Attorney General Luther Strange gave residents of Clay, Randolph, & Chambers Counties a reason to celebrate last week when he ruled that passage of the bill was improperly handled by Dial and was therefore unenforceable. This interesting development came after bill authors Sen. Gerald Dial & Rep. Richard Laird publicly boasted that the AG's office would defend the bills in court.
The voices in Senator Dial's head must be working overtime.
The Randolph County Bipartisan Coalition that opposed the bill was exultant. A court hearing had been scheduled for Friday on the lawsuit filed to challenge the bill. But it never even got started. Here's how the group's press release described the scene:
A hearing on Friday morning (June 22) before Circuit Judge George C. Simpson was scheduled for the Clay County Courthouse, with Ashland attorney Greg Varner representing the plaintiffs. Dial and Laird had boasted publicly that they would be defended by the Attorney General of Alabama, Luther Strange.
However, once the hearing was called to order and before any arguments began, plaintiffs' attorney Greg Varner stated to the court that, not only was the Attorney General's office not defending Dial, Laird and Bridges and their controversial bill, but rather the Attorney General had ruled already that the passage of the bill was improperly handled by Dial and would not be enforced. Therefore the temporary injunction being sought by Varner for the plaintiffs was not even necessary. A representative of the Attorney General who was in attendance at the hearing confirmed this stunning development.
Since the tobacco tax bills for Randolph County (SB-486) and Chambers County (SB-487) were handled by Dial in the same manner as the Clay County bill (what was passed was different from what was advertised), it is obvious that those bills will be voided also, meaning that the whole estimated $750,000 slush fund for Dial, Laird and Bridges has evaporated. Rep. Laird was the only legislative defendant present at the hearing but did not participate or make any public comments. Laird did, however, make some rather caustic remarks to some attendees who he knew had been opponents of his tobacco tax bills.
The LaFayette Sun newspaper reported on the statement from Gerald Dial's office reacting to the AG's decision:
When the bill was originally advertised in each county, it noted that a local district service office would be created to administer the funds. After some residents expressed displeasure with the move, the legislators removed the language about the district service and instead choose to create a grant authority. That change was never advertised as required by law.
Originally the bill passed the House and Senate without opposition, but Gov. Robert Bentley, in an unprecendented move, vetoed the local bills. The House and Senate, however, overrode Bentley’s veto and the bill went into effect the second week of May.
Um.... how is a Governor vetoing a bill an "unprecedented move?" And don't you love the "straw voters" who Dial says were "displeased" about a district office? I never heard anyone complaining about a district office, but local officials did express concern about legislators raiding county coffers and taking money used to expand water services & fund economic development.
Typical Dial. If you recall, he also charged that bill opponents didn't care about helping senior citizens.
Will the zombie bills rise from the slush pile in 2013?
It's happened before.