DOT EXEMPTION BILL AWAITS GOVERNOR SIGNATURE
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama senators unanimously passed HB 432, commonly called the DOT Bill, Thursday afternoon in a 33-0 vote. (Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, was absent and another seat is vacant.)
A coalition of the Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Cattlemen's Association, Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, Alabama Forestry Association and Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks have worked to get the legislation passed since the Alabama Department of Public Safety announced plans last year to require intrastate registration.
However, the battle isn't over, according to Federation President Jerry A. Newby.
"We need our farmers to contact the governor's office as soon as possible and ask him to sign HB 432 as is, with no amendments," Newby said. "The overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate are good indicators that this bill needs to become law."
The House passed an earlier version of the bill, HB 432 sponsored by Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, that would have excluded agricultural trucks and some other vehicles up to 26,001 pounds from U.S. Department of Transportation intrastate registrations. The Senate version of the bill limits the exemptions only to agricultural trucks in that weight category. Sen. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, sponsored the bill in the Senate.
In a House vote Thursday afternoon, representatives concurred with the Senate substitute version of the bill. The vote was 96-3. The three dissenting votes came from Reps. Paul Demarco, R-Birmingham, Arthur Payne, R-Trussville and Jim McClendon, R-Springville.
The bill now heads to the governor for his signature and would take effect on the first day of the third month following its passage.
The bill states that "Nothing in this act shall be interpreted to exempt any person from obligations to operate a motor vehicle in a safe and proper manner or to observe the rules of the road."
Throughout the week, farmers from around the state were in Montgomery meeting with senators and representatives asking them to support the bill in the final days of the session. Both chambers of the Legislature adjourned Thursday afternoon and will meet for the final day of the session June 7.
The bill can become law without the governor's signature, but if he offers an executive amendment, it would have to return to the House where it could be approved as amended or a vote could be taken to override his veto.
"Having our farmers talk directly with their senators and representatives really made the difference in getting the bill passed, especially by such a large margin," Newby said. "About 50 farmers were at the State House on Tuesday, and nearly 100 were there on Thursday.
"Federation Governmental Affairs Director Freddie Patterson and Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs Paul Pinyan led the charge to get the bill passed by organizing efforts of our entire staff and our members. What made the difference in this bill was everyone working together."
During Thursday's debate on the bill in the Senate, Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, introduced an amendment to the bill on behalf of Gov. Riley. The proposed amendment would have changed the effective date of the bill until all the provisions of the legislation were approved by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Marsh's amendment was defeated by a voice vote.
"Having our farmers in the gallery made the difference when the vote on the amendment was taken as well," Newby said. "It was clear our farmers want relief now. Such an amendment would have basically killed the bill."
During debate on the bill, several senators commented on the number of phone calls and contacts they have received from Alabama farmers. Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland, who serves as chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation Committee, was among those who urged fellow senators to vote in favor of HB 432.
Call Gov. Bob Riley and ask him to sign HB 432 into law, without amendments at 334-242-2000 or 334-242-7100.
TAKE ACTION NOW -- URGE THE GOVERNOR TO SIGN HB 432