Citizens’ Commission on
Constitutional Reform
to hold public meeting
in Birmingham on September 9

September 3, 2002
Contact: Kathryn Bowden

BIRMINGHAM – The Alabama Citizens’ Commission for Constitutional Reform will hold its second meeting on Monday, September 9, at the Linn-Henley Research Library in downtown Birmingham.

   Topics for the morning session will be the legislative, executive, and judicial articles of the Alabama Constitution. A panel of technical advisors will make presentations.

   The public is invited to attend the morning session and to make comments during the afternoon. Those wishing to speak may begin signing up at 8:30 a.m. Citizens may also purchase a brown bag lunch at the event and join the commissioners during the noon meal.

   Secretary of State Jim Bennett, a long-time advocate for constitutional reform, is the commission’s chairman. Joining him is a diverse group of 22 members. Among them are an associate Supreme Court justice, as well as business owners, educators, pastors, lawyers, civic leaders and retired military personnel.

   The commission is considering changes for Alabama’s 1901 Constitution, the sixth such document since statehood. Almost since its adoption, citizens and leaders across the state have been calling for the revision for Alabama’s current constitution. The longest state constitution, the 1901 document has been amended 714 times.

   Directing the morning event will be Howard Walthall, who heads the State Constitutional Law Project at the Cumberland Law School, Samford University. Joining him as advisors will be Dr. Jesse Brown, Athens State University; Dr. Bill Stewart, emeritus at the University of Alabama; Dr. Brad Moody, Auburn University Montgomery; Dr. Bob Schaefer, University of Mobile; and former Associate Justice Janie Shores of the Alabama Supreme Court.

   The commission’s first meeting in Huntsville on July 15 drew nearly two hundred participants. Its focus was increasing local governments’ ability to make decisions at home, rather than having the Legislature direct their affairs. About 40 citizens addressed the commission, which also heard presentations from several leading authorities on “home rule.”

   After Birmingham, the commission will meet at Mobile on Oct. 21 and at Auburn-Opelika. on Dec. 9.

   When the commission concludes its deliberations, its members will make a recommendation to the governor and the Legislature on how to approach constitutional reform issues. The commission also will report on what citizens around the state say about their constitution.

   Financial and logistical support for the commission is provided by Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform (ACCR).

   Inspiration for the commission came from several sources, said Kathryn Bowden, ACCR’s executive director.

   Governor Thomas E. Kilby recommended such a group in 1923, when he asked the Legislature to call a convention to replace the 1901 Constitution. He envisioned that a commission would lay the groundwork for reform, while soliciting citizens’ views. In 1969, Governor Albert Brewer persuaded the Legislature to create a commission. It actually drafted a model constitution, but the Legislature failed to act on it.

   The new commission is closer to what Kilby had in mind, Bowden said. ACCR’s board decided it would work best if it was independent of state government.

   ACCR solicited nominations and suggestions from many people and organizations.

   “We now have a genuine citizens’ commission whose members bring open minds and open agendas to the process of fixing Alabama’s government,” Bowden said. “They will take our state one step closer to deciding whether it’s time to draft a new constitution for a new century.”

   For further information, please call ACCR at 334-834-5495 or send e-mail inquiries to accr2@bellsouth.net

The following is a list of the commission’s members:
Valerie Barnes – communications director, Dothan
Donald Brown - retired newspaper editor, Tuscaloosa
Gary Burton - minister, Pintlala
Lisa Christopher - civic leader, Vestavia
Sallie Creel - business owner, Birmingham
Scott Douglas - Greater Birmingham Ministries, Birmingham
Johnny Green - professor and minister, Auburn
Madeleine Hill – MSW, civic leader, Tuscaloosa
Steve Holt - Chamber president, Florence
J. Gorman Houston - Associate Justice, AL Supreme Court, Montgomery
Robert Huffaker - attorney, Montgomery
Hartwell Lutz – retired military, retired judge, civic leader, Gurley
Lynda Malone – guidance counselor, education activist, Grove Hill
Jake Mathews – attorney, community leader, Anniston
John Nixon – businessman, Birmingham
Jerry Pow - probate judge, Centreville
Morris Savage - attorney, Jasper
Alex Sierra – restaurant owner, Arab
Karen Stanley – vice president of family-owned business, civic leader, Huntsville
Eddie Thomas – minister, retired high school teacher, Dothan
Julius Thrower – minister, retired military, retired educator, Mobile
Claudia Turner – high school teacher, college professor, Prattville.

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Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 34
Montgomery, Alabama 36101-0034

E-mail: accr@constitutionalreform.org
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