Alabama Legislature

Birmingham Council Sets Agenda for the Legislature, Backing Exhibition Driving, Illegal Dumping and More Bills

Birmingham City Council (Council’s Facebook livestream)

The Birmingham City Council has set its legislative agenda for 2023, establishing lobbying priorities for when the state Legislature convenes in March.

New priorities for the city include battling exhibition driving and allowing local banks to buy tax-delinquent properties, along with a slate of recurring issues.

The council’s list was approved without recommendation from Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office, which in the past has lobbied for its own separate list of legislative priorities. Representatives from Woodfin’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The council’s legislative agenda includes several priorities it’s been pushing for years, such as a law that would increase fines for littering, dumping and weed abatement in the city, or a proposal to tie city parking tickets to a “supporting mechanism,” like car tag renewal, to make payment compulsory.

Read the full City Legislative Package for 2023

Another recurrent item on the list is a bill to bring an automatic, photographic traffic enforcement system to the city. That bill got through the state Senate during last year’s legislative session but was not picked up for consideration by the state House. District 1 Councilor Clinton Woods, chair of the council’s Governmental Affairs Committee, said he was “optimistic as always” that the bill would be passed this year.

A new priority for the council is a law that would establish fines and jail time for participants in exhibition driving, which has caused several injuries and deaths over the past year. Woodfin announced his support for the bill, sponsored by Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, and Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, in November. The bill also would allow officials to impound cars used in exhibition driving.

Another new priority is a bill to cap employee liability, which would prevent individual city employees from being sued for causing damages or injuries while on the job “unless the actions were either intentional, willful, or wanton.” Woods said the bill was in response to an “uptick” in individual lawsuits against employees, which “impacts us because we don’t want people to not want to work here because they’re at increased risk if they make a mistake.”

The city also will pursue an amendment to the Alabama Land Bank Act that would allow local land banks to acquire tax delinquent properties. Under the current law, the Birmingham Land Bank Authority has the option to acquire tax-delinquent properties purchased by the state from the county. But in the past year, District 8 Councilor Carol Clarke said, Jefferson County has begun selling the tax liens of delinquent properties to private investors instead, essentially blocking the land bank’s chances of acquiring such properties.

“So the pool of properties that our land bank is eligible for under the current enabling legislation will become smaller and smaller, because they’re not going to keep selling properties to the state,” Clarke said. “We want to be able to get them through the tax lien sale process. This puts us in that queue, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get any from this new crop of tax-delinquent properties.”

This proposed amendment will be sponsored in the state Senate by Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, and in the state House by Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham.

Other legislative priorities for the City Council in 2023 include:

  • Amending the Alabama Competitive Bid Law to exempt computer programs, software applications and automotive parts from competitive bidding requirements. This proposal, carried over from last year, is intended to prevent the city from having to accept bids from technology companies with products incompatible with the city’s existing systems.
  • Establishing a procedure for the city to foreclose on non-owner-occupied properties not in compliance with local building codes.
  • Granting the city the authority to foreclose on properties with demolition or other liens on them.
  • Creating a requirement for owners of vacant properties to register them with the city, which would require a registration fee and would give the city a means “to enact and enforce maintenance standards” for those vacant properties.
  • Authorizing city administrators to obtain warrants to enter and inspect properties suspected to be noncompliant with city code.