By Lucy Jones
of Alabama Birmingham
Ladies and gentleman, the cost of reform may be
some reorganization and a tough period of transition, but the cost
of doing nothing means maintaining the status quoit means watching
Alabama stagnate as it continues to rank among the very lowest of
all the states in almost every single indicator of quality of life.
Good morning. My name is Lucy Jones and I am currently
a third year student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I
would like to thank the commission for your work and commend you for
commitment to the state of Alabama.
I am here today to represent a large constituency of
students in the UAB community that strongly support the need for constitutional
reform in this state. Alabama has suffered from low expectations for
and we have continued to rely on short-term fixes742 of them
to be exactto temporarily ameliorate Alabamas problems.
It is obvious that those short-term fixes have not worked.
Alabama is a package deal, and the only way to make progress
in this state is through comprehensive, long-term reform. We need
to restructure the tax code, create more efficient and responsive
government, and give more home rule to the local and county governments.
I would like to speak specifically today to the issue
of home rule. Alabama must have a system of government that is responsive
to the people. The only way to do that is to increase the amount of
given to the municipal and county governmentswhere the problems
can be addressed a local level. Right now, more than half of the state
legislatures workload involves bills that apply to a single
county or a single municipality. This prevents our state legislature
from focusing on more comprehensive and systematic statewide concernsit
forces them into those short-term fixes (those 742 amendments)and
this system is not working. The necessary corollary of this situation
is that the county governments also cannot be responsive to their
citizens, because what they could do in ten minutes at a county government
meeting often takes two years and a statewide referendum on the issue
to get it approved. This extreme inefficiency and unresponsiveness
creates distrust and dissatisfaction among the voters in Alabama.
It is the worst situation that we can be in given the states
financial and educational crises. I urge you to include comprehensive
home rule in your proposal to the Governor.
Ladies and gentlemen, I admire you for the work that
you are doing, but I must also remind you that your charge is limited.
You have been given five specific issues to examine and make recommendations
aboutbut I believe that it is clear to all of us in this room
that there is much more work to be done. I also urge you to remind
the Governor that Alabamas problems will not be solved by limiting
the work of reformers to these five issues. We must get away from
the politics of this situation and finally do what is best for Alabamawhat
progressive-minded people have been trying to do for over one-hundred
years now. We must have comprehensive constitutional reform and it
must address all of the problems in this statethe unfair and
inadequate tax structure, the inefficiency of government, and the
lack of home rule. While this commissions work will be ground-breaking
and a good start, its limited charge prevents it from having the necessary
authority to make the changes necessary to make Alabama rise to all
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am twenty years old, and some
may call me naïve or overly optimistic, but I believe in what
we, as reformers, can do. I have a vision for the state of Alabama.
I want to see a time when out-of-state students are competing to go
to the higher education institutions here. I want to see a time of
unfettered growth and opportunity. I want to see a time when the national
news media characterizes Alabama as a destination for individuals
and their families seeking an improved quality of life. You are the
first, and a very important step in this directionbut there
will be a lot of work after this commissions charge is over.
Please, do what is best for Alabama. Do what the good people of Alabama
deservemake proposals that insist on comprehensive constitutional
reform. Thank you.
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