By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter
Wednesday, April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee gave favorable report to a bill, SB256, which would require tax exempt groups to file a return on sales taxes they do not currently pay. SB256 is sponsored by Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison). This version is a substitute for the original bill.
Sen. Holtzclaw said that the bill would require tax exempt groups to file annual reports. If they fail to file the report they would owe all of the sales taxes they did not pay plus a $2000 fine.
Chairman Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) said, “We are in a budget crisis.” We do not know the magnitude of tax credits given by past legislatures. Some of these are 40 years old. I do not doubt that these entities are doing great work. Nobody however has gone back to check on these groups to see if they are still doing great work.
Chairman Pitman said that the want the Department of revenue to allow the groups to file their returns electronically.
Sen. Slade Blackwell (R-Mountain Brook) said, “I like the concept I like the idea.”
Sen. Holtzclaw said that this bill covers lodging taxes as well. Some groups have been giving exemptions on paying the state lodging tax.
Sen. Jimmy Holley (R) said, “Give me 5 examples of entities that would need an exemption.
Sen. Holtzclaw replied Alabama Diabetes Foundation, Chilton County Rescue Squad, State Fair Authority, etc.
Holtzclaw said that this is part of the process of learning more about the situation. Some may be doing a $100 a year some may be doing thousands of dollars a year. This just formalizes the process regarding the certificate.
Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) asked if this bill was a merging with SB245 (sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur).
SB245 was before the committee the previous week and would have revoked everyone’s tax exempt status and they would have to file a return to get that money back at the end of the year.
Chairman Pittman said “This is a lot lighter version than Sen. Orr’s bill. All the old tax exemption certificates would be voided. A lot of house cleaning needs to go on in this bill. Not all entities that have been given tax exempt status are 501c(3).
Sen. Dial said, “Now my county hospital is going to have to file all this paperwork. They are going to apply more paperwork to my county hospital that is already struggling to survive. This is a massive amount of paperwork.”
Sen. Pittman said that the 990 form applies only to income taxes and would not apply to sales taxes, which is why there is a need for a new form.
Sen. Dial asked if the income tax rules are going to come back to the Legislative Council for Review?
Sen. Holtzclaw replied, “It can.”
Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) said that non profits are exempt from income taxes have to come back to the state to get exemption on sales taxes. Figures said that she wants to make this exemption apply to the state only and not also to county and municipal sales taxes.
Sen. Holtzclaw said, “Every time we do that (give a sales tax exemption) we create a burden on county and local government…We struggle to pass tax increases. We should also struggle to give away tax exemptions…We have a responsibility to the people we may raise taxes on.”
Sen. Holley asked, “Does this apply to Mercedes?” There are deep ramifications to what you are proposing. There are a lot of implications.
Sen. Holtzclaw said, “I do not know.”
Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) said that a tax exemption is like a grant. If we granted the money we would say you have to make a report on how you use that money. Many of these entities may have gone out of business. I recognize that something has to be done. Thank you for beginning the process in this.
Sen. Dial said I would like to have the legislative council have the authority to look at any rules and regulations. A lot of these groups are run by volunteers. We are putting another burden on those people.
Sen. Pitman said that the legislature has been giving away tax exemption certificates to non-profit groups and that is what this applies to. Pittman said that businesses do not pay sales taxes on items that we buy for resale. Everybody who has not filed reports for years would get these new certificates. A sales tax emption is a different entities than a sales tax number. There are a lot of those little laminated cards still out there.
Sen. Dial said I want to carry this over. I am not ready to vote this out. This committee is not doing due diligence.
Sen. Pittman said, “I am not going to raise any taxes in this state until we get a handle on these exemptions.” Pittman made a motion to table Dial’s carry over motion.
Sen. Holtzclaw said that he would work with other Senators on this bill before it gets to the floor of the Senate but is asking that you let it out of committee today.
An angry Sen. Dial said, “Maybe we should just do away with the committee system!”
The Dial motion was tabled on a 9 to 4 vote.
The bill, SB256, received a favorable report from the committee on a 9 to 4 vote.
Today is Thanksgiving
Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.
Four hundred years ago, on Nov. 11, 1620, after 66 days at sea, a group of English settlers landed near what is today Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Onboard the Mayflower were 102 men, women, and children, including one baby born during the Atlantic crossing, who made up the Pilgrims.
The Mayflower, captained by Christopher Jones, had been bound for the mouth of the Hudson River. The ship took a northerly course to avoid pirates, but the decision to avoid the then widely traveled sea lanes to the New World took the ship into bad weather, which had blown the Mayflower miles off course and left the ship damaged. Off Cape Cod, the adult males in the group made the fateful decision to build an entire colony where none had existed prior. They wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.
“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.”
After a few weeks off Cape Cod, they sailed up the coast until they reached Plymouth. There they found a Wampanoag Indian village that had been abandoned due to some sort of plague. During the Winter of 1620-1621 they lived aboard the Mayflower and would row to shore each day to build houses. Finally, they had built enough houses to actually move to the colony, but the cold, damp conditions aboard the ship had been costly.
Some 28 men, 13 women (one of them in child birth), and 8 children died in that winter. Governor John Carver would die in April. His widow, Kathrine White Carver, would follow a few weeks later. There is some recent archaeological evidence suggesting that some of the dead were butchered and eaten by the survivors.
The Mayflower and her crew left for England on April 5, 1621, never to return.
About 40 of the Pilgrims were religious Separatists, members of a Puritan sect that had split from the Church of England, in defiance of English law. In 1609, they immigrated to Holland to practice their religion but ran into problems there too. Others in the group had remained part of the Church of England but were sympathetic to their Separatist friends. They did not call themselves Pilgrims, that term was adopted at the bicentennial for the Mayflower voyage. The members of core Separatist sect referred to themselves as “Saints” and people not in their sect as “Strangers.”
In March 1621, an English speaking Native American, named Samoset, visited the Plymouth colony and asked for beer. He spent the night talking with the settlers and later introduced them to Squanto, who spoke even better English. Squanto introduced them to the chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit.
Squanto moved in with the Pilgrims, serving as their advisor and translator. The friendly Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and grow crops. The two groups began trading furs with each other.
William Bradford, a Separatist who helped draft the Mayflower Compact, became the longtime Plymouth Governor. He was also the writer of the first history of the Plymouth Colony and the Mayflower. Bradford’s more notable descendants include author, dictionary writer and scholar Noah Webster; TV chef Julia Child; and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
In the fall of 1621, 399 years ago, the Pilgrims invited their Wampanoag Indian friends to a feast celebrating their first harvest and a year in the New World with a three-day festival. This has become known as the first Thanksgiving.
Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.
Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on one counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another five counts.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his sentence should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.