Morrison guides Farm Act through House
A landslide vote of approval by the Alabama House of Representatives now sends the Family Farm Preservation Act, HB 420, to the Senate.
The bill came up for a vote late Tuesday in the House where it was approved 82 to 7.
“The overwhelming vote by the House shows that our legislators understand the need for this legislation and the importance it has in preserving the right to farm in Alabama,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby. “The farmers who testified before the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee made an impression on that committee that spilled over into the rest of the House.
However, the phone calls and personal contacts by our members to their legislators also played a key role in the passage of the bill through the House. Now that it’s passed the House, I hope our members will thank those who voted in favor of the bill and question those who did otherwise.”
The bill passed with one amendment offered by Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, which exempted commercial composting operations.
Newby praised the work by Rep. Neal Morrison, D-Cullman, who sponsored the bill in the House.
“Rep. Morrison was a great spokesman for this bill,” Newby said. “Coming from the largest agricultural county in the state, he knows first hand the importance of protecting farmers. He had to answer a lot of difficult questions and withstood criticism by some opponents who labeled this a ‘hog bill.’ But through it all, he remained steadfast in his commitment to farmers to see the bill get passed in the House.”
The bill now heads to the Senate where consideration of legislation has been stagnant because of an ongoing feud among two groups - conservative Democrats and Republicans verses Democrats who control nearly every committee in the upper chamber.
Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, sponsored the Senate version of the bill (SB 346). He has agreed to move HB 420 through the Senate process and will work for its passage.
“We definitely have a lot of work ahead of us in the Senate,” said Freddie Patterson, director of the Federation’s Department of Governmental Affairs. “We have a good deal of support for the bill in the Senate, because like their counterparts in the House Senators know the importance of farming to our state. However, some of the leadership in the Senate won’t even allow the bill to be assigned to a committee for consideration.”
Patterson said Federation members should contact their senators and encourage their support of the bill.
Recorded Votes on HB 420
YEAS – 82
Speaker Seth Hammett, Greg Albritton, Gerald Allen, Locy Baker, Mike Ball, Jim Barton, Billy Beasley, Scott Beason, Robert Bentley, Lucius Black, Alan Boothe, Dick Brewbaker, DuWayne Bridges, Jim Carns, Joe Carothers, Tommy Carter, William Clark, Steve Clouse, Merika Coleman, Spencer Collier, Randy Davis, Bill Dukes, Priscilla Dunn, Joe Faust, Lea Fite, Craig Ford, Mark Gaines, Blaine Galliher, Ray Garner, Victor Gaston, Mac Gipson, Rusty Glover, Betty Carol Graham, Ronald Grantland, Lynn Greer, David Grimes, Ken Guin, Albert Hall, Micky Hammon, John Hawkins, Mike Hill, Alvin Holmes, Mike Hubbard, Bobby Humphryes, Steve Hurst, Jamie Ison, Thomas Jackson, Ronald Johnson, John Knight, Richard Laird, Allen Layson, Jody Letson, Jay Love, Eric Major, Jimmy Martin, Thad McClammy, Mary Sue McClurkin, Frank McDaniel, Stephen McMillan; Mike Millican, Neal Morrison, Johnny Mack Morrow, Albert Morton, Charles Newton, Demetrius Newton, Jeremy Oden, Jack Page, Arthur Payne, Oliver Robinson, John Rogers, Yusuf Salaam, Howard Sanderford, Sue Schmitz, Thomas Sherer, Bobby Singleton, Terry Spicer, William Thigpen, Elwyn Thomas, Lesley Vance, Jack Venable, Cam Ward, Randy Wood.
NAYS – 7
James Buskey, Linda Coleman, Laura Hall, Randy Hinshaw, Jim McClendon, Jeff McLaughlin, John Robinson.
ABSTAIN – 1
NOT VOTING – 15
George Bandy, Barbara Boyd, Johnny Ford, Todd Greeson, Yvonne Kennedy, Bryant Melton, George Perdue and Nelson Starkey.
The following had committed to vote for the bill but were unable to be present the day of the vote: Warren Beck, Marcel Black, Jeff Dolbare, Richard Lindsey, Joseph Mitchell, James Thomas and Frank “Skippy” White.
Riley proposes largest tax hike in state’s history
A special session of the Alabama Legislature begins Monday to consider Gov. Bob Riley’s tax package which would be the largest tax increase in Alabama’s history if it passes.
Riley has not released all aspects of his package, but Federation officials who met with members of the governor’s staff Thursday afternoon said the plan would increase taxes by $1.3 billion. Farmers who claim current use on their property would experience a tax increase of nearly 1,000 percent.
Some lawmakers already are predicting failure of the package. "What they want to do with property taxes is just going to get that thing killed," said House Majority Leader Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill.
“During his campaign, and since his election, Gov. Riley repeatedly promised our people that he would bring about fundamental change in state government and that a tax increase would be a last resort,” said Freddie Patterson, director of the Federation’s Department of Governmental Affairs.
Representatives of the governor’s office also said they would propose raising the assessment of property at the state level from 10 percent of assessed value to 100 percent of fair market value.
Riley’s plan would lower millage rates from 6.5 mills to 3 or 3.5 mills, but the assessment would be on 100 percent of the property’s value. This would include homes, automobiles, farmland and utilities.
“Our policy, which is dictated by our members, opposes both of these changes,” Patterson said.
The governor said he wants the plan to be voted on in early September where voters will cast a single vote to accept or reject the package.
Riley said his plan would include 10 tax measures and 13 accountability reforms, plus a college scholarship program.
The plan also supposedly contains proposals to increase sales tax (including farm equipment purchases), income tax, cigarette tax and beverage tax. Riley said his accountability measures will include unearmarking future revenues and cost-saving changes in the health insurance programs for public employees and teachers.
BILLS IN BRIEF
ATV Bill – HB 729
HB 729, sponsored by Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile, would regulate the operation of all-terrain vehicles on public roads, streets and other public areas. The bill would prohibit operators from riding ATVs on private land without the landowner’s permission. It also would require direct supervision of an adult for children between 10-16 years old who operate an ATV on private land. It recommends, but does not require training, helmets or protective eyewear. The fine for first offenders is imprisonment of 5-90 days and a fine of $25-$500; second offense 10 days-6 months in jail and a fine of $50-$500. AFF SUPPORTS.
Tree Stand Safety – HB 623
Sponsored by Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur. This bill would require that you use a safety harness while using an elevated stand. The bill was passed out of the House Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday and was placed on the House calendar. AFF MONITORING.
ADEM Commission – HB 144, SB 164
Sponsored by Rep. Allen Layson and Sen. Larry Means. Lawmakers carried over the bill last week with one key amendment that would retain the current at-large position and would only change the well drillers’ appointment. If this bill passes as amended, upon the next vacancy, the governor would be required to appoint someone with a scientific background in agriculture and/or forestry from an accredited university, a hydrogeologist or geologist to replace the well drillers’ position. The Federation supports this legislation because it is important to have agriculture related representation on the commission in light of the strict rules and regulations that affect Alabama agriculture. AFF SUPPORTS.
Country-of-Origin Labeling– HB 609
HB 609, sponsored by Rep. Spencer Collier, R-Irvington, would require labels for the country of origin for farm-raised fish and wild fish, including shrimp. The House Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Committee listened to more testimony about the bill on Wednesday. Retail and restaurant representatives opposed the bill and expressed concern about adding new labels to products and the fines associated with violations. The bill will be debated in a subcommittee meeting Monday, May 19 at 1 p.m. AFF MONITORING.
Chloramphenicol Bill – HB 719
HB 719, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Carter, D-Athens, would regulate the use of Chloramphenicol and any similar veterinary drug used in shellfish, wild fish or farm-raised fish. This bill would penalize a retailer up to $10,000 or a year in jail for knowingly offering for sale any fish or seafood that has been treated with the chemical. AFF SUPPORTS.
Insurance Notification – HB 700
HB 700, sponsored by Rep. S. Schmitz, D-Huntsville, would prevent insurance companies from increasing premiums without notifying customers and would require the company to list the basis for the increase. The House Banking and Insurance Committee passed the bill Wednesday and it is now on the House calendar. AFF OPPOSES.
Mandatory Insurance Enforcement – HB 396
HB 396, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, clarifies the issuance of citations to drivers who do not have mandatory insurance at the scene of an accident. However, if the driver produces proof of insurance coverage within 10 days of the citation he will not be required to pay the fine or court costs. The bill passed the House this week and now heads to the Senate. AFF SUPPORTS.