Wood/Estes aim to protect police jurisdiction revenue

Published 9:30 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

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A bill was recently filed in the Alabama State House to extend the deadline for cities to submit their revenue from police jurisdictions. House Representative Debbie Wood is co-sponsoring the bill with Representative Tracy Estes. 

Wood and Estes’ bill has been filed to extend the deadline by 12 months. They plan to try to introduce the bill to the committee Wednesday or May 10. However, Wood said that Senator Chris Elliott likely won’t support the bill. 

The bill originally filed by Elliott requires cities that perform services and collect money in the police jurisdiction to spend that money in the area. Cities were required to submit information on how much money they collected and how they spent it. 

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“I think that the intention of the bill was to ensure that police jurisdictions were taken care of with funds that are collected there and those people whose needs are being met … I think oftentimes we pass legislation, and there are consequences — unintended — that happen. And this is just one of those and we should be responsible to fix this,” Wood said. 

Over 100 municipalities in the state missed the deadline for the bill. Not only will those cities lose major revenue but the police jurisdictions will lose the public safety services that the cities provide. 

Lanett and LaFayette both provide police, fire and ambulance services to areas within police jurisdiction. In the city of Lanett, the revenue lost from the police jurisdiction is close to $800,000, Wood said. 

“If we say because you didn’t turn in your form, you can no longer do business in PJs, who’s going to pick up those services?” Wood said. 

As it stands, the county would then take on the tax revenue and the public services of the police jurisdiction areas. Wood said the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have the manpower to cover the large areas that Lanett and LaFayette service, including Huguley, Fredonia and Five Points. 

“The people are going to be served, no matter what,” said County Attorney Skip McCoy. 

McCoy is hopeful that the new bill will pass. However, if the current bill holds, the county and the municipalities will discuss how best to distribute the funds to meet the needs of the citizens. 

“The utilization of the sales tax funds would be there to fund that utilization regardless of how or who performs the services … We have a good working relationship between the county and cities,” McCoy said. “And I’m sure that we can resolve something that will be beneficial to each entity as well as the citizens.”

Wood said that they are willing to agree on a compromise to find a solution that doesn’t negatively impact communities in the police jurisdiction. 

“It is about public safety,” Wood said. “This is a huge issue, and I’m fighting to make sure that our citizens and our community have what they need, and that we haven’t passed a bill that’s going to impact them in a negative way.”

The state is halfway through its session. If their bill fails, Wood said she would like to discuss drafting a bill to exempt municipalities that provide a certain percentage of public services in the county.