FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2002
Contact: Kathryn Bowden
MONTGOMERY (Aug.12) Both major candidates for governor pledged
their support here Monday for constitutional reform as they addressed
a major forum of Alabama leaders.
Gov. Don Siegelman, the incumbent
Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, his Republican challenger, differed
in how to revise the antiquated 1901 Alabama Constitution. Both candidates,
however, agreed that the document shackles local government and slows
the states progress.
Candidates for other constitutional offices voiced similarsupport
for reform as they addressed the audience of about 125 people. The
forums sponsors were Leadership Alabama and the Public Affairs
Siegelman said constitutional reform was critical for
improving education. In particular, he called for granting counties
and school boards the authority to seek more revenue from voters without
having first to ask the Legislatures blessing.
The 1901 constitution does not grant whats known
as homerule to these local governing bodies. Instead,
they must follow a complicated procedure that allows the Legislature
to exercise life and death power over local action.
Siegelman said the same kind of special interests that
fathered the 1901 constitution, mainly large landowners, were trying
to stop constitutional reform now. He blamed these interests and their
handiwork for holding the state back for the last 100 years.
Riley agreed that local communities need what he calls
limited home rule that is the power to run their own affairs
without the Legislatures interference. But any tax increases
should first win local voters approval, he said.
Riley also called for comprehensive tax reform and removing
restrictions on much of the revenues that now flow into the states
General Fund and Special Education Trust Fund. Alabama earmarks
close to 90 percent of state revenues, and most of those designated
dollars go to the education fund. Riley insisted, however, that he
would not remove earmarking from any school funds.
Much earmarking occurs under the present constitution.
For example, most of the revenues from the states income tax
support teacherssalaries, in compliance with a constitutional
Riley said that people could look at neighboring states
to see the kind of progress Alabama might make with a reorganized,
more efficient government.
Revising the 1901constitution is a critical part of this
effort, he said.
Dr. Thomas E. Corts, president of Alabama Citizens for
Constitutional Reform, noted how far this issue has come in just two
years. Not only were both major gubernatorial candidates calling for
constitutional change, he said, but also many leading organizations
were adding their support for reform.
Corts made his remarks as Commencement speaker at the
University of Alabama Monday. While ACCR favors the convention method,
he said, the need for change and renewal is so great, so crucial to
the future of Alabama that we accept and applaud support the cause,
however reform might be attained.
He said that many Alabamians were properly blaming the
1901Constitution for providing a poor foundation for the states
progress. Citizens are worn down by a century of wrestling with the
constitutions failures and by the unending call for change.
He noted that the University could take great pride that
both major gubernatorial candidates were its graduates and that they
both embraced the need for major constitutional change.
ACCR is a non-partisan group that focuses on grassroots
activism. It promoted legislation in the last legislative session
that would have allowed voters to decide whether to call a constitutional
Corts, who is president of Samford University in Birmingham,
has led ACCR since its inception at a rally in Tuscaloosa on April
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