2019 Regular Session: Week 2 Recap

So far, the 2019 Regular Session has suffered from a start-and-stop schedule.  After the first legislative day on March 5, the session went into a two-week hiatus so that legislators could meet to discuss – and ultimately pass – Gov. Kay Ivey’s “Rebuild Alabama” plan in a special session. Then, after restarting on March 19, representatives and senators paused the regular session again on March 21, this time for their traditional one-week spring break. So, when they return to Montgomery on March 5, legislators will have been in session for four weeks but will have only completed four legislative days. But for the duration of the session it appears that the Legislature will return to its traditional schedule of being in chambers on Tuesdays and Thursdays and in committee on Wednesday.

The unusual schedule notwithstanding, legislative proposals already introduced in the first four legislative days, coupled with bills that appear to be on the horizon, signal a session potentially full of controversy. In the near future, for instance, legislators may be debating competing lottery proposals; bills to expand Medicaid and repeal sales taxes on food; a proposal allowing Alabamians to use marijuana for medicinal purposes; a potential rewrite of the state’s code of ethics; and a bill to outlaw an abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Similarly, Alabama’s banking industry could be impacted, positively and negatively, by several of these introduced bills and unintroduced proposals. A bill already introduced, the Future Advance Mortgage Protection Act, would codify when a future advance mortgage was created and how future advances, whether obligatory or discretionary, could achieve priority over other potential liens. This bill will be debated in a House committee next Wednesday morning and in a Senate committee next Wednesday afternoon. A bill not yet introduced, the Financial Institution Excise Tax Reform Act, would revamp technical components of Alabama’s FIET statutes – the definition of “taxable income,” for instance – to relieve taxpayers and the Department of Revenue from numerous longstanding administrative burdens in a way that is both sensible and revenue-neutral. A few remaining touches are being made to the draft bill now, and a final product should be available soon.

Whether already introduced or not, and regardless of when they decide to meet or take a break, the Alabama Bankers Association looks forward to monitoring legislative proposals and working with your representatives and senators to make sure these decision-makers understand the important role that Alabama banks play in local, regional, state, and national economies. You, our members, are the association’s biggest assets, and we hope you will partner with us for a successful 2019 Regular Session!

As always, Capitol Notes provides readers with a brief summary of legislation that might impact Alabama’s banking industry.  Those summaries are as follows:

House Bill 101 by Rep. Kerry Rich (R-Albertville) and Senate Bill 54 by Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) adopts the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Insurance Data Security Law.  Federal data security regulations already apply to financial institutions, including to those institutions’ insurance-related subsidiaries.  To ensure that this legislation did not also apply to those entities, the Association, working with the American Bankers Association, drafted an amendment exempting financial institutions from the provisions of this bill.  The amendment was unanimously adopted in both the House and Senate versions of the bill.

House Bill 133 by Rep. Jim Hill (R-Pell City) would require state taxes or fees not already distributed to the Education Trust Fund or State General Fund to be deposited in the State General Fund unless those taxes or fees are constitutionally required to be distributed to a specific fund for a specific purpose.  As introduced, this bill would likely divert assessment fees paid by state-chartered banks away from the State Banking Department and into the State General Fund, since assessment fees are not required by the constitution to be distributed to the State Banking Department.  The Association has historically opposed efforts to divert bank assessment fees away from the State Banking Department.  Several other agencies are similarly impacted, and the Association is working with them, as well as with the State Banking Department, to amend the legislation.

House Bill 139 by Rep. K.L. Brown (R-Jacksonville) would require a lender that holds all or part of a payment for an insurance claim to, upon request by the insured for payment, either issue the payment or provide a detailed notice of why the payment is being withheld and the steps the insured needs to take for the payment to be released.  As currently written, the lender would have 10 days to provide information to the insured or risk paying 20 percent interest on any insurance proceeds held by the lender.  This legislation is allegedly in response to issues that arose in the aftermath of the tornadoes that impacted Jacksonville and the surrounding areas last May.  The Association is in discussion with the sponsor and other interest groups, such as the Homebuilders Association of Alabama, about the legislation and hopes a compromise can be reached, especially with respect to the timelines and interest rate.

House Bill 140 by Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) would allow banks and the Department of Revenue to voluntarily enter into an agreement to share certain identification information for bank customers who have been determined by the department to be delinquent taxpayers.  Under current law, over half of all garnishment notices sent to banks are returned because the subject of the notice is not a bank customer.  In theory, a data match agreement between a bank and the department would eliminate these “useless” notices.  So far, the department has been extremely accommodating in helping the Association work out the industry’s causes for concern.  Those discussions are ongoing.

House Bill 162 by Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City) and Senate Bill 127 by Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) is the Future Advance Mortgage Protection Act.  As introduced, the bill would make clear that future advance mortgages are created upon their execution and not, as the state Supreme Court has ruled, when funds are actually advanced.  Discussions with the Homebuilders Association of Alabama may result in additional language being added to the bill that provides clarity on the subject of lien priority for obligatory or discretionary future advances.  The House bill is on next Wednesday’s agenda for the House Financial Services Committee, which Rep. Blackshear chairs, and the Senate bill is on next Wednesday’s agenda for the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro), a former member of the board of directors for Scottsboro’s FNB Bank.

Senate Bill 106 by Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) would allow a member of any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States to contract with a financial institution to obtain a loan or open a checking or savings account.  Generally speaking, current state law prohibits anyone under the age of 19 from entering into a contract, including a contract with a financial institution.  A person may join the Armed Forces at age 17 with parental consent, or at age 18 or older without parental consent.

As of the end of the fourth legislative day, representatives have introduced 461 bills – 288 in the House and 173 in the Senate – and 76 resolutions.  The 2019 Regular Session can last for no more than 30 legislative days and must end on or before June 17.

The Legislature will reconvene for its fifth legislative day on April 2.

Questions or comments? Contact Jason Isbell, ABA’s VP of Legal and Governmental Affairs, at jisbell@alabamabankers.com.