By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, April 2, a bill that would have required boats to be titled like cars was defeated by legislators who did not want to pass any tax increases.
House Bill 16, sponsored by State Representative Paul Beckman (R-Prattville) would have imposed a onetime $65 fee on every new boat sold in Alabama beginning in 2017.
Rep. Beckman said on the floor of the Alabama House, “What we are trying to do is to protect the boat dealers, the insurance companies, and boat owners who will be more easily be able to sell their boats in neighboring states where boats are already titled. The money will go to the general fund. The fee is $65. Requiring a title just like we have on automobiles makes it more difficult to sell stolen boats in the state of Alabama.”
Representative Will Ainsworth from Marshall County said that he represents Lake Guntersville where a lot of boats are and, “I have some concerns. Who asked you to bring this bill?”
Rep. Beckman said that the bill came for Alabama Law Institute. The Probate judges, boat dealers, and insurance companies are on board.
Rep. Ainsworth said, “To me, this is another tax increase…I will be voting against the bill.”
Rep. Tim Wadsworth (R-Winston County) said, “The original bill has a $50 fee. This bill has added $15 to it. I represent Winston County and the Smith Lake Area where there is 525 miles of shoreline. Everyone has a always had boats and we have never had an issue. The bottomline is this is another fee increase. We have gotten along without boat titles for hundreds of years in this State.”
Rep. Beckman said that old boats are grandfathered in and would not need to be titled.
Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville) said, “I understand the need for the fee, but the fee is awfully high.”
Rep. Beckman said, “You can’t buy a new boat for less than $30,000.”
Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile) said, “You made a good point about a title being needed to sell a boat in a bordering state.”
Rep. Beckman said, “A boat is a very big luxury item and is treated like a car in other states.”
Not having titles in Alabama makes it very difficult to sell your boat across state lines without a title. Starting in 2017, HB 16 will generate $1 to $3 million a year for the State general fund.
The bill failed to get enough votes to win passage of the Budget Isolation Resolution (BIR) meaning that it can not come back for reconsideration until after the General Fund Budget is passed in the closing hours of the session.
The vote against creating a new fee is perhaps an indicator that the House is not presently receptive to voting for new revenue increases. Gov. Bentley has a package of $541 million in tax increases that he wants passed.