Superintendent Calls Bill Designed To Help School District Unconstitutional
The Madison City School Superintendent is telling lawmakers, thanks, but no thanks. The school board requested permission to let voters decide on a tax increase. The request made it to the state with voters close to getting their opportunity. The superintendent now believes the way permission was granted was unconstitutional.
What happens now that lawmakers have already approved letting voters decide?
There are two possibilities. One is nothing could happen. Voters will move forward with a vote this fall. The other is the referendum can be left off the ballot. Dr. Dee Fowler wants the second option.
Madison City Schools’ push to replace the city’s half-cent sales tax and get extra money to handle operational costs for a new high school started in 2009.
The school board asked the city council to put the property tax on the ballot. The request was later sent to the Madison County legislative delegation.
“We have a great relationship with Dr. Fowler and the Madison School Board as well as the Madison City Council,” said Rep. Mike Ball.
Rep. Ball and other representatives along with the state senate granted the school board’s wish, but not before making changes to the bill. Dr. Fowler says now there’s not enough time to process the changes.
“That ended up making the bill, in our opinion, unconstitutional,” said Dr. Fowler.
Lawmakers must advertise a bill before a municipality can present a referendum to voters.
Dr. Fowler says the bill approved is different from the original bill drafted.
“As the representative of the Madison Board of Education, we believe the bill is unconstitutional. We will ask the mayor and city council to not go forward,” added Dr. Fowler.
Alabama’s constitution requires local bills advertise for four weeks before lawmakers cast their vote.
Rep. Ball understands Dr. Fowler’s position. He and other lawmakers insist no one tried to do anything wrong.
“It was just one of those technical things that happened during the course of the legislative process and it was an unforeseen circumstance,” added Rep. Ball.
The Madison City Council will have to decide if the referendum will stay on the ballot. Dr. Fowler says the referendum’s passage could leave the state open to a lawsuit.