Heated discussion and racial accusations fly over bill to change Taxpayer Advocate position

Alabama State Capitol
The first item up for discussion in the Alabama House of Representatives today was HB38, a bill from Rep. Mark Tuggle (R-Alexander City). The bill gives the power of selecting a Taxpayer Advocate to the governor, the candidates of which will be vetted by a newly created Selection Committee, removing said powers from the Revenue Commissioner.
Immediately, the House Black Caucus began voicing concerns over the bill concerning the added cost, as well as the possibility for corruption, in that those involved could seek favors for friend looking for ways around paying taxes.
Rumors had abounded that the caucus was filibustering motion on the bill due to a racial issue, specifically the fact that the current Taxpayer Advocate, Brenda Russ, is black, but that sentiment wasn’t clarified until Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) approached the microphone.
Holmes began his statements by asking if Tuggle knew the race of the current advocate, to which Tuggle replied he did not.
“Man, you know she’s black,” Holmes said. “That’s why you brought forth this bill, so you could get rid of her. You introduced it to get rid of the black lady.”
“This bill is not about her,” Tuggle said.
“It’s about race,” Holmes responded.
Holmes went on to allege that the new system would allow the committee to select “five white names” to bring before the governor for selection.
Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D.Birmingham) and Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery) also brought forth concerns regarding the bill, Givan again reinforcing the perceived racial undertones to the proposed legislation, as well as the lack of need for a change in the Revenue Department.
Knight petitioned Tuggle to delay a vote on the bill in order to craft a more agreeable piece of legislation, noting that there was limited time to look over the bill, but Tuggle declined.
“It’s a bad bill,” Knight added. “It’s just as political as anything I’ve ever seen. I don’t see how a political appointee, that serves at the pleasure of the governor, can give any solace to taxpayers.”
A vote for final passage on the bill was called for and the legislation passed, 70 to 33.


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