No surprises for officials or the people
Athens city officials were surprised to learn that their city, along with other entities that benefit from property taxes collected in Limestone County, would have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to help collect and disburse the taxes.
City Council members criticized the County Commission and legislators for not notifying the city when a bill requiring it to chip in was pending in the Legislature. It would have been smart for all involved parties to confer ahead of time and see how they could reasonably share the cost.
But, as Sen. Tom Butler and former Rep. Tommy Carter pointed out, alert people could have found out about it by reading the legal ads. State law requires these advertisements about local bills in the Legislature — although the law would be better if it required plain language.
County Commission Chairman David Seibert said he discussed the bill with commissioners one-on-one and then asked Mr. Carter to support it. It never came up in a public meeting, but it should have. This would have helped get the word out and invite comments from both officials and the public.
However, there must be a better way to address this issue than having the Legislature pass a bill that applies only to Limestone County. Local officials should make local decisions, but our antique state constitution provides little home rule. The constitution needs to be changed or replaced.