U.S. Supreme Court declines to take challenge to Jefferson County, Ala., bonds

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BRADENTON, Fla. - The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a case challenging an Alabama law that allowed Jefferson County to issue $339 million of limited obligation refunding warrants in July.

The high court decided not to consider the petition on Monday.

Attorney Calvin Grigsby had filed for a writ of certiorari in hopes that justices would review a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that upheld the state Legislature’s bill authorizing the refunding and a new local sales tax to pay debt service.

Grigsby, who believed the state Supreme Court’s action violated the constitution, could not be reached for comment. He had previously acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court only hears about 5% of writ requests.

“It is finally over,” said Commission President Jimmie Stephens, referring to the lengthy legal challenge. The court “correctly rejected the petition for writ of certiorari thus closing this chapter of our history."

Stephens also said commissioners plan to continue their work as a team, implementing sound fiscal policies.

"We have weathered the storm and are stronger and more united than ever before," he added.

Jefferson County awarded $339 million of limited obligation refunding warrants on July 14, and at the time covenanted to enact a replacement sales tax if Grigsby’s legal challenge had been successful.

The 25-year deal received more than $1.7 billion of orders, forcing renegotiation in every maturity. It sold with an all-in, true-interest cost of 3.38%. The county had anticipated a TIC of 3.6%.

The refunding brought the county back to the bond market for the first time since emerging from bankruptcy in December 2013.

That bankruptcy case, however, is not over. An appeal of the county’s Chapter 9 case is still pending before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

The appellate court heard oral arguments more than nine months ago, and could render a decision any time.

“We now have our sights on Amazon to Birmingham,” Stephens said, referring to the name of a recently implemented local campaign to put Birmingham in line to become Amazon's second corporate headquarters.

State, city and county officials are preparing a bid with incentives in hopes of luring the company to Alabama.

Seattle-based Amazon announced Sept. 7 that it planned to open a second headquarters in North America. The company said it would spend more than $5 billion on construction, and that the new location would add up to 50,000 high-paying jobs.

Responses to Amazon’s request for proposals are due October 19.

“We have the infrastructure with our interstate, rail and air transportation, the workforce, and a very favorable business environment,” said Stephens.

When asked about the incentives that will be offered to the Amazon, he would only say that “all cards are on the table.”

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Revenue bonds Bankruptcy Government finance Jefferson County Alabama