LEGISLATURE PASSES PROPERTY TAX BILL, CURRENT USE WEAKENED
The property tax portion of Gov. Bob Riley's $1.3 billion tax plan passed both houses of the Alabama Legislature this week after heated debate that saw the House pass an amendment to preserve current use, only to have the amendment removed by a Senate committee. The two versions of the bill were sent to a conference committee, which had not met at press time.
HB 3 would raise property taxes on homes, cars, businesses, farms and timberland by $469.5 million a year by the time the bill takes full effect in 2008. The property tax bill cleared the House Monday with a 52-38 vote. The House also passed a constitutional amendment to send the package to voters by a 85-10 margin.
Prior to Monday's vote, the House Education Finance and Appropriations Committee amended HB 3 to restore the current use law in its original form. That amendment was offered by Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre.
The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, however, voted 7-6 Wednesday to restore the original Riley plan which alters the current use formula. This effectively removed the amendments supported by Alfa Farmers and passed by the House.
The bill, as changed again and passed by the full Senate, caps current use at 2,000 acres and raises the value of good farm land from $532, currently in the law, to $750. Dial's version of the bill passed by a 25-10 vote in the Senate.
Other amendments to HB 3 that were passed by the House included: (1) a tax exemption up to $150,000 annually of the assessed value for improvements on farm buildings and facilities; (2) a provision that would allow a farmstead exemption for up to 200 non-contiguous acres; and (3) a measure to allow farm corporations (such as Limited Liability Entities and Limited Liability Partnerships), along with individuals, to utilize the 200 non-contiguous acreage exemption. Early review indicates the Senate version of the bill phases in the farmstead exemption over four years.
Federation President Jerry Newby said the majority of all staff has been working night and day since the bills were introduced May 19. Newby expressed gratitude for the overwhelming support of Federation members who have contacted legislators by telephone and in person.
"Our entire governmental affairs department, our executive director and our organization department--including all field representatives--have been working 14-18 hours per day for the past three weeks," Newby said. "We started out behind the 8-ball because we were not allowed to be involved in the writing nor negotiations of the Riley package. We never saw the bills until they were introduced in the legislature. Our proposals since that time have been rejected by the governor's representatives."
The Federation has been one of very few organizations that have challenged the property tax package while Campaign Alabama and literally scores of lobbyists have rallied behind the Governor's plan.
HOUSE ROLL-CALL VOTE ON HB 3:
Yes (52) -- Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale; Mike Ball, R-Madison; Billy Beasley, D-Clayton; Robert Bentley, R-Northport; Lucius Black, D-York; Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia; DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley; Tommy Carter, D-Elkmont; William Clark, D-Prichard; Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham; Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham; Randy Davis, R-Daphne; Bill Dukes, D-Decatur; Priscilla Dunn, D-Bessemer; Joe Faust, R-Fairhope; Johnny Ford, R-Tuskegee; Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden; Ray Garner, R-Huntsville; H. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville; Betty Carol Graham, D-Alexander City; David Grimes, R-Montgomery; Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill; Laura Hall, D-Huntsville; Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia; Mike Hill, R-Birmingham; Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery; Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn; Jamie Ison, R-Mobile; Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville; Yvonne Kennedy, D-Mobile; John Knight, D-Montgomery; Richard Laird, D-Roanoke; Richard Lindsey, D-Centre; Jay Love, R-Montgomery; Eric Major, D-Fairfield; Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery; Jim McClendon, R-Springville; Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville; Bryant Melton, D-Tuscaloosa; Mary Moore, D-Birmingham; Charles Newton, D-Greenville, Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham; Jack Page, D-Gadsden; George Perdue, D-Birmingham; Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham; John Rogers, D-Birmingham; Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro; Nelson Starkey, D- Florence; William Thigpen, D-Fayette; James Thomas, D-Selma; Cam Ward, R-Alabaster; and Randy Wood, R-Anniston.
No (38) -- Greg Albritton, R-Excel; Scott Beason, R-Gardendale; Warren Beck, R-Geneva; Alan Boothe, D-Troy; Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery; James Buskey, D-Mobile; Jim Carns, R-Birmingham; Joe Carothers, D-Dothan; Steve Clouse, R-Ozark; Spencer Collier, R-Irvington; Lea Fite, D-Jacksonville; Mark Gaines, R-Homewood; Rusty Glover, R-Semmes; Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle; Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville; Todd Greeson, R-Ider; Albert Hall, D-Gurley; Mickey Hammon, R-Decatur; John Hawkins, R-Birmingham; Randy Hinshaw, D-Huntsville; Bobby Humphryes, R-Pleasant Grove; Steve Hurst, D-Munford; Ronald Johnson, R-Sylacauga; Allen Layson, D-Reform; John Letson, D-Hillsboro; Mike Millican, D-Hamilton; Neal Morrison, D-Cullman; Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay; Albert Morton, R-Birmingham; Jeremy Oden, R-Vinemont; Arthur Payne, R-Birmingham; John Robinson, D-Scottsboro; Yusuf Salaam, D-Selma; Sue Schmitz, D-Toney; Terry Spicer, D-Elba; Elwyn Thomas, R-Oneonta; Lesley Vance, D-Phenix City; and Jack Venable, D-Tallassee.
Abstentions (3) -- Locy Baker, D-Abbeville; Joseph Mitchell, D-Mobile; and Tommy Sherer, D-Jasper.
Others who did not vote on the bill were George Bandy, D-Opelika; Jim Barton, R-Mobile; Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston; Jeff Dolbare, D-Bigbee; Craig Ford, D-Gadsden; Victor Gaston, R-Mobile; James Martin, D-Clanton; Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Pelham; Frank McDaniel, D-Albertville; Stephen McMillan, R-Bay Minette; Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville and Skippy White, D-Pollard.
SENATE FINANCE AND TAXATION--EDUCATION COMMITTEE ROLL CALL VOTE:
A "yes" vote is for the Riley plan; a "no" vote supports keeping the existing current use law.
Yes (7) -- Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville; Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery; Hank Sanders, D-Selma; Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham; Charles Steele, D-Tuscaloosa; Vivian Figures, D-Mobile; and Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham.
No (6) -- Tom Butler, D-Madison; Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals; Ted Little, D-Auburn; Del Marsh, R-Anniston; Hinton Mitchem, D-Albertville; and Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Hartselle.
Not Voting (2) -- Jack Biddle, R-Gardendale and Phil Poole, D-Moundville.
SENATE ROLL-CALL VOTE ON HB 3:
A "yes" vote is for a weaker current use law.
Yes (25) -- Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe; Jack Biddle, R-Gardendale; Gerald Dial, D-Lineville; Sundra Escott, D-Birmingham; Curt Lee, R-Jasper; Ted Little, D-Auburn; Del Marsh, R-Anniston; Hinton Mitchem, D-Albertville; Myron Penn, D-Union Springs; Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery; Charles Steele, D-Tuscaloosa; Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham; Tom Butler, D-Madison; Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals; Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery; Hank Erwin, R-Pelham; Vivian Figures, D-Mobile; Jimmy Holley, D-Elba; E.B. McClain, D-Midfield; Wendell Mitchell, D-Montgomery; Hap Myers, R-Mobile; Phil Poole, D-Moundville; Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Hartselle; Hank Sanders, D-Selma; and Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham.
No (10) -- Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope; Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville; Steve French, R-Birmingham; Larry Means, D-Attalla; Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega; Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb; Roger Bedford, D-Russellville; Pat Lindsey, D-Butler; Zeb Little, D-Cullman; and Gary Tanner, D-Theodore.