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Ballot wording could doom emergency services funding plan

Legislative mistake could cost those EMS services over a half million dollars each year.
Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 9:45 AM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -Poor wording on the November ballot could doom a proposed fee that would benefit financially strapped emergency services providers in Houston County.

(Voters) are not going to have any idea what they are looking at (on the ballot). It’s not explained, it’s not transparent," Houston County Commissioner Ricky Herring said of that wording.

He’s referring to an amendment that would add a five dollar fee for each automobile license plate issued or renewed in Houston County. Proceeds would be split among five emergency medical services providers.

Wording on the ballot doesn’t explain that---in fact, it explains nothing. It only asks the question,, " Do you favor the adoption of Act 2020-191 of the 2020 session of the Alabama legislature?"

That’s it. No hint of what that act is and who it would benefit, or no mention of a five dollar fee.

“It just seems a sneaky way to put things in there,” Herring, who is also a Houston County deputy sheriff, told WTVY.

Representative Paul Lee (R-Dothan) is also concerned about the mistake, but he rejects any notion this is anything other than a legislative oversight. “All the legal minds missed it,” he said.

The problem goes back to a similar EMS measure in Dale County. Ballot wording there also lacked clarity. Apparently unaware of that issue, legislative support personnel used the Dale County bill to mold the Houston County version.

“We could use all kinds of excuses. It have been the rush that cut the session in half (due to COVID),” Lee said. He hoped the ballots had not been printed but they have been.

Lee said supporters of the Dale County bill used a public awareness campaign to get the measure passed there and hopes the same thing happens in Houston County.

Herring agrees, and is using his county commission Facebook page to inform voters of the ballot oversight.

If the EMS bill passes, it should raise about $570,000 annually that would be shared among Columbia, Rehobeth, Cottonwood, Wicksburg, and Ashford EMS providers that serve less populated areas. The money could be used for operational costs but not for building costs.

he Dothan Fire Department and Pilcher’s Ambulance, also members of an EMS coalition, have declined to accept funding from the license plate act.

Sample ballots have the correct wording of the EMS amendment.

Copyright 2020 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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