As promised in last night’s blog – following is the link to Governor Bentley’s proposed budget.
My first committee meeting of the day was actually cancelled due to some technology issues regarding getting the newly filed bills into the legislative computer system. The system was updated earlier this year and has experienced some hick-ups (...tech term there).
My next committee meeting was Transportation and Energy – formally known as CTU, Commerce, Transportation and Utilities. We debated eight bills and ultimately passing six bills out of the committee. I discuss a couple of the bills further below.
Driver's License Fee Increase - The bill I’ve introduced regarding the over 50% fee increase in Driver’s Licenses fees (linked here - SB44) was debated in this committee today. Background information on this increase can be found at this blog post.
There were some concerns by committee members that perhaps the bill should include other agencies. I agreed to hold the bill over for one week so that members could make recommendations to “widen the net", so to speak, adding other agencies to the bill that have the ability to increase fees without legislative oversight. I maintain a narrow focus here – addressing a specific concern but certainly respect other’s desire to expand the bill if deemed necessary.
Some interesting numbers provided for today’s debate in the Fiscal Note (linked here), the fee increase will provide $12.7M annually to the department. The fee increase was imposed on 9 February; from that date through 3 March a total of 79,000 licenses equating approximately $1M of additional funding for the department.
I maintain that some fee increase may be warranted but the legislative oversight was missing. The legislation I’ve introduced closes the loophole, requiring oversight in the future; resets the fees to pre-9 February date ($23.50 vs. $36.25); and requires a credit be issued to drivers who renewed licenses during the time frame that the new fees were implemented. The credit would be available for when a person renews their driver's license in the future.
3 Foot Law - A bill defining “safe distance” for automobiles passing bicycles was also debated (SB4). I support the intent of this legislation as we’ve seen several unfortunate accidents and even fatalities in North Alabama with automobiles vs. bicycles. My concern is should we pass a “feel good bill” or pass laws that address the problem. I’ve asked that we look into further information such as – what is the penalty/fine (none are listed in the bill) and, most important, how will this be enforced by the police. In other words, how will they be able to determine a less than 3 foot violation? I think this would be considered a moving violation by law enforcement and I’ve recommended we match the shortest distance of a moving violation that is currently enforced. This question is being researched. Even if you are not a bicyclist, imagine passing someone on a bicycle in your car at 3 feet...pretty scary. And that’s without getting into the discussion of is it 3 feet from the fender, or the side mirror? Now imagine being a police officer, attempting to determine that distance so as to enforce this law. My goal is to pass a good law, one that actually solves a problem.
My next committee meeting was County and Municipal Government; 8 bills were debated in this committee today. These were mostly non-controversial bills and after limited debate all 8 were passed out of committee.
I closed the day out with several meetings in my office regarding various pending legislation. I’ll start tomorrow morning chairing the monthly contract review meeting at 0830. The committee will review a total of 59 contracts totaling $18.7M. The 2nd day of the legislative session starts at 0930.
Semper Fi - Bill