Residents who opposed the changes in legislation; tax revenues in the three rural counties in Alabama can breathe a sigh of relief after the bill was declared unconstitutional in court on Friday.
After months of fierce resistance from residents of Randolph, Clay and House district, Senate bill 476, 486 and 487 will not enter into force on 1 July. The bills would be sent to tobacco tax money collected in the countries with the three members of the grant fund controlled by legislators.
“After meeting with the Attorney General, he convinced us we should have been re-advertised the bill, and that it was unconstitutional,” said Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, one of the three bills’ sponsors. “We’re not going to support some general rules Attorney unconstitutional.”
Meeting set and the Attorney General came in response to a lawsuit filed in Clay County against the recruitment, Rep. Richard Laird, R-Roanoke, and Rep. Duwayne Bridges, R-Valley – sponsors of the bill. Similar complaints were filed in Randolph and Chambers of Commerce.
Attempts to reach the office of the Attorney General on Monday were unsuccessful.
The accounts have attracted a storm of opposition in the rural districts after the first appearance in the local newspapers earlier this year. The efforts of the bipartisan organization of county officials have led to public hearings in the House of Montgomery in May, where the opposition attacked the creation of a “slush fund” created by the bill. The group also questioned the motives of the legislators responsible for the bills and the arguments for getting money from the Randolph County Water Authority and the clay and the Chambers County Commission.
Dial said the problem with the legality of the accounts “were laid only in their advertising. In its original form, the bills are designed to re-route money from tobacco taxes in the creation and maintenance of the legislative district, but the final version of the bill does not mention the office. Instead, the money will be spent on establishment of a fund, a grant-controlled set, Laird, and bridges.
“Many people do not want to open an office backup,” Dial said. “So we’re done with that, of the bill, and this is the part that made it unconstitutional.”
The position of attorney general is the same as Governor Robert Bentley took last month when he vetoed the bill. Lawmakers voted to override Governor’s veto.
Greg Warner, a lawyer representing Ashland Clay County Commission in the lawsuit, said the decision of the Attorney General “comfort”, but said he has other problems with the accounts, in addition to its advertising.
“There are still problems with the bill not only procedural,” said Warner. “We hope that the judge will decide that the essence of the bill is also unconstitutional.”
In particular, Warner said: “The creation of a” slush fund “that pools the money to be used at the discretion of the account” bills sponsors are not only unethical – as he and other residents retained after the introduction of bills – but also illegal.
“The law is quite clear that the Legislature can not create a committee of its members and the taxpayers’ money to fund it and give yourself the freedom of,” said Warner. “It should have some control and participation of the executive power.”
Warner said another potential blow to the bill may come with the adoption of the last lines of the Senate District, Clay County cut in half. Western Pacific Region, including the majority of Ashland, County will no longer be part of a set of Senate District, while residents of the district continues to pay the tax on tobacco products contribute to the fund is only available for the area.
“Half of Clay County continues to pay for other areas,” said Warner. “I think it is completely unconstitutional.”
If the judge does not rule out the contents of the bills as unconstitutional, they can be re-advertised and are logged in as the new bills in the next legislative session.
“We have not met to discuss that yet, but I’m sure we will,” said Monday Laird. “I can tell you, we can not change any advertising in next time for sure.”
Laird was the only one of three lawmakers to appear at the hearing on Friday in Clay County, but does not say. He said that the decision not to protect the accounts were based on current funding requirements for organizations such as volunteer fire departments and animal shelters in the country contributed to the tobacco tax money.
“The only possible action the judge would have been to put everything on hold,« Laird said. “All of these agencies that receive money will go without funding but it took several months to decide.”
With new accounts amazed taxes on tobacco products will continue to work within existing laws, that is money that should have been taken out of the water body and the Randolph County and Clay County Commission Chambers will be restored.