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In the early 1990s, we provided some incentives to recruit Mercedes to locate a factory in Alabama. 

This was one of the most significant economic events in the history of our state. It changed the dynamics of our state, making Alabama a leader in the automotive manufacturing industry.

Today, almost 30 years later, Mercedes is building electric vehicles, which was unheard of when the Vance facility was built. Now, what if the Alabama Department of Revenue decided that they were not doing what the law allowed- which was to build gasoline vehicles and that the law did not apply to electric vehicles? Therefore, Mercedes is no longer entitled to the incentives given by Alabama and now owes the state $100 million. 

What if the Alabama Supreme Court agreed that electric vehicles were not part of the original law, and now Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. owes the state money? Crazy?

But that is exactly what our state Supreme Court did in the GreeneTrack case. The Supreme Court said that because “electronic” bingo did not exist in 1975 – it was not exempt from the tax when the law was passed to exempt GreeneTrack.

The original law passed in 1975 was to prevent just what the Department of Revenue did – some government agency from coming along at a later date and taxing them out of business – which has recently happened with the Department of Revenue and the Alabama Supreme Court.

I know the intent of the act because I was there and was involved in the discussion and voted for the bill. 

One of the litmus tests that we, as Republicans, require of our Courts is to not “make laws” but only to interpret the law and the original intent of the law. We fight when the United States Supreme Court makes laws- but that is exactly what our state’s Supreme Court has done.

Or are we OK because this is a Black Belt county, we don’t really like gambling, and this is a Democrat county anyway, so let this all-white Court make a few laws? That is simply hypocritical.

Next time it might be the company you work for that gets put out of business with the interpretation of a law by a few select people. If it is OK for the courts to make laws today, it will serve as a precedent for the next time–this simply gives the Alabama Supreme Court too much power to impose taxes. 

Even scarier is that the Court gave the Department of Revenue more authority to seek other revenue. Where are our legislators? Are they OK with the courts making laws for their constituents? If so, why even bother coming to the next session-simply allow the Supreme Court to make it up as they see fit since they are basically doing that today with overreaching opinions?

This requires the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the blatant discrimination against one of our poorest counties, its workforce that desperately needs the jobs, and its citizens who are punished through word crafting of legislation passed years ago.

Senator Dial served for 40 years in the legislature. He was elected first in 1974 and retired in 2018. He represented the counties of Clay, Cleburne, Cherokee, Randolph, Chambers, and parts of Lee County.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.

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