Dog Days of Summer
The Birmingham News
Monday, August 04, 2008

THE ISSUE: Eventually, Alabama's constitution reform movement will overcome the Legislature's lethargy, inactivity, indolence

Random House Webster's College Dictionary tells us "dog days" are the "sultry part of summer when Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun." A second definition: "a period marked by lethargy, inactivity or indolence."

There is no doubt, by either definition (or by walking outside), that we're in the midst of the dog days of summer. It is fitting, then, that a grass-roots group this past week, in the midst of dog days, announced awards honoring those who have distinguished themselves in the effort to reform the state's fundamental charter. Fitting, because of the thousands of dog days of legislative "lethargy, inactive or indolence" over rewriting Alabama's 1901 Constitution.

Tuesday, the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform named its honorees for the second annual Bailey Thomson Awards Luncheon, set for Aug. 28 in Mobile and simulcast in Birmingham at the downtown Harbert Center.

The 2008 Bailey Thomson Award goes to Wayne Flynt, who is to constitution reform in Alabama what Thomas Jefferson is to democracy in America. Flynt, professor emeritus at Auburn University, is a founding member of the ACCR Foundation. Long before it was cool, the historian was (and remains) an eloquent, authoritative voice for a new constitution that would replace the current, grievously flawed document.

Thomson, himself an eloquent, authoritative voice for a new state constitution, helped found ACCR in 2000. He died in 2003, and the awards luncheon has become a memorial to Thomson's crusade for a new Alabama Constitution.

ACCR's other award winners this year are:

The Educator of the Year is Leevones Dubose, director of the Bay Area Women Coalition in Mobile. Dubose helped lead the "Bridges" project, which last year brought together people of different backgrounds to share dinner and discussion about constitution reform.

Partner of the Year awards go to the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and to the American Association of University Women of Alabama. The chamber has hosted meetings, conducted leadership training, maintained databases and provided other help in support of the ACCR Foundation. In 2004, the AAUW of Alabama got involved in constitution reform with a conference on the 1901 Constitution. It has followed that with regular discussion sessions throughout Alabama.

Besides applauding honorees' good work, the awards signify ACCR's commitment to the long-term process of continuing to grow a grass-roots movement for constitution reform.

Each year, constitution reform supporters have pushed a little farther a bill that would allow voters to decide whether they want a constitutional convention to write a new fundamental charter for Alabama. In 2006, a Senate committee passed the bill, but a House committee wouldn't. Last year, the bill passed committees in the House and Senate, but sponsor Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, withdrew his bill before a House vote, knowing it would be defeated. This year, after a favorable committee vote, the House voted 46-44 in favor of bringing the bill up for debate - a majority, but short of the three-fifths majority needed to debate bills ahead of budgets.

So that is progress, of sorts.

At some point, constitution reform supporters will overcome legislative "lethargy, inactivity or indolence" and bring the dog days of the 1901 Constitution to an end. Sooner rather than later, we hope.

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