Shelby County Commission v. Smith

Citation372 So.2d 1092
PartiesSHELBY COUNTY COMMISSION et al. v. Reed W. SMITH et al. Reed W. SMITH et al. v. SHELBY COUNTY COMMISSION et al. 78-140, 78-140X.
Decision Date25 May 1979
CourtSupreme Court of Alabama

Maurice F. Bishop, Carl E. Johnson, Jr., Birmingham, Frank C. Ellis, Jr., Columbiana, for appellants and cross-appellees.

Mark W. Lee of McDaniel, Hall, Parsons & Conerly, Birmingham, for appellees and cross-appellants.

FAULKNER, Justice.

Shelby County deputies mandamused the County Commission to authorize the treasurer to increase their salaries to correspond with those of state troopers. The Circuit court granted the deputies' petition. The The numbers and salaries of employees of the Shelby County Sheriff's office are controlled by several local acts passed in 1971, 1973, and 1976, 1 stating that salaries of specific sheriff's employees "shall be comparable to" the salaries of specific employees in the State Highway Patrol (see appendix). The 1973 and 1976 acts were amendments which increased the number of employees while retaining the salary scheme. In 1977, the legislature increased the salaries of state troopers by $115 bi-weekly. Acts 1977, No. 417, p. 559 (see appendix). The deputies, whose salaries are tied to those of state troopers, sought a similar increase but instead received only a $30 bi-weekly raise from the Commission. They then sought mandamus in the circuit court for the additional $85.

Commission appealed and the deputies filed a cross-appeal seeking attorneys' fees. We affirm mandamus, but deny the cross-appeal.

The first question presented for our consideration is whether or not the local acts, as amended, automatically carry with them subsequent modifications to the law governing state trooper salaries. This question requires an analysis of legislative intent which, unfortunately, is not readily evident from these acts. Consequently, our decision must turn on the differences between "specific reference statutes" and "general reference statutes," a problem considered in Carruba v. Meeks, 274 Ala. 714, 150 So.2d 195 (1963). There it was noted that a specific reference statute is one "where the adopting statute incorporates an earlier statute or a particular provision thereof by a specific and descriptive reference thereto," E. g. by employing a statutory citation or the specific title to an act. A general reference statute is one which "refers generally to the law relating to or governing the subject under consideration." Specific reference statutes "only incorporate the adopted statutes in existence at the time of the enactment of the adopting statute and do not prospectively include subsequent modifications or additions to the general subject adopted." General reference statutes, on the other hand, "(include) not only the law in force at the time the adopting act became effective, but also later legislation on the subject." 274 Ala. at 717, 150 So.2d at 198. The Alabama approach to this question is in accord with that taken in the majority of the states. See 82 C.J.S. Statutes § 370 (1953); 73 Am.Jur.2d Statutes §§ 28, 29 (1974); Annot. 168 A.L.R. 627 (1947); 2A Sutherland, Statutory Construction, § 51.07 (4th ed. 1973). Some jurisdictions have in the past qualified the rule governing general reference statutes by holding that when a Local or special act adopts by reference the provisions of a general law it does not carry with it later modifications to the general law. See e. g. In re Heath, 144 U.S. 92, 12 S.Ct. 615, 36 L.Ed. 358 (1892); 73 Am.Jur.2d Statutes § 29 (1974); Annot. 168 A.L.R. 627, 635 (1947). This rule, however, leads only to confusion by requiring analysis of the general law at some point in the past. See Casteel v. City of Decatur, 215 Ala. 4, 109 So. 571 (1926). Furthermore, it often produces an illogical lack of uniformity, as exemplified by the Heath case. This limitation has never been acknowledged in this jurisdiction and we see no reason to do so now. Thus, in this state an act, whether general, local, or special, which adopts the law generally on a subject will include subsequent modifications to the general law, unless there is a clear expression of a contrary legislative intent.

It is quite obvious from a reading of the 1971, 1973, and 1976 local acts that they are all general reference statutes. Nowhere do they make reference to any Particular statute setting trooper salaries. Instead they merely state that compensation for deputies "(shall) be comparable to State Troopers in Alabama State Highway Patrol." Nowhere is any language used which locks the deputies' compensation to that of Our having come to this conclusion, the County Commission raises several other challenges to the acts. First the Commission contends that the 1977 act which increased the compensation of state troopers (see appendix) was not intended to increase the salaries in Shelby County. This interpretation is directly refuted by § 6 of the act itself which states:

troopers at the time the local acts were passed. If such had been the legislative intent the drafters could have easily indicated by employing a qualifying phrase, like "as now provided" or similar words. It seems apparent to us, however, that the original drafters of these local acts intended to keep the salaries of employees of the sheriff's office competitive with those of the highway patrol, probably in order to prevent the loss of trained personnel to higher paying jobs. The effect of these local acts is that each time the legislature raises the compensation of the state troopers, that of the Shelby County deputies is increased automatically.

"It is specifically provided, however, that this act shall not affect the compensation of any officer or employee of Coosa County or of Tuscaloosa County even though the compensation of such officers was heretofore prescribed by a law, which based such compensation on or in some way related it to the compensation of one or more of the positions in the above listed classifications."

Obviously, the legislature was aware that a pay raise for state troopers would affect the salaries of various county employees. If the legislature had wanted to exclude Shelby County employees from the operation of this statute it would have affirmatively said so, just as it did for Coosa County and Tuscaloosa County. Nor do we agree with the Commission's contention that Act 417 is an unlawful delegation of legislative authority to the State Personnel Department. The statute does not grant the Personnel Department any discretion in raising salaries. On the contrary, the legislature itself directed a $115 bi-weekly increase which the Personnel Department is merely ordered to implement. Such a directive is entirely within the legislative power.

The Commission also asserts that the legislative scheme violates §§ 45 and 106 of the Alabama Constitution. Section 45 requires that an act contain only one subject, clearly expressed in the title. As we have recently noted, "The title need not be an index or catalog of every power bestowed in the act, nor of every effect of the act." Lane v. Gurley Oil Co., 341 So.2d 712, 715 (Ala.1977). Act 417 contains only one subject, salary increases for employees of the Department of Public Safety, and that subject is clearly revealed in its title. Section 45 does not require the title of an act to list every piece of general reference legislation which will be affected by a statute.

Similarly, there is no conflict with § 106 requiring local publication of special, private, or local laws. The notice requirement was fulfilled by publication of the local acts in accordance with § 106. When these local acts were published at the time of their passage, residents of the county were put on notice that the salaries of the sheriff's deputies would be tied to those of state troopers. The county was under no obligation to employ this legislative scheme to set salaries in the sheriff's department, but having chosen to do so, it cannot claim ignorance of the effect of the laws simply because they now seem burdensome. If the county is no longer satisfied with the results of these local acts, its alternative is to have the local acts repealed and introduce new legislation. Nor are we persuaded by the Commission's argument that the legislature has improperly amended a local act by a general act, thereby defeating the purpose of § 106. General reference legislation is in no way amendatory, as this Court explained in State v. Burchfield, 218 Ala. 8, 117 So. 483 (1928), so the Commission's argument is inapposite.

The Commission's remaining arguments deal with the propriety of mandamus. The Commission's argument is two-fold: (1) the phrase "comparable to" is too indefinite to support mandamus; and (2) the county has no funds to comply with the mandamus.

The contention that the phrase "comparable to" is too indefinite to support mandamus is not well taken. The word "comparable" is defined by Webster's Third New International Dictionary (unabridged 1971) as meaning "suitable for matching, coordinating or contrasting: Equivalent, similar." (Emphasis added.) Inserting this definition into the local acts reveals that the deputies' compensation "shall be equivalent or similar to State Troopers in Alabama State Highway Patrol." An $85 discrepancy is not "similar to," and it is certainly not "equivalent." If the deputies were quibbling over two or three dollars we might be inclined to say that mandamus would not lie as the directive of the local acts had been complied with. But that is not the case presented. Here the local acts are sufficiently explicit to support mandamus. The deputies are entitled to an increase equal to that given the state troopers.

The Commission's final defense, that the county has no funds to comply with the mandamus, relies primarily on the Budget Control Act, § 11-8-1, Et seq., Code 1975. Section 11-8-3 of that act provides:

"It shall...

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