Friday, March 13, 2015

Sponsor Rewrites Data Breach Bill
to Address Retailers’ Concerns

ArthurOrrSen. Arthur Orr (pictured), R-Decatur, this week substantially rewrote SB106, a data breach notification bill, after the Alabama Retail Association raised concerns about language in the original legislation that punished retailers disproportionately to other entities that might be responsible for a breach.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday, the committee adopted a substitute bill that completely deletes the section of the bill that would have forced retailers to essentially hand banks a blank check whenever retail breaches occur. Alabama Retail thanks Orr for his willingness to listen and act on the retail industry’s concerns.

Orr asked that the bill be carried over until the committee’s meeting on Wednesday of next week. Your association continues to provide input to the bill’s author on provisions of the legislation that need tweaking.

Orr’s Alabama Information Protection Act now requires breached entities to notify Alabama’s attorney general, credit-reporting agencies and Alabamians whose information has been compromised of data breaches. Violators face penalties of up to $50,000 for each breach, but the legislation does not establish a new private cause of action for a civil lawsuit.

Alabama is one of three states without a data breach notification. The time is right for our state to adopt legislation that provides consumers with timely notification of data breaches. Alabama Retail will continue to ensure any legislation adopted doesn’t punish retailers who already face spending at least $6.75 billion to replace payment terminals nationwide to accept more secure credit and debit cards.

Because of rules from card issuers, not legislation, liability for credit/debit card fraud shifts Oct. 1 from the card issuers to retailers if those retailers have not adopted payment terminals that accept cards using Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) chip technology. Automated fuel dispensers will have until 2017 to make the shift to EMV. From credit card machines to gas pumps, every single point of sale terminal will need to be replaced to complete chip migration by those deadlines.


FIRST LAWS OF 2015

Governor’s Signature Preserves
Alcohol Sales in More Than 30 Small Cities

The first two bills signed into law in the 2015 regular session will allow businesses to continue to sell alcohol in more than 30 small Alabama cities that approved alcohol sales in referendums since 2009. The Alabama Retail Association, along with the mayors of the cities involved and other interested parties, shepherded the bills through the legislative process in the first two weeks of the session.

In late February, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned a 2009 law that allowed Alabama towns and cities with populations of more than 1,000 and less than 7,000 to vote on alcohol sales. A 1984 law had allowed cities of more than 7,000 to approve alcohol sales. Trouble was the 2009 law specifically excluded Clay, Randolph and Blount counties, which the high court said violates the Alabama Constitution.

Act. No. 2015-2 by Rep. Jimmy Martin, R-Clanton, and Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, removes the language that excluded Clay, Randolph and Blount counties, while Act. No 2015-1, also by Martin and Sanford, ratify the elections, both wet and dry, that have already taken place.

The businesses operating based on the referendums held since 2009 did not have to suspend alcohol sales immediately after the Feb. 27 decision, as parties in the case have until today, March 13, to seek a rehearing before the Alabama Supreme Court.

Passage of the legislation allows businesses to operate as they did before the Supreme Court’s ruling and allows cities of 1,000 or more people in Clay, Randolph and Blount counties to vote on alcohol sales, if they so desire.

Alcohol sales in cities affected by the Supreme Court ruling and the remedying legislation include: Aliceville, Blountsville, Brent, Bridgeport, Carbon Hill, Cedar Bluff, Centre, Centreville, Chatom, Cleveland, Collinsville, Dora, Elba, Fayette, Frisco City, Geneva, Good Hope, Grove Hill, Guin, Haleyville, Hanceville, Hollywood, Jemison, New Brockton, Oneonta, Priceville, Reform, Rogersville, Samson, Slocomb, Suligent, Thorsby, Town Creek and Winfield.


FEDERAL

Marketplace Fairness Act is Back;
Contact Alabama’s Congressional Delegation

This week, senators who championed the Marketplace Fairness Act in the last Congress reintroduced the bill that will create a national standard for online sales tax collection and end the unfair advantage the current system gives to mega, online retailers.

U.S. Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., and nine others introduced S. 698 Tuesday. Contact Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions and ask them to sign on as co-sponsors. Both voted for the bill in 2013.

Also contact your representatives and let them know it’s time to close the online sales tax loophole and pass the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2015.

Click Here to Find Your Representative in the U.S. House

Lawmakers need to hear about the impact untaxed Internet sales have on local stores, jobs and the economy. Let them know it is imperative to pass legislation that would level the playing field between online and bricks-and-mortar retailers.

The new legislation mirrors language that the U.S. Senate approved in 2013 with overwhelming bipartisan support. It continues to exempt small remote sellers with less than $1 million in annual nationwide remote sales from collecting sales and use taxes. This year’s version delays implementation by one year after enactment.

Consensus continues to grow for closing the online sales tax loophole. Last week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Supreme Court went badly astray in its 1992 decision that said states may not collect taxes from companies without some local physical presence. He said that decision should be reversed by the Court or Congress.

The Internet has caused far-reaching systemic and structural changes in the economy, and, indeed, in many other societal dimensions,” Kennedy wrote. “A connection to a shopper’s favorite store is a click away — regardless of how close or far the nearest storefront.

Today buyers have almost instant access to most retailers via cellphones, tablets and laptops,” he wrote. “As a result, a business may be present in a state in a meaningful way without that presence being physical in the traditional sense of the term.

Thank you for your continued support of e-fairness. Alabama Retail will keep you updated as Congress considers e-fairness legislation.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

House Approves Three Made in Alabama Jobs Incentive Bills

In unanimous votes Tuesday, the Alabama House approved three bills in the Made in Alabama jobs incentive package being pushed by the governor and the Alabama Republican Party caucuses.

Approved were:

  • HB58, the Alabama Jobs Act, by Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, which gives businesses that create at least 50 jobs in our state: a jobs credit equal to 3 percent of the company’s previous year’s wages paid to new employees; and an investment credit of 1.5 percent, both good for 10 years. The bill was amended to add tourist destinations projects and to have the legislative advisory committee monitoring the projects to reflect the racial diversity of the state. The bill passed on a vote of 101-0.
  • HB57, the Alabama Veterans and Rural Jobs Act, by Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatom, which extends additional incentives to Alabama Jobs Act projects that create at least 25 jobs and locate in rural counties with 70,000 or fewer residents. The House amended the bill to include cities with populations under 25,000 in the definition of rural. The legislation also gives additional job credits to the Jobs Act qualifying projects that employ veterans as at least 12 percent of their workforce. The bill passed on a vote of 102-0.
  • HB59, the Alabama Reinvestment and Abatements Act, by Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, which creates incentives to encourage existing Alabama businesses to reinvest in their current operations. Businesses must have at least $2 million in new capital expenditures and must be a type eligible for the Jobs Act incentives. The bill passed on a vote of 103-0.

The incentives in all three bills are offered through a pay-as-you-go system. The incentives are only given after jobs are created and investments are made. All three bills now go to the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee for consideration.


TAXES

Clouse Introduces Vehicle Sales and Vehicle Rental Taxes

Increased taxes on vehicles and vehicle rentals are the latest revenue-raising measures backed by Gov. Robert Bentley to be introduced in the Alabama Legislature.

HB268 changes the state rates for motor vehicle sales and use tax from two percent to three percent, rather than the original increase of four percent proposed by the governor. The bill also prohibits local jurisdictions from adding new vehicle taxes.

HB267 increases the state’s motor vehicle rental tax from one and one-half percent to four percent.

Both bills are sponsored by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, and have been assigned to the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.

Before the session began, the governor said he would propose $541 million in revenue options to help bolster the state’s General Fund.


Senate OKs Adding Lodging Tax Filings to ONE SPOT

On a vote of 27-0 Wednesday, the Alabama Senate approved SB130 by Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, which would allow the filing and remittance of county and municipal lodgings tax through the ONE SPOT filing system and provide a uniform due date for local taxes eligible to be filed through the ONE SPOT filing system. The bill now goes to the House County and Municipal Government Committee for consideration.


Panel Approves Occupational Tax Ban

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee on Wednesday approved HB149 by Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery, which proposes a constitutional amendment to prevent counties and cities from imposing an occupational tax after Jan. 1, 2017. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.


Credit for Returned Battery Before Tax Clears Committee

The House State Government Committee on Wednesday approved HB26 by Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, which would make sales tax on new automotive batteries based on the price of the new battery minus any credit for the return of an old battery. Currently, if a used automotive battery is taken in as a credit on a new battery, sales tax is due on the full purchase price of the new battery without regard for any credit on the old battery. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.


Bill to Tax Vapor Products

HB224 by Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Bay Minette, places a 25-cent tax on each fluid millimeter of nicotine solution in any consumable vapor product, or electronic smoking device. Currently, these items are taxed at the general sales tax rate. Invoices from manufacturers must state the amount of consumable product in milliliters, under the bill. HB224 has been assigned to the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.


Bill Proposes Tax Credit for U.S. 80 Area
Businesses That Hire Students

HB116 by Rep. Thad McClammy, R-Montgomery, provides an income tax credit for hiring a student under 19 enrolled in a public high school during school breaks, after school or on weekends whose place of residence is within 30 miles of U.S. 80. It has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Education Committee.


ALCOHOL

House OKs Five Local Alcohol Sales Bills

The Alabama House on Wednesday approved five local alcohol sales bills, sending them all to the Senate Local Legislation Committee.

Approved were:

  • HB124, which would give the Sylacauga City Council, and HB125, which would give the Oak Grove Town Council, the authority to ask voters if they would like to allow alcohol sales after 1 p.m. on Sundays. Both bills are by Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga.
  • HB20 by Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, which would allow the Millbrook City Council by a majority vote to authorize draft beer sales and permit Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption. The Senate Local Legislation Committee on Wednesday approved the Senate companion, SB 42 by Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery.
  • HB81 by Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka, which would allow the Wetumpka City Council to authorize Sunday alcohol sales for on-premise consumption in Wetumpka between noon and 9:30 p.m. The Senate Local Legislation Committee on Wednesday approved the Senate companion, SB47 by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville.
  • HB82 by Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka, which allows the Wetumpka City Council to authorize draft beer sales in the city. The Senate Local Legislation Committee on Wednesday approved the Senate companion, SB48 by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville.

Lawmakers Introduce Alcohol-Related Bills

Legislators introduced several bills related to alcohol sales this week, including:

  • HB137 by Rep. Harry Shiver, R-Bay Minette, gives the city of Bay Minette a year from Oct. 1 to hold a referendum to determine if businesses in that city can sell or dispense alcoholic beverages on Sunday for on-premises consumption. It has been assigned to the House Baldwin County Legislation Committee.
  • HB219 by Rep. Tommy Hanes, R-Bryant, and SB171 by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, would allow the Scottsboro City Council by a majority vote to regulate and permit Sunday alcohol sales. The bills have been assigned to the respective Local Legislation committees.
  • HB220 by Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, would allow wine manufacturers to sell wine at three satellite tasting rooms located somewhere other than at the manufacturing location. The wine-makers would not be able to sell at more than five special events annually for on-premises or off-premises consumption. Currently, wine manufacturers can only sell wine at the manufacturing facility. The bill has been assigned to the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
  • HB223 by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, and SB168 by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, allow the Fort Payne City Council to authorize the sale of draft or keg beer or malt beverages in the city limits. The act will become effective following passage and approval by governor. The bills have been assigned to the respective Local Legislation committees.
  • SB207 by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, would allow licensed alcohol sellers to move from one location to another without having to pay an additional fee, reapply for a license or be re-inspected by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The local governing jurisdiction must approve of the relocation. This includes sale of items for off-premise consumption. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee.
  • SB210 by Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, requires that wet/dry elections be held no less than 82 days nor more than 97 days following the date a petition is filed for a referendum. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on County and Municipal Government Committee.
  • SB214 by Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, would create a license for limited production breweries that allows them to produce beer and operate a restaurant on their licensed premises and sell their beer at the brewery and restaurant. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee.

UNEMPLOYMENT

Committee Approves Bill Encouraging
Unemployed to Work Part Time

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee on Wednesday approved HB19 by Rep. Jack D. Williams, R-Birmingham, which would allow the unemployed to earn some money without reducing their unemployment benefits. The bill alters the formula for calculating the individual weekly unemployment benefit payment if the beneficiary is earning money, either through forced hours reduction or a part-time job. The Labor-Department-requested bill allows earnings up to one third of the weekly benefit. Any money earned beyond that level would result in that dollar amount reduction in the unemployment benefit. The maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Alabama is $265, so the bill would allow $88.33 in earnings before any penalty would be taken from that maximum benefit. Since 1963, the amount an unemployment beneficiary could earn weekly without penalty to their benefits has been $15. The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development will debate the Senate companion, SB 46 by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, and its House companion, at its meeting next week.


LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT

Panel Carries Over Bill Banning Employers
from Asking About Arrests/Convictions
Until a Job is Offered

The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee this week carried over SB134 by Sen. Quinton T. Ross Jr., D-Montgomery, which makes it unlawful for an employer to ask job applicants information relating to arrests or conviction of crimes. The committee is expected to take up the bill at its Wednesday meeting. The bill specifically prohibits employers from inquiring into or considering an applicant’s conviction history for consideration of a job until after the applicant has received a conditional job offer, except when a conviction is directly related to the position of employment sought. It also prohibits licensing authorities from considering conviction history until the applicant is found otherwise qualified for the license, except when a conviction is directly related to the occupation of the license sought. It also requires employers to maintain employment records related to conviction history for three years. Upon first offense, violations of the bill’s provisions could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and counseling from the Alabama Department of Labor . Subsequent violations are subject to a $2,000 fine per violation. The bill allows employees denied employment based on violations of this act to bring a civil action against the employer. The bill also presumes if there are no records, the employer violated the law.


Smitherman Introduces Workplace Anti-Bullying Legislation

Sen. Rodger M. Smitherman, R-Birmingham, this week introduced SB195, which would make harassment, intimidation, or bullying in the workplace an unfair labor practice. The bill requires employers to establish and implement a policy to address harassment, intimidation or bullying in the workplace and to promote harassment and bullying prevention. It would provide a cause of action for an employee against an employer or fellow employee who commits harassment, intimidation or bullying. Harassment, intimidation and bullying are defined as any act that substantially interferes with an employee’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Alabama’s Labor Commissioner would adopt rules to enforce this act. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee.


LABELING

Catfish Origin Notification Bill Now in Both Chambers

Wednesday, Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, introduced SB211, the Senate companion to HB186, which Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston, introduced last week. The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee will consider Singleton’s bill Wednesday. The bills would require restaurants, grocery delis and other food service establishments to notify customers of the country of origin for the entire catfish species order, Siluriformes. The law at both the federal and state levels defines catfish as only those fish belonging to the Ictaluridae family, which is the North American family of catfish. Anything else advertised or labeled as catfish is considered fraud. The House bill has been assigned to the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee.


ELECTRONIC FILING

Bill Allows for Electronic Business Entity Filings

Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, this week introduced SB229, which would create an electronic process for business entity and nonprofit filings with probate judges and the secretary of state. The secretary of state would create the online filing system, while counties’ participation would be voluntary. The online system is to include filing of forms, online recording and payment of fees through credit or debit cards.


NEXT LEGISLATIVE DAY

The Alabama House will convene at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, for the sixth legislative day of the 2015 regular session. The Alabama Senate will convene at 2 p.m.