Each year the Baldwin County Chamber Coalition and the Gateway Initiative seek your input on what legislative issues are most important to your business. Please see below what was accomplished through our advocacy efforts for 2023. You will see the bills that passed and those few that did not.
The Gateway Initiative has prepared a legislative priority agenda survey for 2024. The link to this survey can be found here. As the voice of our business community, we want to hear from you on what you think are the most important policy issues affecting your business. This should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete. Please be advised that your responses are kept confidential.
BILLS THAT PASSED
SB 104 Dram Shop Reform— This bill changes the standard of liability regarding the service of alcohol in the state from one of strict liability to a broader standard, with a server having to knowingly serve a visibly intoxicated person, and for that service to be the proximate cause of the injury or death. This is in line with what other states require and brings fairness to restaurant and bar owners. We recently received notice from the Insurance Services Office that Alabama’s “ISO” rating which had been a 10 (worst possible rating) has been revised to a 5 for policies effective after August 1, 2023.
HB 217 Overtime Tax Exemption— The legislature removed the state income tax from overtime that is earned in Alabama. Originally the bill was capped at $25 million in total tax exemptions. They do not have any reliable projections as to how much money this will actually reduce the state’s income by. The Governor sent over an executive amendment that removed the cap and also sunsets the exemption in July of 2025. This will give the legislature time to analyze the effects of exempting overtime.
HB 68 State Employee Per Diem Rate— Allows state employees to be reimbursed the actual expenses for traveling in state. Previously, they were only allowed to have actual expenses reimbursed for out-of-state travel. The reimbursement of actual expenses must be approved by the department head.
SB 135 Special Retail Liquor License for Restaurant and Hotel— RVP This bill allows restaurants and hotels that hold a special retail license to utilize 18-20 year-old servers in their operations to serve alcohol so long as they are a participant in the Responsible Vendor Program. It further provides that Responsible Vendor training may be done online. Previously, Alabama was one of three states that did not allow online training.
SJR 95 Mixed Spirits Task Force— The Mixed Spirit Beverage Task Force is established for the purpose of recommending legislation that would provide for the distribution, sale, and taxation of mixed spirit beverages. (1) A legal definition of mixed spirit beverages. (2) The distribution of mixed spirit beverages in relation to the three-tier system of manufacturer or supplier, distributor or wholesaler, and retailer. (3) The distribution and sale of mixed spirit beverages in relation to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and its stores. (4) The licensing of mixed spirit beverage retailers. (5) The levy of the excise tax on mixed spirit beverages as to the rate and collection. The task force shall submit its recommendations on mixed spirit beverage legislation to the Governor and the Legislature no later than the fifth day of the 2024 Regular Session of the Legislature, at which time the task force shall terminate.
HB 166 Curbside Alcohol Sales— To revise the amounts of alcoholic beverages that may be sold curbside. Limited to 12 bottles of wine, 120 - 12 ounce bottles of beer and the total amount of liquor sold may not exceed 9,000 milliliters per customer in any single 24-hour period, except restaurant licensees’ liquor sales may not exceed 375 milliliters per customer and must be accompanied by a food order.
Economic Incentives Package— Included tourism as an industry that is eligible to receive tax credits for certain levels of investment.
HB 77 Estimated Sales Tax Liability— Under previous law, a taxpayer liable for taxes whose average monthly state sales tax liability was five thousand dollars ($5,000) or greater during the preceding calendar year was required to make estimated payments to the department on or before the 20th day of the month in which the liability occurred. This bill changed the threshold to $20,000 per month.
HB 304 Food Trucks— The bill expands the ability of food trucks across the state to serve alcohol in an entertainment district. The association amended the bill to make sure that the food trucks could not serve within 150 feet of a permanent restaurant or alcohol licensee.
HB 491 Property Tax Appraisals— Several ARHA members have had problems with property tax appraisals in the past. This law sets July 1 as the deadline for notifying tax payers that their property tax appraisal is increasing from the previous year and extends the time to pay taxes and file an appeal.
SB 197 Government Fraud Prevention – Alabama’s Examiner of Public Accounts determined that millions of dollars of fraudulent unemployment claims had been paid in recent years. This new law will help curb fraudulent claims by requiring before any state agency, department, board, or commission may begin to process or pay benefits to recipients pursuant to a new program or newly instituted benefit, the agency, department, board, or commission shall consult with the Department of Public Examiners of Public Accounts to determine if there is a system or service in place which could aid the agency, department, board, or commission in detecting, defraying, or preventing fraudulent
SB 206 Organized Retail Theft- Creates the crime of organized retail theft. A person commits the crime of organized retail theft when the person, in association with one or more other persons, knowingly does any of the following: (1) Organizes, supervises, finances, participates, directs, solicits, or otherwise manages or assists another person in committing organized retail theft. This may be a law that ARHA looks to amend next year to specifically include restaurants, as groups of people walking out of restaurants without paying has become more frequent.
SB 154 Driver’s License Suspension—In an effort to help lessen the burden of those who cannot afford court costs and to avoid the dire economic consequences of losing a driver’s license, the law was change so that a court may not suspend an individual’s driver license for failure to pay a fine, fee, or court cost as a result of a traffic violation unless the individual fails to make three or more of the required payments if the court’s order permits the payment of fines, fees, or court costs as part of a payment plan.
HB 166 Class 3 Municipalities Tourism Improvement District— This bill allows Huntsville and Montgomery to create tourism improvement districts. It requires that 50% of those subject to the assessment approve of the assessment and creates an advisory board of those subject to the assessments to direct the expenditures of the district.
HB 241 Tourism Investment Act - This bill provides for tax rebates for operating a certified tourism destination project. To qualify as a mega project capital investment must be a minimum of $75 million. A qualifying project may be a tourism destination attraction with a minimum private investment of not less than $50 million. A qualifying project may be a tourism attraction with a minimum private investment of not less than $35 million.
SB 298 Sweet Trails Alabama— Develops, in coordination with state, public, and private entities, a master plan for a network of greenway trails throughout the state that shall be known as the Sweet Trails Alabama Project.
BILLS THAT FAILED
HB 429 Film Industry Incentives Bill— The bill failed to pass. It would have raised the amount of film incentives each year. The original bill as drafted gave preferential treatment to certain studios and also extended the incentives to the music industry. It will likely reappear next year.
SB 273 Child Care Tax Credits— The bill failed to pass. It would have created an employer tax credit and a child care facility tax credit to incentivize employers to fund child care for their employees and provide for more readily available, affordable, high quality child care. ARHA supports child care tax credits as the affordability and availability of child care greatly affects the labor participation rate in our state.
HB 333 Modified School Calendar— The bill failed to pass. It would have allowed local school boards to add an additional 30 days to the calendar. The summer break would have been shortened and breaks would have been disbursed throughout the calendar year. ARHA was very concerned over this bill because of the detrimental effects it would have on already oppressed employers. Disruptive breaks throughout the school year would further burden parents facing childcare shortages around the state and exacerbate the already low labor participation rate.