2024 Election

Commissioners Endorse Amendment 1, Say It’s Needed to Address Local Issues

Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales makes a point as Commissioner Joe Knight listens in a meeting 1-25-2024. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The Jefferson County Commission on Thursday passed a resolution endorsing Amendment 1 on the March 5 ballot, but not before two commissioners gained greater understanding of the measure.

Joe Knight explained during Tuesday’s committee meeting that the amendment would make it easier for legislators to pass local legislation earlier in the session. It would allow legislators to take up bills that are specific to one county before it takes up the state’s budgets. Normally, the legislators must have 3/5 of a quorum vote to OK a budget isolation resolution, which allows them to take on other bills before the budgets. It often is late in the session before the budgets are passed.

It can be complicated to get a supermajority of legislators to vote on local legislation in which their constituents have no interest.

Sheila Tyson and Lashunda Scales expressed concern that the amendment might open the door to party politics, with the majority party having an easier path to passing what it wants and blocking what it doesn’t.

“This will open the door for them to pass (legislation) quicker,” Tyson said.

“When you say, ‘we and they,’ who are you talking about?” Commission President Jimmie Stephens asked.

“Democrats and Republicans,” Tyson replied, “since you want to call it out.”

Stephens, a Republican like Knight, told Democrats Tyson and Scales that they were “negotiating against yourself,” saying that Republicans have a supermajority in the overall state Legislature but only a “razor-thin majority” in the Jefferson County delegation.

Johnny Curry, an assistant tax collector in Jefferson County’s Bessemer Division, speaks to the County Commission, 1.25.24. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Knight invited Johnny Curry, an assistant tax collector for the Bessemer Division, to chime into the discussion. Curry is a former state legislator who served 16 years, from 1986 to 2002.

“I do believe (the amendment) enhances the power of the Jefferson County delegation to decide its own issues,” Curry said. “I don’t want to tell you that it gives universal control over everything to the Jefferson County delegation because it never does. It improves your situation. It increases the control and the outcome that you will have over more issues than what you have.”

Curry, a Republican, said he understands the concerns of the Democrats on the commission. “During the 16 years, I was in the Legislature, the Republicans were in the minority,” he said.

The resolution passed with Stephens, Knight and Scales voting for the resolution. Tyson abstained and Mike Bolin was absent.

“Jefferson County has got to win,” Scales said. “We have some things that may be minor to some, like dumping, for example, and increasing the amount of … fines as a penalty. That matters to us. It may not matter to anyone else, but it matters to us and it’s costing us money in order to keep these right-of-ways clean.”