House passes DOT bill with full agricultural exemption
The House of Representatives Thursday approved a full exemption for agriculture from intrastate Department of Transportation (DOT) registration by a vote of 101-2.
HB 432, sponsored by Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, would exempt all commercial vehicles up to 26,001 pounds from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations and all agricultural vehicles, regardless of weight.
Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Mike Kilgore credited strong grassroots support for the overwhelmingly positive vote.
"For almost a year, our members have voiced their concerns over the implementation of these regulations to the governor and their legislators. They made this issue a priority for the legislative session," Kilgore said. "Their phone calls, letters, emails and visits with legislators helped build a groundswell of support in the House."
Kilgore also praised the strong support from a coalition of agricultural groups including the Alabama Cattlemen's Association, Alabama Poultry and Egg Association and Alabama Forestry Association, as well as the commissioner of agriculture.
"This was a total team effort, which resulted in one of the strongest votes in this legislative session," Kilgore said.
The bill passed this week is consistent with exemptions allowed in the federal regulations and would ensure farmers are not subjected to the same restrictions as interstate commercial carriers.
Kilgore emphasized that the exemptions would not relax safety regulations or road weight limits.
"Our members and organization are committed to keeping our roads safe. Under this legislation, safety regulations would still be enforced, but farmers would be exempt from costly and time-consuming paperwork," he said.
The companion bill, SB 258, is sponsored by Sen. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville. It has passed the Senate Commerce, Transportation and Utilities Committee and is on the Senate calendar. Nineteen senators are listed as co-sponsors of the bill.
Public hearing held on amusement tax
The Senate Finance and Taxation, Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, held a public hearing Wednesday on a bill that would exclude farmer-owned lodges and agri-tourism establishments from amusement taxes.
The public hearing was requested by the Alabama Education Association, which opposes the bill. Alabama Farmers Federation Wildlife Director Steve Guy said farmers attending the hearing made a positive impression on committee members.
"Several Federation wildlife producers, including Federation State Wildlife Committee Chairman Trey Montgomery of Greene County, attended the public hearing. Their presence was noted by both Chairman Sanders and members of the committee. We feel this will go a long way toward helping get the bill passed out of committee and onto the Senate calendar," he said.
The Senate committee could vote on SB 260 as early as April 25. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville. A companion bill, HB 452, is sponsored by Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay. It awaits action in the House Education Appropriations Committee. AFF Supports.
House passes bill aimed at curtailing copper theft
A bill that would require scrap metal purchasers to maintain records indicating who sold them scrap metal passed the House Wednesday by a vote of 102-0. Four amendments were added that would make it more difficult for purchasers to trade stolen copper and other metal.
HB 94 is sponsored by Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, and is supported by Attorney General Troy King. It has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
At the Alabama Farmers Federation's Annual Meeting in December, voting delegates approved a policy "requiring buyers of salvage material to require proper identification of the seller in an attempt to provide a better database for law enforcement officials."
In recent years, Federation members have reported numerous incidents of rural crime related to copper theft. Homes, farm shops, churches and small businesses have been burglarized. The theft of wiring, motors and other equipment containing copper causes extensive damage to property beyond the value of the actual theft. AFF Supports.
Constitutional convention bill passes House committee
A bill that would allow voters to decide whether to hold a constitutional convention passed the House Constitution and Elections Committee Wednesday by a vote of 8-5.
HB 98, sponsored by Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, calls for a convention to amend and replace the 1901 Alabama Constitution.
Voting in favor of the bill were: Reps. Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville; Tommy Sherer, D-Jasper; Randy Davis, R-Daphne; Joe Mitchell, D-Mobile; Mary Moore, D-Birmingham; Jack Page, D-Gadsden; Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham; and George Bandy, D-Opelika. Voting against the measure were: Reps. Greg Canfield, R-Birmingham; Chad Fincher, R-Semmes; Micky Hammon, R-Decatur; Jay Love, R-Montgomery; and Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka.
The Alabama Farmers Federation supports an article-by-article approach to amending the constitution. Federation members are encouraged to contact their legislators and ask them to vote "no" on HB 98, and the companion bill, SB 99, sponsored by Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn. AFF Opposes.
Bills In Brief
HB 123 - This bill, sponsored by Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery, passed the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee Wednesday. It awaits action by the full Senate before going to the governor for his signature. The bill designates the Department of Agriculture and Industries as the official state agency for alternative fuels. AFF Supports.
HB 557 and SB 344 - Sponsored by Rep. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, and Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, these bills would remove restrictions under existing law on the manufacture, sale and transportation of ethyl alcohol (ethanol) where it will be used as an alternative fuel for motor vehicles. HB 557 unanimously passed the House Commerce Committee Wednesday and is on the House calendar. The Senate bill is awaiting action in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. AFF Supports.
HB 554 and SB 337 - Sponsored by Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham, and Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb, these bills would lower loan rates for farmers at local banks. The bills would allow the state treasurer to link ag loans from local banks to state deposits, thereby reducing interest rates for farmers and small businesses. SB 337 passed the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee Wednesday. AFF Supports.
HB 175 - Sponsored by Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, the bill would require title registration and a registration decal for all-terrain vehicles starting with 2009 models. The bill passed the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee Wednesday and awaits action in the full Senate before going to the governor for his signature. AFF Supports.
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 be in violation of municipal or county ordinances if operated lawfully and under certain conditions. A public hearing on the bill has been called for Wednesday, May 2, at the request of environmental activist groups. AFF Supports.
SB 241 and HB 571 - Sponsored by Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland, and by Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, these bills would allow for the sale of home-processed items at farmers markets. The Senate bill was delayed this week in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee while the State Health Department works out its concerns about the measure with the State Farmers Market Authority. HB 571 is assigned to the House Health Committee. AFF Supports.
SB 164 and HB 434 - The Association of County Commissioners has requested a public hearing on HB 434, which 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.
The Alabama Farmers Federation has been working with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)and the Department of Agriculture and Industries on an amendment that will affirm the DCNRęs authority to regulate wildlife. The amendment will be offered in the House Judiciary Committee when the Legislature returns from spring recess.
HB 434 is sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, and the companion bill, SB 164, is sponsored by Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne. The Senate bill is out of committee and awaits action in the full Senate. AFF Supports.
HB 328 - Sponsored by Rep. Spencer Collier, R-Irvington, the bill would require certain farm-raised fish or wild fish served at a food service establishment for human consumption be identified as imported or domestic. The bill was carried over this week in the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee. Retail and restaurant groups have expressed concerns about the bill due to menu labeling. AFF Supports.
HB 289 - Sponsored by Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, the bill would allow law enforcement officers to impound vehicles driven by illegal immigrants who do not have proof of liability insurance or a valid driver's license. The bill could present problems for farm owners who could have their vehicles seized, even if they believe the driver to be a legal guest worker. AFF opposes the bill in its current form.
HB 527 and SB 333 - Failing to secure enough votes for passage, Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, delayed a vote Tuesday on a bill that would allow electronic bingo gambling at racetracks in Mobile and Jefferson counties. HB 527 is on the House calendar and could be considered later this session.
A similar bill, SB 333, is sponsored by Sen. Pat Lindsey, D-Butler, and is assigned to the Tourism and Marketing Committee. Alabama Farmers Federation policy states, "We oppose legalizing gambling in any form."
Members are encouraged to contact their legislators and ask them to oppose these bills. AFF Opposes.