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March 30, 2007   Email to Friend 

House and Senate Committees pass DOT exemption bills

House and Senate committees both passed bills this week that would provide exemptions from intrastate Department of Transportation (DOT) registration for all agricultural and other vehicles up to 26,001 pounds from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations.

An amendment was approved by both committees that specifies the exemptions do not apply to restricted drivers, such as those who have no license or are restricted from operating certain commercial vehicles.

SB 258 is sponsored by Sen. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville. It was assigned to the Senate Commerce, Transportation and Utilities Committee chaired by Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery. That committee unanimously approved the bill (with the amendment). SB 258 now heads for a vote by the full Senate. Nineteen senators are listed as co-sponsors of the bill.

The House version, HB 432, is sponsored by Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre.

That bill has 53 co-sponsors and was assigned to the House Public Safety Committee chaired by Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery. The House committee unanimously approved the bill (with the amendment). It now heads to the full House for consideration. "Our members made the difference in getting support for these bills and getting them passed out of committee," said Federation Executive Director Mike Kilgore. "Our members have met with and called legislators from throughout the state. The support the bills received in both chambers of the Legislature is evidence that a grassroots campaign works."

The new DOT regulations were scheduled to be enforced July 1, 2006, but Gov. Bob Riley delayed the implementation until Jan. 1, 2007, then again until April 1.

With the deadline approaching, pressure is mounting for the governor to extend the deadline for a third time, this time to a period long enough for the proposed law to take effect, should it pass.

This week, Rep. Terry Spicer, D-Elba, introduced HR 216, a resolution formally asking the governor to postpone enforcement of the regulations until exemptions are approved by the federal government. The resolution was assigned to the House Rules Committee.

Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., weighed in on the issue this week as well. In a letter to Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry A. Newby, the congressman said he supports efforts by the Alabama Legislature to pass the exemption laws.

"The overall intent of this policy is to regulate large tractor-trailers that deliver cargo and other heavy agricultural machinery, not multi-purpose vehicles such as pick-up trucks," Aderholt said in his letter. "Both SB 258 and HB 432 will help clarify these regulations regarding small vehicles and alleviate an expensive and unnecessary burden on farmers."

Bills would aid alternative fuel production

Two bills were introduced this week to encourage the use and production of alternative fuels in the state.

SB 341 and its House companion bill, HB 558, were introduced this week by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, and Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre. Called the "Farm to Fuel Act of 2007," the bills are aimed at providing incentives to attract investments in Alabama by agriculture and alternative fuels industries. The incentives include tax breaks for production, consumption and infrastructure for alternative fuels in the state.

Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, sponsored SB 344, and its companion bill, HB 557, is sponsored by Rep. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill.

SB 344 and HB 557 would remove current restrictions regarding the manufacture, sale and transportation of ethyl alcohol (Ethanol) specifically where it will be used as an alternative fuel for motor vehicles.

The current restriction was intended to control ethanol produced for alcoholic beverages. Without this exemption, an ethanol production facility could not locate in Alabama.

Link deposit bills help reduced interest rates

Bills that would lower loan rates for farmers at local banks were introduced this week by Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb, and Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham. SB 337 and its companion bill, HB 554, allow the state treasurer to link ag loans from local banks to state deposits, thereby reducing interest rates for farmers and small businesses. State Treasurer Kay Ivey supports the measure as does the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Both bills are assigned to committees.

Bills In Brief

SB 285 -- Sponsored by Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland, the Family Farm Preservation Act provides that farm operations may not be declared a public or private nuisance or to be in violation of municipal or county ordinances if operated lawfully and under certain conditions. AFF Supports.

SB 164 and HB 434 -- Sponsored by Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, and Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, these bills would clearly define "agriculture" and "agricultural" to include on-farm recreational or educational activities directly involving the production of farm products, fishing and wildlife activities. AFF Supports.

HB 452 and SB 260 -- Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, and Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, introduced bills this week that would exclude hunting lodges from lodging and amusement taxes. Last year, the Alabama Department of Revenue attempted to collect such taxes, but that effort was stopped when an attorney general's opinion ruled such establishments were excluded. AFF Supports.

HB 328 -- Sponsored by Rep. Spencer Collier, R-Irvington, the bill would require that certain farm-raised fish or wild fish served at a food service establishment for human consumption be identified as imported or domestic. The bill is in the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee. AFF Supports.

HB 123 ?- This bill, sponsored by Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery, passed the House Thursday by a vote of 104-0. It designates the Department of Agriculture and Industries as the official state agency for alternative fuels. AFF Supports.

SB 294 -- Sponsored by Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, the Equine Activities Liability Protection Act would provide immunity to landowners authorizing recreational use of land for equine activities. AFF Supports.

HB 124 -- The House this week passed one of many bills aimed at restricting illegal immigrants. HB 124, sponsored by Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, passed by a vote of 85-0 with four abstentions. The bill would require individuals and businesses that contract with the state to certify their workers as legal U.S. residents. If workers are found to be illegal, such contracts with the state would be void. AFF Monitoring.

HB 254 -- Sponsored by Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, the bill would enact the Wildlife Heritage Act of 2007 that would increase hunting and fishing license fees. The bill is is on the House calendar. The bill was amended to include a voluntary $1 checkoff, and the first $500,000 of the heritage license would be dedicated to wildlife and wildlife habitat research. AFF Supports as amended.

SB 300 -- Introduced this week and sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, this bill would require property tax appraisals to be conducted once every four years. Other bills introduced earlier in the session that contain similar language are: HB 2, sponsored by Rep. Elwyn Thomas, R-Oneonta; HB 18, HB 271 and HB 272, sponsored by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale; HB 131, sponsored by Rep. William Thigpen, D-Fayette; SB 1 and SB 2, sponsored by Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla; and SB 172 and SB 173, sponsored by Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope. AFF Supports.

HB 274 and HB 275 and SB 279 and SB 284 -- Sponsored by Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, and Sen. Jimmy Holley, D-Elba, these bills would create a propane checkoff program collected from the distributors. Agriculture would be exempt from the checkoff. The House bills are on the House calendar. SB 279 is in the Senate Commerce, Transportation and Utilities Committee. SB 284 has been assigned to the Constitution, Campaign, Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee. AFF Monitoring.

SB 315 -- Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, introduced a bill this week that would allow municipalities to pre-zone property being annexed under certain conditions. The companion bill in the House is HB 87, sponsored by Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Bay Minette. AFF Supports.

HB 450 -- Rep. Tammy Irons, D-Florence, introduced a bill this week known as the Tennessee River Preservation Act that would prohibit the transfer of water from the Tennessee River Basin. Last year, Marshall County passed a similar bill that prohibited other counties from pumping water out of the Tennessee River from stations in Marshall County. AFF supports a comprehensive statewide water management plan.

HB 118 -- Campaign finance reform is moving quickly through the Legislature. HB 118, sponsored by Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville, passed the House Thursday by a vote of 105-0. This bill would require organizations to disclose the sources of funding for paid political advertising. The bill now heads to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. AFF Monitoring.

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