The Alabama state legislature’s 2012 session begins on Tuesday. The Jefferson County crisis, and particularly the ongoing struggle to create a plan to operate the sewer system, will be arguably the most urgent–and most intractable–problem lawmakers will address. A statement released by the Alabama State Bar, however, raises another important issue: the lack of funding for the state’s court system, which has disrupted crucial public services.
One of the major factors contributing to financial shortfalls was the loss of $66 million in tax revenue after a judge struck down an occupational tax in 2010. Without an alternate source of revenue, layoffs, office closures, and delays in public services will be the result.
“An underfunded court system chills investment, slows job creation and reduces tax revenue in our state,” the Bar said. The “high-volume” courts, including courts which hear family, juvenile, and misdemeanor cases, have been the hardest-hit. The consequences have been “[b]attered women unable to receive protection orders against abusive partners; children in foster care unable to have timely adoption hearings; abused and neglected children unable to have their interests protected; and vandalism, petty theft and drug offenses going under—all threaten the rule of law and safety and well-being of our communities.’”
The Birmingham News’s report can be found here.