If you go back and read one of my columns from February you will realize that the Alabama state legislature ignored my advice once again. I can’t feel too insulted, however, because it seems they ignored or defeated many important issues, as they often do.
One issue that I had hoped would pass was an enhanced hate crimes bill that added sexual orientation to the existing law. The house passed the bill, the senate let it die. Since a threat toward sexual minorities was recently uttered during an unsolved crime here in Bessemer, such a law would be relevant to the safety of our citizens.
But there were several other issues of major importance that were not addressed to satisfaction, including the Jefferson County occupational tax. The legislature failed to approve a replacement for the tax which was struck down by a circuit judge earlier this year. County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said, “I am stunned…We will begin Monday morning to reduce government.”
Up to twelve hundred jobs may be lost. By the time this is printed, we will have heard (again) that the new courthouse in Bessemer will not open when completed. And look for reduced services (and longer lines) in the old courthouse.
Maybe the newly created Alabama Commission to Reduce Poverty will be called on to solve this because this inaction is certainly going to create economic hardship for some.
Seriously, the occupational tax is the most important unresolved issue of the current legislative session and a special session could be called to resolve it. But why should we think the Jefferson County delegation would agree on anything in a special session when they couldn’t agree on a solution during the regular session.
Representative John Rogers is clearly right when he says that it is useless to introduce a bill that still exempts certain professionals when the Alabama Supreme court declared that the existing tax was unconstitutional because of those exemptions.
The original occupational tax passed in 1967 provided an exemption for fortune tellers, among others. Although the fortune telling industry has shrunk and they are no longer exempt from the tax (are they?) maybe we should call upon their services to determine if a special session would be successful.
And while they are at it, if they could predict for me the winning lottery numbers, my budget woes could be solved as well.