The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Western Tribune Column May 20, 2009 Occupational Tax

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.


Politics Alabama said...

I have to say that I was gratified that both bills failed to pass.

You state that an expanded hate crimes law would be "relevant to the safety of our citizens." How? All it does is increase the PENALTY for committing a crime. And the increased penalty is based upon what the criminal was thinking when he did it. Two similar acts, then, could be punished much differently based upon the court's GUESS at what thoughts were in the criminal's mind. What happened to equal protection under the law?

As to the occupational tax, it is my opinion that it is, in fact, unconstitutional... the court will decide that when it hears the appeal. No matter how much Jeffersnon County "needs" that tax revenue, that doesn't make imposing an illegal tax the right thing to do.

Joe said...

So you think that the current hate crimes law should be scrapped, I assume. The court does not "guess." A prosecutor decides whether a crime will be prosecuted as a hate crime or not. The jury comes to a conclusion.

I can't apeak to the constitutional basis of an occupational tax in general, but if one is going to be levied, it should apply equally to all.