterans Employment Act Tax Credit ready for final passage

HB 83 by Rep. Connie Rowe (Jasper), the Veterans Employment Act Tax Credit, unanimously passed the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee this week.

The bill encourages small businesses to hire unemployed veterans with a $1,000 tax credit for employers. The tax credit would require that each unemployed veteran is paid $14 an hour working on a full-time basis. Sen. Phil Williams (Gadsden) is carrying the bill in the Senate. The bill is on the Senate Calendar for final passage.

Service Dogs Housing Act

HB 198 by Rep. Matt Fridy (Birmingham) would require documentation and create requirements for the need of a service dog to be provided to landlords for entry of service dogs into a commercial housing or lodging establishment.

Misrepresentation of an animal as an assistance animal will result in penalties and a second offense will be a Class B misdemeanor.

For several years, NFIB members have complained about customers presenting certificates printed from the Internet stating their animal is a service dog. If the business owner challenged the customer, the customer would threaten to sue or hire a law firm to send a “demand letter” for damages up to $5,000.

Civil Forfeiture Reform

HB 287 by Rep. Arnold Mooney (Birmingham) SB 213 by Sen. Arthur Orr (Decatur) would establish the exclusive process for asset forfeitures.

Currently, Alabama law enforcement can seize property based on their suspicion you have broken the law 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; 14 states now require a criminal conviction for most or all forfeiture cases, 15 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.

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