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April 15, 2005   Email to Friend 

Farmers Federation supports bill strengthening criminal trespass laws

HB 550 and HB 465, sponsored by Rep. Joe Carothers, D-Dothan, would make much-needed changes to the current trespass laws in Alabama. HB 550 passed the House last week and is among many bills waiting to be received in the Senate. HB 550 would provide civil immunity for landowners against trespassers. An owner, lessee or occupant of land would owe no duty of care to a person entering the property without the actual knowledge and express permission of the owner and would owe no duty to any person entering the land without the actual knowledge and the express permission of the owner or occupier to warn the person regarding a hazardous condition.

The bill is not designed to repeal liability for the willful or malicious failure to guard against a dangerous artificial condition, use, structure or activity.

Under existing law, a landowner or person in possession of land may be liable to a person using the land depending on the legal status of the person using the land.

The status of a person using land of another is generally classified as a licensee, trespasser or invitee. The landowner only owes a duty to a trespasser not to wantonly or intentional injure the person. However, the landowner may be liable to a child for a dangerous condition on the land or an attractive nuisance.

HB 465 would clarify criminal trespass in an effort to make it clear these statutes apply to any real property regardless of the number or nature of interests in the property; to permit prosecution of persons who knowingly enter property by crossing a fence, body of water, gate, barricade, cable or berm; and defines when notice against trespassing has been posted in a conspicuous manner.

This bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, and has not been put on the committee agenda. AFF Supports.

Filibuster continues over campaign disclosure bill

HB 75, sponsored by Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville, stalled in the Senate for the third week.

More than 100 bills are waiting to be received by the Senate while others have yet to be introduced. HB 75 would require any organization attempting to educate the people of Alabama about a candidate’s voting record or a position on issues or that gives an opinion on pending legislation, to disclose names of contributors.

This bill would have negative consequences on efforts by grassroots groups to educate the public about issues such as referendums proposing tax increases, home rule and commodity checkoffs.

The Federation believes the bill infringes on free speech rights and will continue to monitor any bills offered to break the filibuster or that would lessens the Federation’s ability to participate in public information campaigns.

BellSouth working with Federation on deregulation bill

After several weeks of the Alabama Farmers Federation expressing concerns about the BellSouth rate bill, many legislators were instrumental in slowing down this bill to allow interested parties to take a closer look.

Attorney’s for both sides have been working together, and Alfa Farmers President Jerry Newby and BellSouth Chief Executive Officer Thomas L. Hamby met at the Farmers Federation building Wednesday.

The Farmers Federation has been very concerned about the impact the BellSouth deregulation bills (SB 114, sponsored by Sen. Hap Myers, R-Mobile and HB 211, sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia) would have on rural service areas throughout the state.

The Federation’s goal from the onset was to ensure that rural Alabamians would not see an increase in the cost of basic service nor a reduction in availability of service if deregulation were permitted.

The Federation also was concerned that rural customers could have trouble obtaining basic phone service if these bills passed in their original form.

The Senate passed an amended form of the bill and a House committee further amended the legislation to help protect rural customers. It is on the House calendar and could be considered soon by the full House. Any compromise agreements will have to be offered by amending the bill on the floor. The amended bills would have to be voted on by the entire House. Since there are changes in the bill, it will have to go back to the Senate before the end of the session.

AFF continues to monitor this legislation.

Legislator calls for Constitutional Convention

SB 198, sponsored by Sen. Ted Little, D- Auburn, would call for a constitutional convention. It is in the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee chaired by Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne. That committee held a public hearing on the bill which attracted much attention in the past several days from the media but not much interest among the members of the Legislature.

"Unless there's a change in attitude, it's not going to go further in this session,” Sen. Little, told the Birmingham News after a public hearing on his bill. The proposal would let voters decide by mid-September whether to call a convention of 105 delegates, who could propose a replacement for Alabama's constitution.

Former Gov. Don Siegelman has added a constitutional convention to his agenda as he considers this issue to be part of his bid to regain the governorship. Many people want racist language permanently removed from the constitution but use that issue to hide the fact that a rewrite is a way of raising taxes and giving more power to local governments through zoning and planning jurisdiction.

The Alabama Farmers Federation is opposed to a convention and will continue to monitor any action this committee may take. It’s worth noting that the state has just completed a recompilation of Alabama’s constitution and the argument that it is too long and cumbersome is no longer an issue. All the amendments are now located in the back of the book and referenced in alphabetical order.

Bills in Brief

Fish Weighing Bill – SB 324 & HB 392
HB 392, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, and SB 324, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, would require draining water in weighing baskets containing farm-raised catfish before they are weighed. This bill would require the weighing device to conform to legal requirements. This bill would require farm-raised catfish to be weighed with a weighing device capable of electronically printing a ticket, which provides an exact duplicate of the weight indicated. It would allow a deduction from the weight of the catfish for any foreign substances in the weighing basket. HB 392 passed the House and the Senate committees and is among many bills yet to be considered by the Senate. AFF Supports.

Non-payment for Ag Goods SB 147 and HB 442
HB 442, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Eva, passed the House Tuesday and is now in the Senate where legislators have not taken bills for more than three weeks. There are more than 100 bills waiting to be assigned to committees or reported out of Senate committees. The companion bill, SB 147, is sponsored by Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, and is awaiting action by the full Senate. This legislation would establish the crime of failure to pay for agricultural products and would create penalties for any person who either, on their own account or that of others, has a fraudulent intent and buys agriculture products or chattel and refuses to pay within the contract date or within 20 days following receipt of the commodity. The violator would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. If the value exceeds $1,000 it would be a Class C felony.AFF Supports.

Queen Bee Official State Insect HB 376
HB 376, sponsored by Rep. Sue Schmitz, D-Toney, is stalled in the Senate committee. The bill would designate the queen honey bee as the official state insect of Alabama. Currently, the monarch butterfly has that designation. The bill passed the House and is now in the Senate Committee on Tourism and Marketing chaired by Sen. Myron Penn, D-Union Springs, where he has held the bill for several weeks. Federation members are encouraged to fax Sen. Penn and request that he report this bill out of committee next week. This will provide time for it to be placed on the Senate calendar for a final vote before the session ends. You may fax Sen. Penn at 334-242-2210 to show support for HB 376. AFF Supports.

Democrats push for higher teacher pay raise in education budget

Members of the Business Associations’ Tax Coalition, including the Alabama Farmers Federation, continue their unanimous support of Gov. Bob Riley’s proposals for the education and general fund budgets. BATC represents every segment of Alabama’s business community.

The governor’s budgets are consistent with long-standing BATC policy and the Federation policy which call for the implementation of specific spending reforms and accountability measures before raising any additional revenue. Gov. Riley submitted balanced budgets. His proposed education budget funds every request made by both K-12 and higher education and provides a 4 percent pay raise for Alabama teachers and other education support workers.

Gov. Riley’s general fund budget proposal meets requirements for state agencies and replenishes the state’s rainy day fund. Neither proposal would require new taxes.

The Democrats, which make up the majority of the Legislature, are pushing a budget, backed by the Alabama Education Association that contains a 6 percent raise for teachers.

Legislators continue to take no action on the governor’s proposals while pushing the Democrat caucuses’ budgets through the House and Senate. The governor continues to hold firm on the 4 percent raise and is committed to veto other budget proposals.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Office, there will not be enough projected income from potential economic growth to sustain a 6 percent pay raise without raising taxes next year or sending the state into proration. If the issue remains divided strictly down party lines, Democrats will have enough votes to override the governor’s veto.

The Democrats' $5.1 billion education budget proposal cleared the House Education, Finance and Appropriations Committee Tuesday morning. The Senate's corresponding panel already has approved the plan. Neither chamber has debated the proposal.

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