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Governor vetoes tobacco tax bills

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In what is likely Gov. Robert Bentley’s first veto, he vetoed all three of the locally unpopular bills dealing with distribution of tobacco taxes in Randolph, Chambers and Clay counties. The bills were drafted by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and advertised by Rep. Richard Laird, D-Roanoke, and Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley.
Taylor Vice, director of constituent services in the governor’s office, said he believes this is the governor’s first veto. He knows there was not one last year.
“I think that the part of the bill that struck our office, the people in our legal office, and the people who read these bills is Sen. Dial’s bill was basically creating a slush fund for campaigns. There was enough (for a veto) right there,” he said.
Randolph County Bipartisan Coalition members who opposed the bill affecting Randolph County issued a written statement saying they “are very appreciative of Gov. Robert Bentley for recognizing that the Dial-Laird tobacco tax bills were very bad for the citizens of Randolph and neighboring counties and for the whole state of Alabama.
“The fact that Governor Bentley listened to the people when our local legislators have absolutely refused to do so, has certainly helped to restore our faith that government is supposed to be ‘for the people and by the people,’” said Todd Freeman and David Meddick, chairpersons of the Randolph County Republican Party and the Randolph County Democratic Party, in a rare joint statement.
The Randolph County Republican and Democratic party chairs are among the Randolph County leaders and citizens who have spoken out against these tobacco tax redistribution bills which would have taken funds and local control away from local agencies currently receiving them.including clean water for rural residents and ongoing county economic development efforts – and put the money into a blatant “grant authority” slush fund under the exclusive and unregulated control,” the statement continues of Dial, Laird and DuWayne Bridges (R-Valley).
Local attorney Kesa Johnston Dunn, who has been active in opposing the changes, is elated although she cautions it is not over. Four voting days remain in this session and a simple majority could override the governor’s veto, she said.
She said this was an extremely gutsy move by the governor and she encouraged people to call him and tell him they appreciate his courage and thank him. Call the governor’s office at 334-242-7100 and ask for Tyler Vice, she said.
On Thursday Vice said he did not think the legislature would vote to overturn the governor’s veto.
Freeman said he was glad the governor listened to what folks here were saying when they could not get an “audience” with their legislators.
If it does come back up before the Senate and House people here have to make sure president pro-tem Del Marsh and speaker of the house Mike Hubbard won’t bring it up and go against the governor’s wishes, Freeman said. Citizens need to thank the governor for doing this, he said.
The bills that would have changed or eliminated agency funding derived from tobacco taxes are in Laird’s district of Randolph, Clay and Chambers. Dial, who is the majority whip in the Senate, has these counties as well as portions of or all of Cherokee, Cleburne and Lee counties.
Opposing the bills were the Randolph County Democratic and Republican parties, the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, the Randolph County Economic Development Authority and the Randolph County Water, Sewer, and Fire Protection Authority.

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