February 24 2017


Transportation Funding Stalls, Reset For Next Week

          Observers on both sides of the IMPROVE Act, the governor’s long-range plan to fund the multi-billion dollar backlog of state and local government transportation projects, saw movement on the bill - SB1221/HB0534 (Norris, Doss) - delayed for at least a week. The House Transportation Subcommittee, where a crucial vote is needed to get any infrastructure funding proposal moving in this year’s legislature, abruptly adjourned its meeting Wednesday when an alternative plan was brought up for discussion prior to the governor’s bill.  Some see the sudden move as a sign of just how deeply divided the House is on how to deal with the transportation funding issue.

          The adjournment this week came as members briefly debated an alternative plan brought by Rep. David Hawk - SB0963/HB1012 (Kerry, Hawk). While the Governor’s bill was listed first on the committee agenda, this bill was brought up out of order and was the first legislation discussed by the committee after a presentation by the trucking industry. Both this bill and the Governor’s bill are “caption” bills, meaning they were filed originally with minor language until a comprehensive amendment was developed. Hawk’s amendment for SB0963/HB1012 proposes to shift ¼ of 1 percent of the general state sales tax away from the state general fund and places it annually in the state highway fund. Hawk spoke to the committee about his amendment, saying the $290 million shift would create $193.5 million for the state, $65 million for county highway departments and another $32.5 million for cities.

          Those figures are similar to the plan espoused by the Administration. However, the governor wants to do such things as lower the state general sales tax, increase gasoline and diesel user fees on each gallon purchased, lower business franchise/excise fees, and other revenue adjustments in the process. Haslam has said transitioning state revenues more towards a user fee approach, rather than the across-the-board levies that now exist, is a fairer way of collecting state revenues. An extensive 90 plus page amendment to SB1221/HB0534 was also filed this week, though never discussed. Somewhat unusually, it includes a listing of the more than 900 projects proposed to be funded under the Governor’s proposal.

          In the committee Wednesday, while the Hawk amendment was being discussed, a member of the committee made a motion to make an oral amendment to the bill to exempt baby formula from the sales tax. After the chair of the committee stated the amendment was out of order, a motion was then made to adjourn the committee. The committee was adjourned on a 5-3 vote. With the delay in the subcommittee this week, the chair rolled the two bills to March 1. Meanwhile, the governor is continuing his town hall meetings on the subject of transportation funding.

          County associations have endorsed SB1221/HB0534, as members have said it better addresses the long-term infrastructure needs of county roads and bridges by providing a dedicated stable funding source for transportation needs.


Bills of Interest to EMAT Scheduled for Next Week

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28

House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, 1:30 p.m.

          HB0277/SB1039 (Hardaway, Harris) Law Enforcement - As introduced, increases, from $25,000 to $100,000, the death benefit for a law enforcement officer who is killed in the line of duty; requires the TBI’s investigative report to be disclosed to the public after the district attorney general has completed its prosecutorial function.



WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1

House Finance Subcommittee, 11 a.m.

          HB0052/SB0114 (Carr, Overbey) Taxes, Real Property - As introduced, authorizes local governing bodies, by a two-thirds vote, to prorate the 2016 tax assessment for a homeowner's real property or business owner's personal property, if the property was damaged as a result of a FEMA certified disaster between September 1, 2016, and December 31, 2016; expires on December 31, 2017.


House Transportation Subcommittee, 12 noon
          HB1031/SB1074 (Crawford, Lundberg) Special License Plates - As introduced, authorizes issuance of an emergency license plate to constables.


Senate Finance Revenue Subcommittee, 12:30 p.m.
          SB0114/HB0052 (Overbey, Carr) Taxes, Real Property
 - As introduced, authorizes local governing bodies, by a two-thirds vote, to prorate the 2016 tax assessment for a homeowner's real property or business owner's personal property, if the property was damaged as a result of a FEMA certified disaster between September 1, 2016, and December 31, 2016; expires on December 31, 2017.


House State Government Subcommittee, 1:30 p.m.
          HB0032/SB1158 (Byrd, Hensley) Natural Disasters - As introduced, creates a Natural Disaster Relief Program to be administered by TEMA.
          HB0741/SB0687 (Yager, Powers) Law Enforcement - As introduced, increases the death benefit payable to the estate of a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty from $25,000 to $50,000.