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Hartselle tax bill concerns unfounded?
Representative, attorney clash over legislation's language

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — A Birmingham attorney handling Hartselle's school-tax legislation said Rep. Ronald Grantland's concerns about the bill's language are unfounded.

"He just needs to introduce the bill we are publishing and let the voters vote," said attorney Heyward C. Hosch.

Grantland, D-Hartselle, disagrees.

"My concern is that his bill may have a legal challenge if voters pass it," Grantland said. "If this happens, I don't want to take the blame from the people of Hartselle."

The bill Hosch has been advertising since March 22 has language different from the bill the state Legislative Reference Service is proposing for Grantland to introduce.

Hosch said the service's bill is incorrect because it refers to Section 373 of the state constitution.

"There is no Section 373 in the constitution," he said.

He said 373 is an amendment that became part of the constitution in the 1970s and is now referred to as Section 217.

"This really doesn't matter," Hosch said. "What matters is what we are doing and how we are doing it. This is much ado about nothing."

Advertising not accurate

Grantland said Legislative Reference told him that what Hosch is advertising is not accurate. He said he told Hosch and Superintendent William Michael Reed not to advertise the bill until he saw it.

"They just ignored that," Grantland said. "If Hosch wants to run the Legislature, he should run for office. I'm afraid he is leaving the door open for someone to challenge the legality of the bill in court."

Grantland said he will introduce the bill Hosch is advertising.

"By law, I have to certify that the bill has been published four times," he said.

According to the Hartselle Enquirer, the newspaper will publish the bill for the last time April 12.

The legislative session runs through June 15, leaving enough time for the bill to get through both the House and Senate so residents can vote in October.

The bill Hosch is now publishing is the second relating to the new high school. According to Reed, the school system paid $667 to publish another bill between Dec. 14 and Jan. 4.

That bill, however, didn't specify that Hartselle would use the money for a new high school. It said for "public school purposes," according to Hosch. Reed said school leaders wanted it clearly stated that the funds are for a new high school.

The superintendent said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, called the first bill's language to the school system's attention.

Orr, who will have to introduce the legislation in the Senate, said he didn't see a copy of the first bill until February. He said he voiced his concern to Reed because that bill's language did not specify use for high school.

"If we're going to the people of Hartselle and asking them for their investment in a new high school, we need to say that in the bill," Orr said.

Orr said he expected to be able to make the change in committee. He was not aware that the school system was advertising a second bill.

"I have not seen the second bill," he said.

Hosch said the change was significant enough that the school system needed to re-advertise the bill.

"We narrowed the purpose for how the tax can be used," he said. "This was a significant enough change to start the process over."

Reed said the school board will adopt a second resolution Monday, requesting that the City Council call for the election.

In the past, local legislators have required unanimous City Council support before introducing local tax legislation.

Mayor Dwight Tankersley said the council will probably adopt another resolution April 10.

As for the required public hearing, Hosch said Hartselle will not have to go through that again.

"All of this is crazy," Grantland said. "There is no need for the council to pass another resolution. We already know they support letting the people of Hartselle vote on the tax."

If the council passes another resolution, Tankersley said, he will make sure it says the money will be for a new high school.

Regardless of what happens with the bill, the school system will be fighting history to get in passed.

Since 1990, voters have twice defeated legislation for new school taxes.

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