Senate readies for special session showdown

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - The State Senate prepares for a showdown over the occupational tax and accountability bills for Jefferson County. Both measures passed the House on Wednesday.

State House members okayed a new occupational tax, but only by two votes. If a single "yes" vote had gone the other way, it would have died in a tie. The accountability bill passed with only one dissenting vote. The first step in getting a new occupational tax in Jefferson County has passed. The process is not over; lawmakers still have a long way to go.

Now the battle for the occupational tax and the accountability bill will head to the Senate where fierce debate is expected.

State Senator Rodger Smitherman has said he will introduce a different occupational tax bill, a plan that would not phase out the occupational tax but phase it down.

It is not expected that the Senate will meet on Thursday. A full meeting of the Senate could begin as early as Friday morning.

Commission President Bettye Fine Collins does not approve of the House-passed plan. Collins calls it a bad bill because the tax has the potential to be phased out and says the current proposal will force a permanent reduction in the number of county workers that could ultimately force the county into bankruptcy.

"I just can't imagine that they've come up with this," said Collins, "and i can tell you that... I'm hopeful  that if this passes the Senate, the governor will not sign the bill."

Collins also disagrees with offering county citizens a referendum on the tax. She says the tax would be voted down overwhelmingly.