Long Week Marks Close of Legislative Session

MAY 22, 2017 — A total of 82 hours expired last week between the time the Legislature first gaveled in – 11 a.m. on Monday – and finally adjourned sine die – at 9 p.m. on Friday. During the same period, representatives and senators were in session for 52 hours, leaving little time for members or staff to sleep or travel. While the marathon week saw the passage of several important bills, including House Bill 355, a priority bill for the Alabama Bankers Association, many interest groups, including ABA, saw key pieces of legislation fail to advance in the session’s closing hours.

Late Wednesday evening, the Alabama Senate passed House Bill 355 by a vote of 28-1. Sponsored by Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) and managed in the Senate by Sen. Shay Shelnuut (R-Trussville), the bill makes Alabama the 21st state to allow banks and credit unions to offer prize-linked savings accounts to their customers. Because the Senate attached two amendments to the bill – one capping prize amounts and the other prohibiting excess fees – the House was forced to again act on the bill before it could go to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk. Luckily, thanks to House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), representatives were able to concur with the Senate amendments early on the final day of the session; the House vote was 103-0. Since Gov. Ivey received the bill later that afternoon, it will become law only if she signs it before May 29.

The association appreciates the work of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and their lobbyist, Jason Cochran, for partnering with us to shepherd this bill through the legislative process. In addition to the sponsor and manager, thanks are also in order to Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton) and Sen. Slade Blackwell (R-Mountain Brook), who chaired the committees of jurisdiction for the bill, and Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville), Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison), and Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham), who added the amendments to the bill on the Senate side.

Unfortunately, the other piece of legislation being tracked by the association on the final day of session, Senate Bill 356, did not pass. Sponsored by Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Arab) and managed in the House by Rep. Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville), Senate Bill 356 allows a county commission to select a county depository at any time during the year, rather than only once annually. With the help of Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Alan Boothe (R-Troy), and House Majority Leader Rep. Nathanial Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), the bill was added to the House Special Order Calendar on the 29th and 30th legislative days. And while there was no opposition to the bill, the House adjourned on both days before the bill was ever brought up on the floor. The association appreciates the tenacity of the sponsors, who worked until the last minute to have the bill called for a vote, and looks forward to their assistance with the bill in a future session.

Outside of banking bills, the last week of session saw the Legislature pass reapportionment maps redrawing a majority of the legislature’s 140 districts, a bill requiring insurers to provide autism-related insurance coverage for insurance plans exceeding a certain size, next year’s Education Trust Fund budget, and a bill regulating the preservation of certain historical monuments. Other bills high on many legislators’ priority lists did not pass, including bills to build new prisons, increase gasoline taxes, expand tax credits under the Alabama Accountability Act, and regulate fantasy sports contests. Whether the failure of any of these issues, or others, will cause Gov. Ivey to call a special legislative session is anyone’s guess. Absent that, the Legislature will next convene on Jan. 9, 2018, for its final regular legislative session before the 2018 elections.

Regarding the other bills that ABA has been tracking in this publication, the following updates are timely.

House Bill 138 by Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham) and Senate Bill 110 by Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) adopt the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, a national uniform law that extends the traditional power of a fiduciary to manage tangible property, including management of a person’s digital assets like computer files, web domains, and virtual currency (but not necessarily email, text messages, or social media). These bills were also introduced in 2016, and are a product of the Alabama Law Institute. In the last three years, this legislation, known as UFADAA, has been enacted in 22 states, including Tennessee and Florida. In 2017, it has already been introduced in a total of 17 states, including Alabama. The House bill was delivered to Gov. Ivey on May 11, and she is expected to sign it into law in the very near future.

House Bill 314 by Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton) and Senate Bill 249 by Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) modify the Alabama Small Loan Act. Under current law, lenders licensed under the Alabama Small Loan Act can loan up to $1,000 to a single customer at a maximum monthly interest rate of $20 and for a maximum loan term of 12 months. This bill would allow these same lenders to loan up to $1,500 to a single customer, would set the maximum monthly interest rate at $26, and would set a minimum loan term of three months. The Senate passed the House bill last Wednesday. It now awaits Gov. Ivey’s signature.

In total, Representatives introduced 608 bills during the session, and 258 of those measures passed out of the House. Senators introduced 422 bills during the session, and 214 of those measures passed out of the Senate. Additionally, representatives and senators introduced a total of 646 house, senate, or joint resolutions during session. Including bills and resolutions, 290 measures – 17 percent of bills and resolutions that were introduced – have been enacted into law at the time of this writing. Gov. Ivey has until May 29 to sign into law any bills or resolutions passed during the last five days of session.

As we have done in the past, the association will publish in the near future a summary of bills enacted into law this session that impact the state’s banking industry, highlighting the association’s role in those bills’ successes.

Questions or comments? Email Jason Isbell at jisbell@alabamabankers.com.