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Montgomery Mayor: Occupational tax bill ‘power grab’

By DEVIN PAVLOU and MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed on Wednesday doubled down in his accusations of government overreach by state lawmakers.

House Bill 147, sponsored by Rep. Chris Sells, R-Greenville, would limit municipalities from enacting occupational taxes by requiring any such policy to pass the Legislature as local legislation. The bill, which passed the House last week, now only needs a vote in the Senate and Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature to become law.

In response to the bill’s progress in the State House, Montgomery City Council on Tuesday night voted to pass an ordinance implementing a 1% occupational tax on all those working inside the city limits starting in 2021.

“The vote we had last night was not one that we asked for, it was one that we were pressed into by a forced decision by the state legislators that don’t think cities or mayors or the city council know how best to respond to the needs of their citizens. That is a problem, that is legislative overreach in its purest form. It is a power grab in its worst form.”

Reed on Wednesday said the legislation was filed without any consultation with city leaders.

“… the fact that House Bill 147 was presented without consultation, without any discussion with local officials to me was disingenuous, to me it was not done with the right motivation, it was not done in the spirit of cooperation,” Reed said.

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Sells on Wednesday said he wasn’t sure when the Senate vote on his bill will happen. He also said he met with Reed for about two hours last week to discuss the bill. He said he learned that about 50,000 people live and work in Montgomery and another 60,000 work in but live outside the capital city.

“That’s my concern, the 60,000 who can’t vote,” Sells said. “Those 60,000 bring their billfolds, their purses, their credit cards (to Montgomery) and spend their money.”

Sell’s bill is set to be retroactive to Feb. 1, which could apply to the Montgomery occupational tax effort, though a dispute on which takes precedence is likely to end up in court.

On Tuesday, mayors from the state’s 10 largest cities, including Auburn, Birmingham, Hoover, Decatur, Huntsville, Madison, Mobile and Tuscaloosa, sent a letter opposing the bill to lawmakers.

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