The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

March 5, 2013

Judge plans to rule on school tax credits


"It was passed by the House and Senate under the cloak of darkness," AEA Executive Secretary Henry Mabry said.

AEA's suit argues that the Legislature didn't follow its own rules when Republicans in the House and Senate approved the changes on party-line votes Thursday night. The suit said the House and Senate each did it with one vote when two votes were necessary under legislative rules — one to approve the changes made by the conference committee and a second to approve the overall bill.

A Democratic member of the conference committee, Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery, and Democratic Rep. Joe Hubbard of Montgomery, backed up AEA's claims in testimony before the judge.

Attorneys for state officials named in the suit argued that the judge should dismiss the suit because the AEA employee named as the plaintiff in the suit wasn't at the Legislature to witness what happened Thursday. They also argued that any potential problems with the open meetings law were cured when the House and Senate approved the rewritten bill in a public meeting.

They also said the courts should leave enforcement of the Legislature's rules to the Legislature, not the courts.

Price disagreed. "If there were not rules governing actions, there would be total chaos," he said.

In addition to AEA, the governor is getting pressure from the state superintendent of education and groups representing city and county superintendents and school boards. They supported the bill when it was only a flexibility bill. They withdrew their support after tax credits were added. They maintain the bill has several problems, including being so broad that a family zoned for a failing school could get the private school tax credits without even sending a child to a public school.

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