Rep. Steve Clouse

Rep. Steve Clouse

Bills permanently establishing Houston County’s one-cent sales tax and creating a $5 fee on many probate transactions are ready for Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature.

The Senate passed both pieces of legislation Thursday, and both bills have been enrolled – converted into acts that just need Ivey’s signature to become law. The two actions highlight a large amount of activity the Senate conducted on several local bills in the state legislature’s 15th session.

Houston County, like many counties, currently adds one cent of sales tax to purchases made locally. However, the tax includes a sunset clause set to take effect in 2031.

Seventy percent of the tax’s proceeds go directly to the Dothan City and Houston County school systems. The levy’s expiration date forced the Dothan City Schools system to pay a $15 million bond over 11 years instead of 20 since it could not officially rely on the levy’s revenue after 2030.

For that and other reasons, school and county officials supported the idea of permanently establishing the tax, which has been reestablished at least once already.

Rep. Paul Lee (R-Dothan) sponsored the bill, which passed the House of Representatives on April 9 with a 19-0 vote and passed the Senate Thursday with a 30-0 vote.

Meanwhile Houston County residents will now experience higher fees on probate transactions except tag replacements or transfers. Out of each $5 fee, $3 will benefit the county’s general fund while $1 each will go to the probate office and the sheriff’s department.

When discussing the bill in February, officials said they planned to use the money to address mental health and security issues. The county plans on using its receipts to hire deputies to provide security for the Houston County Administration Building, while Sheriff Donald Valenza plans to use his revenue to train more community health officers – deputies who can make mental health assessments in the field.

Probate Judge Patrick Davenport plans to hire a county guardian – someone who can make health and welfare decisions for those deemed unable to do so for themselves.

Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) sponsored the bill, which passed the House with a 22-0 vote on April 9. It passed the Senate Thursday with a 30-0 vote.

In other bills of local interest:

>> A bill that would require the Houston County probate judge to be a licensed attorney is set for a vote in the Senate Tuesday. The bill already passed the House 69-0. If it passes the Senate, Houston County voters must approve the measure in the March 2020 presidential primary since it requires a constitutional amendment.

>> A bill that establishes a 4 percent lodging tax in Coffee County has been enrolled after passing the Senate 30-0 Tuesday. On April 18, it passed 21-0 in the House, where it originated under Rep. Rhett Marques (R-Enterprise).

>> A bill that would allow Sunday alcohol sales in Enterprise has also been enrolled after passing the Senate 30-0 on Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Marques, passed the House 16-0 on April 18. The residents of Enterprise must approve the change in a referendum for it to take effect.

>> The Senate read a bill that would lower the age requirement for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) from 21 to 18 Thursday and assigned the bill to a committee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dexter Grimsley (D-Newville), passed the House of Representatives 96-1 Tuesday.

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