MONTGOMERY, Alabama, May 7, 2021 — The Legislature met this week for the 28th and 29th legislative days of the 2021 Regular Session. Without question, this was the session’s most contentious week, as multiple controversial issues were debated on the House and Senate floors. Chief among these hot topics was Senate Bill 46, legislation sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) that legalized the use of cannabis for certain medicinal purposes. After passing out of the Senate in February, the bill finally began making its way through the House in April. Referred by the speaker to two different House committees, the legislation was amended and substituted more than a dozen times, creating a somewhat puzzling document that was more difficult than usual to decipher. Opponents were able to use these changes to their advantage, launching into a lengthy, two-day filibuster – Rep. Mike Ball (R-Huntsville) would spend nearly a dozen hours standing in the House well. Eventually, the legislation, including the changes made on the House side, was overwhelmingly approved on a 68-34 vote. Hours later, on a 20-9 vote, the Senate concurred in the changes made by the House, sending the bill to Governor Ivey’s desk.
Because the Legislature is taking a one-week break next week and returning for the 30th and final legislative day on May 17, Gov. Kay Ivey will have to sign or veto the legislation. And if it is vetoed, the Legislature will have the opportunity to override her decision. Contrast that with bills that are passed on the 30th legislative day – if those bills are vetoed by the governor, her decision is final.
Without question, the most controversial items remaining to be considered are a three-bill comprehensive gaming/lottery package sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) and a bill sponsored by Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) outlawing puberty-blocking hormones or surgeries on minors. If either of these bills comes to the House floor on May 17, the session could grind to a halt.
The most significant banking-related legislative news relates to Senate Bill 282, a bill sponsored by Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) and managed in the House by Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) that gives trustees a third option to use when seeking to be released from their service to a trust. As expected, Gov. Ivey signed the bill into law on Thursday.
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. Senate Bill 35 was signed into law on March 16. It is now Act 2021-143.
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. Senate Bill 293 was signed into law on April 13. It is now Act 2021-238.
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 bill has passed out of the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee and is now in a position to be considered by the full Senate.
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. Senate Bill 275 was signed into law on April 22. It is now Act 2021-319.
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. Senate Bill 282 was signed into law on May 6. It is now Act 2021-384.
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. Senate Bill 279 was signed into law on April 22. It is now Act 2021-323.
HB603 by Rep. Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn) and SB366 by Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) makes significant changes to laws related to guardianships and conservatorships. The Senate bill was recently substituted and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is now in a position to be considered by the full Senate.
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
SB352 by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) revises the 2021 payment date for financial institutions excise taxes and income taxes to coincide with the revised due dates for the corresponding federal payments. This bill was signed into law on April 13. It is now Act 2021-203
SB379 by Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) among other things, provides for a one-month extension of the due date of tax returns for financial institutions in tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2021 to provide taxpayers with additional time to calculate their tax liabilities under new federal and state tax law, without incurring a late filing penalty. The filing extension would not extend the due date of the tax liability by these taxpayers. This bill would also authorize the Department of Revenue, in its discretion, to extend the due date of tax returns for Alabama financial institutions by one month in tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2020, but before January 1, 2021. This bill was approved by the Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee on Tuesday and is now in a position to be considered by the full Senate.
Through 29 of a possible 30 legislative days, representatives and senators have introduced 1,047 bills – 648 in the House and 405 in the Senate – and 421 resolutions. As of this writing, 390 of these measures have been enacted into law.
The session will end on May 17. Unless they are called into a special session beforehand, Legislators will subsequently return to Montgomery on Jan. 11, 2022, for next year’s regular session.
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.