By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
This week, a series of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) supported bills will be discussed in the Alabama State Legislature. HB 601, HB 544, and HB 542 would raise revenues for the ADAI which was struck hard last year by budget cuts to the State of Alabama’s General Fund.
HB 601 would raise the biannual fee to register a pesticide product for sale in Alabama from $400 to $600. There are 13,000 chemical products that are registered in Alabama. Anything that kills germs as well as agricultural chemicals such as herbicides is on this list. Last year 14 chemical product inspectors were eliminated at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI). HB 601 would allow the ADAI to replace some of those employees. The fee would be paid for by the chemical companies such as: Dow Ag. Science, SE Johnson, Monsanto, Sygenta, etc. This legislation is supported by both the Southern Crop Protection Association and the Consumer Specialty Products Association.
HB 544 would allow the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to raise the fees for seed inspection services. The money from the seed inspections services would go toward modernizing and maintaining the Alabama Seed Laboratory. Seed is produced on the farm. It is the job of the Alabama Seed Laboratory to inspect that seed for the presence of weed seed, germination rate, inert material, and other quality factors so that consumers and farmers know that the seed that they purchase in the state is of the highest quality. Also for Alabama seed to be marketed across state lines or exported to other countries it must be inspected. Likewise seed from other states or countries sold in Alabama has to be inspected by the Alabama Seed Laboratory. The Alabama Seed lab has been adversely affected by recent budget cuts. This bill has been endorsed by the Alabama Seed Association.
HB 543 would raise the amount of the fuel inspection fees paid to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries from 5% to 10%. The bill does not increase the fee paid by consumers or industry it just doubles the amount of the fee that is earmarked for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. This money comes from the inspection fee charged on any fuel that is for sale, stored, or used in the state of Alabama. The fee is 2 cents a gallon on gasoline, 2 cents/g. on clear diesel not subject to the state excise tax, 2 cents/g. on dyed diesel, 1/40th cent on jet fuel, 15 cents/g. on lubricating oil, and 1 cents/g. on kerosene. Currently the ADAI gets 5% (or at least $175,000 a month) of the fuel inspection money, the 67 counties in Alabama split an equal share of 13.87%, The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) gets $408,981 a month, the incorporated towns and cities of Alabama get 2.67%, and the balance goes to ALDOT. The money would be used to hire more inspectors to test the safety of petroleum products sold in Alabama and for the Division of Weights and Measures to properly inspect and calibrate fuel pumps in the state. The bill’s supporters estimate that ADAI would gain an additional $3,000,000 a year from these changes. The cities, counties, and ALDOT would share in the $3,000,000 loss. Commissioner McMillan believes that new technologies and more inspectors will actually capture revenues that are being lost now so that the cities, counties, and ALDOT would actually get more revenue by the change rather than less.
HB 542 would repeal the statute requiring that weigh master applicants pay a $1000 weigh master bond. Legally, anyone who operates a commercial scale that measures more than 31 pounds is required to post the $1000 bond with the state of Alabama. This statute has been on the books since 1927. No one has made a claim on a weigh master bond in 12 years.
HB 542, HB 543, and HB 544 were introduced by Rep. Steve Clouse (R) from Ozark. HB 601 was introduced by Rep. Chad Fincher (R) from Semmes. Despite the economic recovery which has seen unemployment rates drop across Alabama, the Alabama General Fund Budget is still in dire straits. Alabama is one of the few states that earmark most of the state budget. Most state revenues are earmarked for the Alabama Education Fund which is in better financial shape than the General Fund where prisons and Alabama Medicaid take most of the un-earmarked revenues.