Anniston City Council members on Monday officially opposed two proposed state laws that supporters say would help pharmacies offset rising prescription drug prices.
That offset would, however, take away valuable business license revenue from the city, council members fear.
Currently, state law exempts prescription drugs from sales tax, but the proposed legislation -- one bill in the Alabama House, one in the Senate -- would also exempt the value of prescription drug sales themselves from being included in the calculation used to set local business license fees.
Anniston’s general fund could see a reduction of about $75,000 annually if the bill were to become law, according to the resolution passed by council members Monday.
The city’s resolution states that carving out a single type of business, such as prescription drug sales, “is a slippery slope” that could result in other businesses asking for similar exemptions, which could cost state municipalities “significant losses.”
Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, sponsored the Senate bill. Beasley, a pharmacist, and has said the bill would resolve unfairness in how pharmacies are charged business license fees.
Chris Martin, pharmacist and owner of Martin’s Pharmacy, with three locations in Anniston and Oxford, said by phone Monday that other professionals do not pay business license fees based on their sales. The proposed legislation would align pharmacists’ business licence fees with those of other professional fields, he said.
Moreover, prescription drug prices continue to rise and reimbursements, which are set by insurance companies, continue to shrink, Martin said, leaving pharmacies with smaller and smaller profit margins.
The Madison City Council in February approved a similar resolution to oppose the two bills, according to news accounts at the time.
The Senate bill was introduced on March 9 in that chamber and on Wednesday was referred to the House committee on health for consideration.
The state Senate failed to pass a similar version of the bill during last year’s legislative session.
Concern over the city’s money moved into another territory after passage of the resolution opposing the two bills. Councilman Ben Little made a motion to appoint Mayor Jack Draper, Councilman Jay Jenkins and City Manager Kent Davis to be the city’s liaisons to the McClellan Development Authority.
Little said the move was needed as the MDA board considers dissolving itself and reverting ownership of the former fort to the city.
On March 10 at a called meeting of the McClellan Development Authority Board members heard a proposal to dissolve the board and send its land and cash reserves to the city of Anniston. According to the proposal Anniston would transfer McClellan’s industrial properties to the Calhoun County Economic Development Council, which would market and sell the the property.
MDA board members at the March 10 meeting chose to wait before making a decision on the proposal, which came as a surprise to several board members. A motion to dissolve the MDA failed when it wasn’t seconded, but board members agreed to form a committee to discuss the matter further. It could come back up for another vote at the MDA’s next meeting, on April 25.
“We need to be ready to act swiftly,” Little said, if the MDA board decides to approve the proposal.
In other business, council members:
- Reappointed Dr. Angela Fears and Sonny McMahand to the McClellan Development Authority Board.
- Appointed Councilman David Reddick to the Anniston Planning Commission.
- Approved a retail beer and table wine license for Rosie’s Gourmet 2 Go, located at 3337 Henry Road, Anniston.
- Approved a retail beer and table wine license for Happy Daiz LLC, which operates the One Stop Mini Mart at 1000 W 15th St., Anniston.
- Approved an application for a grant not to exceed $500,000 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a mobile farmers market. If approved, the grant would pay for a truck, salaries and expenses to operate a mobile farmers market in the city.