MONTGOMERY, Alabama, March 19, 2021 — Week 7 of the 2021 Regular Session saw some of the lengthiest floor debate of the session so far, particularly in the House of Representatives. On Tuesday, representatives debated what they termed an “agency calendar.” Designed to help public agencies pass technical and non-controversial bills, the calendar included legislation for the Board of Veterans Affairs, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and other executive branch entities. But the bill also included a few bills, including one on voting, that caused a lengthier-than-normal debate on the House floor. That bill, House Bill 167 by Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City), prohibited an Alabama voter from voting more than once in the same election, either by voting twice in Alabama or by voting once in Alabama and once in another state. To be fair, voting bills are generally contentious in the Alabama Legislature. But House Democrats were particularly concerned that this bill was designed to fix a problem that really didn’t exist – if this bill would have been law in 2018, only six votes would have been impacted – and that it over-penalized wrongdoers. As introduced, the bill would have made double voting a felony. Eventually, the body changed that penalty to a misdemeanor, and the bill passed along party lines.
The debate over that bill was a precursor to House debate on Thursday when the body adopted a calendar of controversial bills. Legislation related to transgender athletes, abortions, rioting, and curbside voting were a the top of the list. And while each bill would go on to pass the House, House Democrats ardently filibustered the legislation, so much so that House Republicans were forced to cut-off debate using a procedural tactic known as cloture. Days like this are rare in the House, and House Democrats will likely not soon forget what happened.
The biggest news in the Senate surrounded the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget and gambling legislation. On Thursday, the Senate gave unanimous approval to the ETF budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins on October 1. At $7.67 billion, next year’s budget is shaping up to be the largest in the state’s history. The ETF now travels to the House, where it is expected to be considered soon. The state’s other operating budget, the State General Fund (SGF), has already passed the House and is in position to be considered by a Senate committee.
And one week after his comprehensive gaming legislation didn’t muster enough votes to pass the Senate, Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) presided over a committee meeting where a “clean” lotter bill was approved. That bill, SB319 by Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville), proposes a constitutional amendment that, if ratified, would create an Alabama lottery, with proceeds split evenly between the SGF and ETF. This bill could easily be modified to include much of the other provisions of Sen. Marsh’s original bill, including casino gaming and sports betting.
On the banking front, every bill the association is strongly supporting this session is in a good position. With 16 of the session’s 30 days complete, the association has already seen the Elder Abuse bill signed into law. The other three bills being strongly supported – related to Trustee Release, LIBOR, and Remote Ink Notarization – have all passed out of the Senate and are in position to be considered by a House committee, with (fingers crossed) plenty of time to spare.
Bills of importance to the banking industry include the following:
HB147 by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City) and SB181 by Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chairman Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) is the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Financial Protection Act of 2021. These bills give financial institutions full discretion to refuse or delay a financial transaction whenever financial abuse of an elderly or vulnerable adult customer is reasonably expected. Introduced last year, these bills garnered unanimous support in both chambers, but were unable to pass into law after the session abruptly ended because of COVID-19. Senate Bill 181 was signed into law on March 9. It is now Act 2021-78.
HB196 by Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne) and SB35 by Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) makes technical changes to the Alabama Uniform Trust Decanting Act, a law passed in 2019 that provides a method for reforming or modernizing an irrevocable trust. Both bills have been passed by the House Financial Services Committee, putting the Senate bill one vote away from the Governor’s desk. The Legislature has passed the Senate bill and it now awaits Governor Ivey’s signature.
HB216 by Rep. Craig Lipscomb (R-Gadsden) is the Alabama Consumer Privacy Act, a law giving consumers various rights related to the collection of personal information by businesses. Modeled after a California law, the legislation imposes onerous burdens on businesses of all types, including financial institutions. The association had a meeting with the sponsor earlier this week outlining concerns about the bill, and the sponsor assured us that he did not plan to pursue the legislation.
HB293 by Rep. David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook) is the Qualified Dispositions in Trust Act, which would authorize the creation of self-settled trusts in Alabama. Drafted by the Alabama Law Institute, this bill could theoretically expand opportunities for financial institutions providing trust-related services. On the other hand, this bill could provide debtors with an additional option of shielding assets from creditors. The bill has passed the House and is in position to be considered by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
HB457 by Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) expands the Alabama Residential Mortgage Satisfaction Act to include mortgages securing commercial agricultural properties. This is the second year Pringle has introduced this legislation. The bill defines “commercial agricultural properties” as property located in this state that is used primarily for the growing of plants, trees, or animals primarily for a for-profit business and not for recreational purposes. The House will vote on this bill on Tuesday, March 30.
HB470 by Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest) and SB275 by Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) would allow documents to be remotely notarized under certain conditions. Drafted by a coalition of trade groups including the association, the Alabama Association of Realtors, and the Alabama Land Title Association, this bill codifies the “Remote Ink Notarization” provisions of Gov. Ivey’s Emergency Executive Orders. In short, it sets up guidelines that would allow a notary public to witness the signature of a document using videoconferencing platforms. The Senate bill was approved by the Senate and is now in position to be considered by a House committee.
HB474 by Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) and SB282 by Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) would amend the Uniform Trust Code to create a third option for a Trustee to use when seeking to be released from his or her service to a Trust. Under this option, release would be granted if no beneficiary or interested party objected to the release in writing within 45 days of receiving a notice of the release and an accounting of the Trust from the previous two years. The Senate bill has been approved by the full Senate and is in position to be voted on by a House committee. The House bill has been approved by a House committee and is now in a position to be voted on by the full House.
HB475 by Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and SB279 by Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) provides for how certain financial contracts would be governed after the publication of LIBOR is discontinued later this year. The Senate bill has been approved by the full Senate and is in position to be voted on by a House committee. The House bill has been approved by a House committee and is now in a position to be voted on by the full House.
SB316 by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) would prohibit payment processing from charging an interchange fee on any portion of a payment transfer that was attributed to state or local taxes or fees. Legislation of this type has been introduced in multiple states around the country. The consequences of this bill becoming law could have negative implications on the banking and retail industries
Through 16 legislative days, representatives and senators have introduced 914 bills – 563 in the House and 351 in the Senate – and 213 resolutions. As of this writing, 118 of those measures had been signed into law.
The legislature will take a planned one-week Spring Break next week and will return to the State House for the 17th legislative day on Tuesday, March 30. Legislators can meet for no more than 30 legislative days during a regular, and the session must adjourn on or before midnight on Monday, May 17th.
Look for this update to be published each week during the regular legislative session and at other times as necessary. This update is written by Jason Isbell, an attorney in the Governmental Solutions practice group at Maynard Cooper & Gale. Along with his colleagues at the firm, Jason is a governmental affairs consultant for the association. Jason can be reached at email@example.com or at (334) 782-1219.