Cities oppose bill exempting some companies from business licenses

The Alabaster City Council passed a resolution during its April 13 meeting opposing a bill being considered by the Alabama Legislature. (File)

The Alabaster City Council passed a resolution during its April 13 meeting opposing a bill being considered by the Alabama Legislature. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

Some local cities have voiced opposition to a bill under consideration in the Alabama Legislature, claiming the bill could have far-reaching effects across the state if it passes.

The bill is being sponsored by Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, in the Alabama Senate and by Rep. Ronald Johnson, R-Sylacauga, in the House.

If passed, the bill would exempt qualified home health care and hospice agencies, medical equipment providers, prosthetics and orthotics retailers from having to obtain business licenses in municipalities in which they only provide services.

The businesses would only be required to hold business licenses in municipalities in which they have physical locations.

As of April 13, the bill had passed out of the House health committee and was under consideration by the full House. The Senate bill was still in committee.

Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon said Alabaster would take an about $31,000 hit each year if the bill passes, as several medial companies provide services in the city but do not have physical locations there.

“Alabaster would probably take a $31,000 hit in license revenue,” Handlon said during an April 13 interview. “It would be devastating for smaller cities where every little bit helps.”

According the resolution approved by the Alabaster council, “monies from business licensing are used not just for revenue purposes, but to protect citizens by allowing municipalities to verify that home health companies providing services inside the municipal corporate limits are in compliance with necessary laws and regulations.”

The city also expressed concerns about the bill creating a “slippery slope as other businesses and industries start to request similar legislative limitations on municipal license authority which could potentially cost the municipality a significant loss in revenue thereby resulting in a potential for devastating effects on the quality of life of our citizens.”

Helena leaders have also voiced opposition to the bill.

“I’m very concerned that it would open the door for other exemptions,” Helena Mayor Mark Hall said, noting the City Council reached a “general consensus” against the bill during an April 6 meeting. “It’s already in place. Why do away with a small fee?”

The Alabama League of Municipalities and the Alabama Municipal Revenue Officers Association have also spoken out against the bill.

In late March, Alabaster representatives attended Senate and House committee public hearings on the matter to express their opposition to the proposal.

State reps. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, and Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo, both serve on the House health committee, and said they worked to gather input from all stakeholders.

“When it came to the health committee, I helped to bring everyone to the table to provide input,” Weaver said. “Since that time, I’m not sure what has transpired.”

“The conversation is ongoing. Hopefully, a compromise can be reached that is agreeable to all sides,” Fridy said. “This industry doesn’t need to have its hands tied by a lot of red tape, but at the same time, we want to do something that’s fair to our municipalities.”

State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said he is opposed to the bill.

“It would have a huge impact over a long period of time,” Ward said. “I’m against the bill.”

As of April 13, a phone message left with Johnson had not been returned.