Legislative session in home stretch

By SLADE BLACKWELL / Guest Columnist

The Alabama State Legislature is in the final stretch of the 2012 session. With only a few legislative days remaining, we certainly have our work cut out for us.

There are several bills that will come up for a vote in the coming weeks, including charter schools and the legislative pay raise, among others. One particular bill that I sponsored and that I am excited about is Senate Bill 459. This bill creates a streamlined, statewide electronic filing and remittance system for sales, use, lease and rental taxes in Alabama. A system like this is long overdue in Alabama, as we are the only state that does not offer this kind of filing to businesses. Currently, a business must file different tax returns for every county, city or municipality in which they do business. In some cases, businesses must file up to 150 different returns and write up to 150 checks to as many as 150 different entities every month, causing an administrative nightmare. This is not fair to businesses and does not encourage economic growth.

The idea for SB 459 first came to me as I have served on the Initiative to Streamline Government through the Alabama State Senate. We quickly learned that a major factor in what kept businesses in Alabama from growing was the bureaucratic red tape required on businesses in the state prior to this legislation. The new system known as ONE SPOT, Optional Network Election for Single Point Online Transactions, will be administered by the Alabama Department of Revenue and will be available to taxpayers, municipalities and counties at no cost. The bill requires the system to be operational in time for returns and payments due in tax periods that begin after Sept. 30, 2013.

Currently, SB 459 has passed through the Alabama Senate and has been approved by the House Commerce and Small Business Committee and will now go to the full House for consideration.

This system will not be mandatory for businesses, but SB 459 will provide businesses with a more efficient way to file taxes while relieving the administrative burden that currently exists. I hope the passage of this bill will be the first in many steps to help small businesses grow and thrive in Alabama.

State Sen. Slade Blackwell represents District 15, which includes Shelby County.