Joint resolution to reform constitution is introduced
The Huntsville Times
Friday, February 13, 2009
Times Staff Writer

Sponsor Little says this way removes two big hurdles

MONTGOMERY - Proponents of reforming the state's 1901 constitution are trying a different approach in the 2009 session of the Alabama Legislature.

Instead of submitting the proposal as a bill, it has been introduced as a joint resolution in the House and the Senate.

The resolutions call for a special election in June 2010 to determine whether voters want a constitutional convention to rewrite the old constitution, which is 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution and has been amended 799 times.

The special election would be on the same date as the 2010 gubernatorial primary.

Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, who is sponsoring the resolution in the Senate, said Thursday that by using a resolution instead of a bill, it removes two important hurdles.

"We had some thorough research done on it and discovered that a constitutional convention can be called for by a joint resolution," he said. "If we get some momentum going, we can skip several roadblocks."

First, the resolutions could pass both houses without meeting the requirements of the Budget Isolation Resolution. Under legislative rules, before the budgets are passed all other bills must receive a three-fifths vote to be brought up for consideration. That rule does not apply to resolutions.

Secondly, the resolution could take effect without the signature of the governor.

"In essence you could pass it in one day," said Little. But he added there will be plenty of debate on the resolutions before a vote is taken.

Opposition to constitutional reform in Alabama in the past has traditionally come from major corporations such as Alfa, Alabama Power Co., and major timber companies with large land holdings.

Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, is sponsoring the resolution in the House. The two resolutions have 25 co-sponsors in the House and 14 in the Senate.

But Republican support is lacking. There are only three co-sponsors - Joe Faust of Fairhope, Mac Gipson of Prattville and Mike Hill of Columbia - in the House, and two - Steve French of Birmingham, and Del Marsh of Anniston - in the Senate.

Both resolutions are in rules committees of both chambers.

Under the resolutions, if voters approve a constitutional convention in June 2010, delegates would be elected in the November 2010 general election. The convention would convene June 1, 2011, and end on Sept. 30, 2011.

A ratification vote of the proposed new constitution would take place during the November 2012 general election. If approved, the new constitution would take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. If voters did not approve it, the old constitution would remain in effect.

Meanwhile, Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform will convene in a mock constitutional convention Saturday and Sunday to draft a model for a new state constitution.

The members will meet at the Marriott Hotel in Prattville.

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