State Sen. Chris Elliott is sponsoring a bill to amend a 43-year-old law extending municipal police and planning jurisdictions beyond city corporate limits.
Currently, the police jurisdictions of municipalities with fewer than 6,000 people extend for one and a half miles beyond their corporate limits while those with a population of 6,000 or more extend twice as far. Planning jurisdictions of all municipalities extend five miles beyond their corporate limits.
Under Elliott’s proposal, both police and planning jurisdictions would be restricted to existing municipal boundaries. He referred to the plan as “revenue neutral.”
“You currently have municipalities exercising authority well beyond their limits,” Elliott explained today. “They are policing, taxing and providing services to people that can’t vote for them. From a philosophical standpoint it has some problems and from a planning standpoint, subdivision regulations of cities and counties often conflict and the current law states it’s the structure of both that governs. It creates a lot of confusion for regular people just trying to obey laws and ordinances.”
Elliott said he has been encouraged by mayors and city planners statewide to author the bill, while it also was an ongoing discussion during his three years as a Baldwin County commissioner. Elliot was elected to the Legislature during last year’s midterms, this is the first bill he has sponsored.
“The upside for municipalities is service in those areas is expensive … a lot of the mayors are very pleased with this since they will essentially stop providing that service,” he explained. “Another aspect is that it may encourage annexation. Most [questions I’ve gotten] are interested in how it will be implemented but it’s very simple — you either live in the city or you don’t.”
“There are areas in the Eastern Shore where you have to get a Silverhill permit and it’s unzoned in the county — it’s incredibly confusing for folks to navigate that,” he said.
Elliott also said while Pirate’s Cove is currently in Orange Beach’s police jurisdiction, answering a call there would take a responding police officer from Orange Beach on a 21-mile one-way trip through two other cities. He said in the interest of time, dispatchers know to send sheriff’s deputies to calls in the Cove.
Further, Elliott said Alabama is one of only three states where municipalities serve areas beyond their corporate limits and “our laws are far more problematic.”
“It’s a nightmare to enforce from municipal or county government standpoint,” he said. “And for private citizens, they don’t know which rulebook to follow.”
The 2019 legislative session begins Fat Tuesday in Montgomery. If the bill is signed into law, it would not take effect until Oct. 1, 2020, “giving everyone plenty of time to adjust budgets and make accommodations,” he said.
More on this story will be in the Feb. 13 issue of Lagniappe.
196841-2 Jurisdiction bill