The 2018 Legislative Session began last Tuesday in what many elected officials are hoping will be short and quick. With this year being an election year, members of the legislature want to return home as soon as possible in order to campaign before the June primaries. While it seems that every year legislative leadership says that the legislature will adjourn early, this year it may happen as most are predicting to be back in the districts by the end of March. With elections looming large, legislative leadership has been lock step on one theme, no controversial issues. Of course this is impossible to fully attain, but the fact that it has been said repeatedly in both chambers, really shows the desire of the legislature to pass feel good bills and go home.
One thing that is helping the schedule is the shape of the Alabama General Fund, the budget that funds non-education entities such as Medicaid. At this point, the General Fund appears to have enough money to level fund state government, address increases needed by a few select agencies, and even give a pay raise to state employees. As you will recall, over the past several years, funding state government has been no easy task, but the legislature was able to hold back almost $90 million from last year’s budget and the increase in Medicaid is significantly lower this year when compared to the past. Additionally, the Education Trust Fund remains healthy and when coupled with the good news of the General Fund, the legislature may just end early as planned.
Even though the session is only one week old, your Advocacy Team is already working diligently to see credit unions issues addressed this year. One issue that has been in the forefront as session approached is predatory lending. LSCU has been meeting regularly with advocates of predatory lending reform before the session began and we continue to work with those advocates in order to pass legislation to bring reform to the industry. On Thursday, Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) introduced SB 138, legislation that would require a 30 day term on all payday loans. This legislation was born from the meetings had before the session began and LSCU is committed to working to see it passed. While the earlier theme of non-controversial legislation does not fit with this bill, we are working daily, meeting with members of the legislature to have it heard this year. A copy of the bill can be found here and we encourage all credit unions to contact their Senators and ask them to support SB 138.
Other legislation that has been introduced this session includes measures to clean up the recent right of redemption time period legislation passed a couple of years ago and legislation to increase the statute of limitations on a civil action to recover certain debt. The first, HB 90 by Rep. Kerry Rich (R-Guntersville) and SB 30 by Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), cleans up an unintended consequence when the credit union supported reduction in the right of redemption period on foreclosed property was reduced from one year to 180 days. That bill included a notification standard, but did not address with the redemption period begins and ends if notice is never given to the property owner. HB 90/SB 30 clears that up by stating that the redemption period ends one year after the foreclosure if a notice is not given or 180 days with notice. HB 90 passed out of the House Insurance Committee on Wednesday and is now in position to be passed by entire House. The second bill, HB 117 by Rep. Paul Beckman (R-Prattville), increases the statute of limitations with witch a civil action can be brought to recover debt on an open-end credit plan, including credit cards. Current law requires that process to be commenced within three years and HB 117 would increase that to six years.
Be on the lookout next week for a session wrap up and please do not hesitate to reach out to any Advocacy Team member if you have questions or would like more information on any legislative issues. And of course, please plan to join us Feb. 6-7, 2017 in Montgomery for the Alabama Advocacy Conference.