The Birmingham Business Journal reports that the Alabama Education Association (AEA) has filed a lawsuit to block a bill that would give a tax credit to parents of children at failing schools to offset the cost of attending private school or another public school. The lawsuit claims the Alabama Legislature’s Republican majority violated the Open Meetings Act when four Republican members of the Legislature returned to a committee meeting with a 27-page version of what had been a nine-page bill. The new bill included a tax credit that would offset the cost of private school tuition for parents of children located in a failing school district. The controversial tax credit was not in the original, shorter version of the bill.
The suit also claims the new bill violated a state law governing appropriations bills. The suit requests a temporary restraining order preventing the bill from being taken to Governor Robert Bentley to sign, and that the actions taken on the bill following a conference committee meeting on Feb. 28 be invalidated.
An order from Circuit Court Judge Charles Price later granted the temporary order preventing the bill from being sent to the governor. The bill has drawn criticism from the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama State Department of Education. Both groups say the bill would hurt public schools. But Bentley and other groups have argued the bill would give parents more education choices and improve the state’s workforce.
Source: Birmingham Business Journal, 3/5/13, By Staff
[Editor's Note: Filed in Montgomery County (AL) Circuit Court, AEA's legal complaint contains three counts: (1) Unannounced private meeting of a quorum of the Conference Committee; (2) Violation of Rule 21 requirements governing appropriations bills; and (3) Invalidating the adoption of HB84.
According to a March 5, 2013 report by Kim Chandler on AL.com, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of a taxpayer, who is an AEA employee. The lawsuit claims that the Republican members of the conference committee "met amongst themselves" to discuss the bill during the recess to the conference committee meeting. The lawsuit also contends the conference committee violated the Legislature's joint rules. Rule 21 says conference committees shall not introduce a new appropriation item, earmark funds for any item that did not appear in either the House-passed or Senate-passed version, or propose new language that did not appear in either the House-passed or Senate-passed version.
In January 2013, Legal Clips summarized an article in the New Hampshire Union Leader, which reported that the American Civil Liberties Union, the New Hampshire chapter of the ACLU, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State had filed suit challenging New Hampshire’s Education Tax Credit system, a Republican-backed plan that issues tax credits to businesses that donate to scholarship funds used to pay tuition for students to attend private and religious schools.]