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Opinion | The bad bills aren’t dead yet

Josh Moon

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The end is near for the legislative session, but it’s not over yet, which means there is still time for a few more bad bills to slip through.

In fact, if you’re going to slip a bad bill through, now is the time. Attention is waning. The kids are out of school and families are planning beach trips. Budgets are on everyone’s mind.

So, no one is watching a bill, like say, HB540.

That bill, tagged as an “economic development” bill, is, on its surface, a decent idea. It gives increased incentives for businesses to open in or expand to rural areas around Alabama.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because we already have benefits for this purpose, which were laid out in the Alabama Jobs Act a few years ago. This bill would expand them, offering them to companies with as few as five employees and allow the incentives to cover operating costs, in addition to capital costs.

Now, we can quibble over whether that’s a good use of taxpayer money or whether it’s another gift to companies that don’t need it. And we could also argue over the numerous, numerous, numerous tax breaks contained within this bill that exempt rich people from paying taxes on commonly taxed transactions.

But that’s not the bad part of the bill. This is: It essentially hands over a massive tax break to a company building a agricultural center.

Let me explain.

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Let’s say — just spit ballin’ here — that some entity in the state wanted to build a great big ag center in Clanton (one does). Instead of just building that ag center, like normal businesses build things, this bill would instead put taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars annually to pay for this center.

In the bill are provisions to pay for the building of the center, the marketing of the center’s events, the road construction required to get people to the center and a support program for the center.

Millions. Of. Dollars.

But wait, it actually gets worse.

Alabama already has an ag center just like the one described in HB540. It’s in Montgomery. It’s named Garrett Coliseum. It has hosted agricultural events for decades now, and it has every amenity required to continue doing so.

It’s just old.

Garrett Coliseum is badly in need of updating and sprucing up. County and city officials put the price tag for the sort of improvements needed at around $12 million.

The Clanton facility — assuming one is built — is projected to cost around $30 million. And that doesn’t include the costs of the roads that have to be built to get people to the thing.

This is government at its absolute worst.

Using taxpayer dollars to build a facility that won’t be owned by the state, while hurting the flow of business into the facility that is owned by the state.

Here’s hoping time runs out on HB540.

 

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Economy

Business Council of Alabama Small Business Exchange on APT tonight

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The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) will present the Small Business Exchange on Alabama Public Television (APT) tonight, Thursday, April 9. This event is designed to help small businesses applying for federal stimulus funding under the new CARES Act.

In partnership with APT, BCA will bring together experts in business, banking, accounting, and law to answer phone calls from Alabama business owners and employers as they grapple with the impact of the coronavirus on the state’s economy. New federal loans are now available for small businesses, but funding is limited in some cases and quick action is required.

The Small Business Exchange program airs tonight on APT from 7-8 p.m. BCA experts will be available to answer questions from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. tonight. In addition, experts will be available for consultation from 9.a.m. to noon tomorrow, Friday, April 10.


To ask a question or consult with our BCA experts during these times, the phone number is 1-833-BCA4BIZ (1-833-222-4249).

 

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Economy

Manufacture Alabama launches “Ask the Experts” webinar

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Ask the Experts: Employment Law Questions Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic is a new webinar being offered by Manufacture Alabama.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, disrupting the lives of everyone around our state, country, and the globe, employers are left with many questions and Manufacture Alabama wants to answer them.

Manufacture Alabama is the only trade association in the state dedicated exclusively to the competitive, legislative, regulatory, and operational interests and needs of manufacturers and their partner industries and businesses.

Manufacture Alabama has enlisted some of the top labor and employment attorneys in Alabama to bring you the first installment of a web series, ‘Ask the Experts.’ In the first installment, their experts will be answering your questions about implementing the new CARES Act Leave guidelines, and best practices for what to do if you have an employee test positive for COVID-19.

The attorneys will also be covering questions whether they are questions related to OSHA standards, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act or the impact of the CARES Act, or anything else labor or employment-related.

Manufacture Alabama also wants to hear stories of the changes manufacturers have experienced in the workplace as a result of the pandemic, and how businesses have changed day to day operations.

Send your questions and responses regarding these topics to [email protected] and stay tuned.

The webinar will be published Tuesday, April 14.

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Economy

Ainsworth unveils website for small businesses seeking information during pandemic

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth unveiled a new web page Monday designed to provide small business owners with a one-stop information hub during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis and forced economic shutdown.

The website is www.atlasalabama.gov.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is already providing small business owners with unprecedented challenges and frustrations, so they should not have to struggle to find the information necessary to survive in the current economic climate,” Ainsworth said. “As new small business programs are announced and revised health orders go into effect, the website will be updated in order to provide the most timely and accurate information possible.”

The website was created by the Alabama Small Business Commission, which Ainsworth chairs. The site provides information related to Small Business Administration loans and assistance, unemployment claims, tax relief programs, and other timely initiatives.

The website is intended to help small businesses remain in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines and protocols. The website also provides links to every state, county, and municipal health order currently being enforced in Alabama.

The Legislature placed the Alabama Small Business Commission under the authority of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office in 2019.

The 22-member commission is tasked with formulating “policies encouraging innovation of small businesses in the state” and advising the Department of Commerce in promoting small businesses within Alabama.

On March 12, the rapidly spreading coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2, led President Donald J. Trump (R) to order a forced economic shutdown on March 12. Those original orders have subsequently been strengthened by Gov. Kay Ivey (R), culminating in a statewide shelter in place order on Friday.

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Realizing that with most of their businesses shut down through at least April 30, Congress passed and the President signed the CARES Act, which provides low interest loans to hundreds of thousands of struggling small businesses. If the businesses use the money to make payroll and to pay other business overhead costs the loans will be forgiven.

Currently, there are 2,113 Alabamians with confirmed cases of COVID-19. 64 Alabamians have died and 271 are currently in the hospital. 20 Alabamians have recovered from their illness and been cleared by their doctors. The global pandemic has infected more than 1,441,589 people globally and killed 82,933, including 7,380 people just on Tuesday (1,970 of them were Americans). Gov. Ivey’s shelter in place order is in effect through April 30, but that is likely to be extended.

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Economy

Businesses applying for aid can receive proof of existence from secretary of state’s office

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said Monday that federal resources have been made available to support businesses during the coronavirus pandemic to assist with tax relief, employee protection and benefits, loans and grants, and many other challenges that business owners may encounter during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Merrill’s office explained that in order to be eligible for this federal aid, some corporations and businesses may be required to prove their existence as part of their application. Certificates of Existence can be obtained through visiting the Alabama Secretary of State’s website.

Business owners can apply online to receive their Certificate of Existence electronically for immediate processing. The non-subscriber fee is $28 and will allow a user to download their copy for up to 15 days.

If you are completing the request for a Certificate of Existence by paper, you may access the application here.

The form must be typed and will not be accepted via email.

Once completed, mail the application, along with the $25 filing fee, to:

Secretary of State’s Business Services Division
P.O. Box 5616,
Montgomery, Alabama 36103

Those who apply online will not receive a mailed copy. Rather, a copy can be downloaded online and then printed out.

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Certificates of Existence are only available for businesses who have previously filed for formation with the Secretary of State’s Office. If you have not yet filed, you are still able to do so through the Secretary of State’s website

This documentation may also be required to process loan applications by lending institutions, banks, credit unions, farm credit, or public accountants.

For questions or more information, contact the Secretary of State’s Business Services Division at (334) 242-7221 or (334) 242-5324.

Thousands of Alabama businesses have been forced to close by orders from the state as well as local health departments. Many businessmen and women are having to make the difficult decision on whether or not to continue to make payroll. The aid under the CARES Act is a lifeline to businesses that the federal government is offering during this unprecedented period of economic crisis.

The forced economic shutdown was deemed necessary by state and federal government authorities in consultation with public health experts in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19. The COVID-19 global pandemic has already killed 12,857 Americans and 82,993 people globally. 1,050,077 people around the globe are still struggling through active cases of the illness, including 395,981 Americans.

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