First public meeting set
for July 15 in Huntsville
July 7, 2002
The governors recommendation for a citizens
commission to study constitution reform has come to pass.
The recommendation of Gov. Thomas E. Kilby, that is, who
pushed the Legislature to call a convention to replace Alabamas
1901 Constitution in 1923.
Seventy-nine years later, the Alabama Citizens Commission
for Constitutional Reform will hold its first session July 15 in Huntsville
at Constitution Village at 8:30 a.m. The setting is wonderfully symbolic;
a citizens convention drafted the states first constitution
in that city in 1819, and it was a much better fundamental charter than
the sixth constitution, the one now shackling Alabama.
The commission, part of the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional
Reforms efforts to bring a new constitution to the state, wont
rewrite the document. Instead, it will meet four times around the state
through December, including in Birmingham Sept. 9, gathering citizens
suggestions about reform. It also will compile best practicesresearch
to aid an eventual citizens convention as it drafts a new constitution.
Secretary of State Jim Bennett, who has pushed hard for
a new constitution, leads the commission of 23 citizens, which includes
an associate Supreme Court justice, pastors, business owners, civic
leaders, lawyers, educators and retired military.
The commission is a necessary step toward a new document.
It will make its recommendations to the Legislature and governor, whomever
that may be, probably in January 2003 before the governors inauguration
and the Legislature goes into session, according to ACCR spokeswoman
Whats important about the commissions work
is that its meetings around the state through the rest of the year will
help keep the issue of constitution reform out front, where it belongs.
So far this election year, gubernatorial candidates have had little
to say about a new constitution.
Thats unfortunate, because the 1901 constitution
is so flawed. Among its problems: It ties the hands of local governments
as it concentrates power in Montgomery, allowing special interests to
control the Legislature more easily; much of Alabamas flagrantly
unfair tax structure is embedded in the document; it locks up spending
on specific projects, making it virtually impossible for lawmakers to
respond to critical needs.
Gov. Don Siegelman has said he wants a new constitution,
and pushed in this years legislative session the ACCR-drafted
legislation that would have let voters decide in November whether they
wanted a citizens convention to write a new document. But Siegelman
has spent much more time campaigning for his lamentable lottery idea.
U.S. Rep. Bob Riley has backed away from full-fledged constitution reform
and now says he wants a commission to study reform in just two areas:
home rule for counties and earmarking of tax dollars.
Getting a new constitution ought to become a major topic
of discussion during the gubernatorial campaign. With a citizens
commission holding public meetings about the need to do so, maybe it
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