Legislative Report – April 19, 2019

Volume 20 Number 4 – April 19, 2019

10th & 11th legislative days

Bill to Freeze Police Jurisdictions Approved by the Senate

On Thursday, the Senate passed the committee substitute to SB 23, by Sen. Chris Elliott (R – Fairhope). This legislation restricts the extraterritorial jurisdiction that can be exercised by municipal governments.

Working with representatives of the Alabama League of Municipalities and other organizations, Sen. Elliott offered a substitute to this bill in committee earlier in the process. The Senate overwhelmingly endorsed and passed the Elliott committee substitute.

Under the Senate-passed committee substitute, police jurisdictions of municipalities on the effective date of this act could not be extended after the act’s effective date. As such, the bill freezes current municipal police jurisdictions.

The bill also limits the jurisdiction of a municipal planning commission to the police jurisdiction of the municipality or to the corporate limits of the municipality if the municipal government does not currently exercise its police jurisdiction.

The bill would preclude the regulation of construction of buildings within the police jurisdiction, but does not impact the authority of municipal governments to regulate construction or issue building permits within municipal corporate limits.

The bill also provides for the audit of funds collected by the municipality in the police jurisdiction to ensure that the funds collected from the taxes and fees in the police jurisdiction are actually expended in the police jurisdiction as provided by current law.

The Alabama League of Municipalities offered an amendment to ensure that nothing in the act will prohibit a municipal government from eliminating its police jurisdiction and that a municipality will not be held liable should they choose to eliminate its police jurisdiction.

We appreciate Senator Elliott’s efforts to work with the League and local governments throughout the state which have expressed concerns over this bill, which now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Strong Opposition to “Ban the Bag” Bill

Legislation to eliminate the authority of municipal governments to regulate and/or tax the use of a wide range of auxiliary containers was included as the last bill on the House special order calendar in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

HB 346 by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville) would prevent municipal and county governments from adopting or enforcing any ordinance that regulates the use, disposition, or sale of, or prohibits, restricts or imposes any fee, charge or tax on auxiliary containers. Rep. Ledbetter is the House Majority Leader, which places him third in the House leadership behind the Speaker and Speaker Pro Tem.

Legislators from coastal counties, led by Rep. Margie Wilcox (R – Mobile), Rep. Steve McMillan (R – Gulf Shores), Rep. Harry Shiver (R – Bay Minette) and others quickly voiced their displeasure at this legislation, which they described as a massive overreach from Montgomery into the day to day governing of cities and counties and an impingement of their ability to manage solid waste.

Representatives from other areas of the state, including Birmingham and Montgomery, also joined in behind the scenes to let the House leadership know that this legislation would cause a serious fight on the House floor.

Inn addition, the mayors of the Big 5 cities (Montgomery, Mobile, Huntsville, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa) held a press conference in Montgomery denouncing the legislation and signed a formal letter, which was delivered to the legislature in strong opposition to this legislation.

As a result of these objections and Thursday afternoon’s inclement weather, the House adjourned early and the bill did not come to a vote on the floor. The bill now returns to its place on the regular order calendar. Rep. Ledbetter, who is a member of the Houses Rules Committee that sets the day to day calendar, could ask for the bill to be included on any future calendar.

His intentions at this point are unknown, but he has indicated privately to members that he may not continue to pursue the legislation.

A companion bill, SB 244 by Sen. Steve Livingston (R – Scottboro) is also out of committee in the Senate and is ready to be placed on the calendar. Coastal area Senators and others are committed to work against the bill to prevent its passage should the bill come to the Senate floor.

Fantasy Sports Legislation Approved by Committee

Under existing law, there are no regulations relating to fantasy sports. HB 361 by Rep. Kyle South (R – Fayette) would establish the Fantasy Contests Act. It would provide for the registration of certain fantasy sports operators conducting fantasy sports contests within the state and require the implementation of procedures for consumer protection of fantasy contest players. It would also exempt fantasy contests from the state prohibition against gambling.

Christie Strategy Group worked with the sponsor and proponents of the bill to amend the definition of “fantasy contests” to ensure it is defined as a “simulated game of skill.” Without explicitly stating that fantasy sports games are games of skill and not chance, this bill could potentially open up the state to Class III gaming, which would allow for full-fledged table games.

The bill was approved as amended by the House State Government Committee on Wednesday.

Economic Developer Ethics Bill Goes to Governor

On Tuesday, the Senate approved HB 289 by Rep. Alan Baker (R – Brewton). The bill clarifies that economic developers do not have to register as lobbyists.

A similar bill was signed into law last year, but it expired on April 1. Economic developers and site selectors are concerned that being required to register as lobbyists and disclose potential projects will negatively impact Alabama’s ability to recruit new industry.

The bill has been sent to the Governor and is awaiting her signature.

Upcoming Legislative Schedule

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m., respectively.