By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Jefferson County House Legislative Delegation met on Wednesday to discuss what to do with surplus funds that are earmarked for use by the Jefferson County Legislative delegation.
Jefferson County has an estimated 60,000 concealed carry permit holders. Every year those citizens renew their permit. $2.50 of that concealed carry permit is earmarked for the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation.
Historically, this money was used for staff, an office, and so members of the delegation can distribute checks to worthy causes in their districts. Some legislators claim that the money was not fairly distributed in the past. The office has been closed and the staff member has retired, but the funds continue to accrue in the account. On Wednesday the delegation met to discuss what to do with all that money.
Representative Jim Carns (R) from Vestavia proposed a one time sweep of all the funds over $120,000 to the myriad of school systems in the county on a pro rata basis. “Then the fund will build back up as the pistol permits come in.”
Rep. Patricia Todd (D) from Birmingham said, “Before we took the fee for the legislative delegation fund that money would have gone to the Sheriff’s Department. While I would love to give money to the Sheriff’s Department, why would we not give the money to the Sheriff’s Department?”
Rep. John Rogers (D) from Birmingham said that the Sheriff’s Department probably would not have been given that money. It likely would have gone somewhere else if the delegation had not directed that money towards the delegation’s office.
Rep Todd said that she was concerned that the money does not go to law enforcement.
Rep. Carns said that he has amended the bill to address all the concerns that were brought up last week.
This is a one-time deal.
Rep. Merika Coleman Evans (D) from Birmingham said, “I support public schools 100%, but I am just wondering why this entity out of all the other needs.”
Rep. Carns said that the delegation has been debating this for over two years and based on polling, the majority of the members seemed to think it should go to education.
Rep. Coleman Evans asked why the money was being distributed on a pro rata basis rather on a greatest needs basis and asked what the schools can use the money for.
Rep. Carns said that he would not consider distributing the money on any basis except pro rata and that the school could use it for any purpose they want to use it for. Carns said that the money had been proposed to be earmarked for security purposes but some people objected to that.
Rep. Jack Williams (R) from Vestavia said that money has not been doing nothing and asked why if there was a legitimate reason to collect that extra $2.5 per pistol permit.
He proposed a substitute that would lower the pistol permit to $5 and sweep all the remaining money.
Rep. John Rogers said, “We are a large delegation and we have always had an office. Mobile has an office why would we be different?”
Rep. Arthur Payne (R) from Trussville moved to table Rep. Williams’ proposal.
Rep. Paul DeMarco (R) from Homewood said, “…this has been debated for years. We finally have agreement. We should take this opportunity to ask why do we need an office? This is an approach to solve this now.”
Rep. Paine said, “I am going to ask the future Congressman if he wants to get rid of his office?”
Rep. DeMarco, who is running for Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District, said that he is not the in Congress yet.
Rep. Williams suggested permanently transferring the money to schools.
Williams said, “I have an amendment to take that $30,000 and use it for cardiovascular heart disease research at UAB.”
Payne replied, “I move to table whatever you have.”
The tabling motion carried.
Rep. Mary Moore (D) from Birmingham said,
“People keep asking why do we have an office? We have a centralized place to meet and so the people we represent can get in touch with us…I would like to have a place we can go to and talk…It took me a while but I did find out that we had an office with a big conference room and two offices. It was a nice place…Not everybody here is a lawyer…I am retired.”
Rep. Williams said, “We don’t need to take excess money from the citizens of Jefferson County just for it to sit in a bank account.
The motion to disburse the money to schools, leaving $120,000 in the account, on a pro rata basis passed.