Proposed amendment could impact hospital funding

By STEVEN CALHOUN/Staff Writer

Representatives for Chilton County said they support a new state Constitution amendment that aims to uphold a bill passed to provide funding for the county’s new hospital.

According to Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds, nearly 700 local bills in Alabama would be thrown out if a recent appeal were upheld in the Alabama Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is still considering the appeal, and there is time to act, according to Reynolds.

“There are revenue producing bills across the state [being threatened],” said Reynolds. “Amendment 14 is to rectify all the ills from here back on those bills.”

The bills are under threat of being tossed out due to the manner in which they were voted on.

All of Alabama’s constitutional amendments require the approval of the state Legislature, even if the amendment only applies to one county or city.

Because of this, the House of Representatives often practices what it refers to as “local courtesy” voting, in which only representatives from those counties which would be affected by a bill will vote on it.

The problem arises in the difference between quorums in the House and what the Budget Isolation Resolution requires.

The Budget Isolation Resolution was created to keep local bills from slowing down the approval of state budgets. It requires that priority be given to state budgets. However, if three-fifths of the House is present and votes to consider a bill immediately, the motion passes.

The rules used in the House changed shortly after the BIR went into effect. Because of local courtesy voting, the House only required three-fifths of those who chose to vote to approve a bill, rather than three-fifths of all those present.

For example, if 100 representatives were present, but only 40 voted and they all voted yes, it is enough to pass a measure in the House, because all who voted said yes. However, it is not enough according to the BIR because three-fifths of those present would be needed, meaning 60 yes votes out of the 100 representatives would be necessary.

Amendment 14 seeks to protect bills that were passed using the rules of the House between 1985 and the present. Among them is the bill that provides funding for the hospital through a tax increase.

No changes or additions are proposed to the bills being threatened; the amendment only seeks to keep the bills in place by approving the way they were voted in, Reynolds said.

Amendment 14 will appear on all Alabama ballots during the general election on Nov. 8.