Alabama Supreme Court reverses decision in suit over levy for hospital construction

By Gabriel Neves | Jan 24, 2019

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) – The Alabama Supreme Court has reversed the judgment of a trial court in a case over a levy for the construction and operation of a hospital.

Chief Justice Lyn Stuart issued a 44-page ruling on Jan. 11 that reversed the Chilton County Circuit Court decision in the lawsuit filed by Roy Burnett against Chilton County and Chilton County Health Care Authority.

In the court opinion, Stuart stated that Act. No. 2014-422 "does not violate Section 70, Alabama Constitution 1901, because the bill that proposed it was not a bill for 'raising revenue,'" but that same law "does violate Section 70, Alabama Constitution 1901, because the published notice of the act failed to inform the people of Chilton County that it was repealing" that law.

"The trial court erred in concluding otherwise, and its judgment on the pleadings is reversed and cause remanded," the opinion states.

As stated in the ruling, "on Jan. 21, 2014, House Bill 331 (H.B. 331) was introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives," and it was "subsequently approved by both the House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate," with then-Gov. Robert Bentley signing the bill on March 13, 2014.

Almost at the same time, a bill in the state Senate also proposed a levy in Chilton County's sales tax for the same purpose. After passing both chambers, Bentley declined to sign the bill, stating the bill was a "duplicative act" of the House bill passed earlier.

An amended version, containing a repeal to the Senate bill, passed. This was designated as Act. No. 2014-422.

On Aug. 26, 2014, per the ruling, "the (Chilton County) Commission amended the resolution it had adopted on June 4, 2014, levying new taxes under the authority of Act No. 2014-422, including a 'privilege or license tax' on businesses in Chilton County and 'excise taxes on storage, use or other consumption of property in the county.'"

Burnett filed the suit in 2016, claiming Act. No. 2014-422 violated articles of the state constitution and sought an injunction against its enforcement. The Chilton Health Care Authority filed a motion to dismiss and both defendants filed a motion for a judgment of pleadings. The motion for judgment on the pleadings was granted by the trial court in the defendants' favor in June 2017.

Alabama Supreme Court case number 1160958

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