Issue matters more than this
January 30, 2006 Montgomery Advertiser

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Alabama plainly needs a broad-based debate over a new state constitution, but it has to be a serious, intellectually honest debate. If it isn't, if it consists of remarks as ludicrous as two offered during a legislative hearing last week, then it is hard to imagine that any meaningful reform can ever occur.

The hearing held by the House Constitution and Elections Committee addressed a bill that would allow voters to decide whether they wish to call a convention to write a new constitution to replace Alabama's cumbersome, outmoded 1901 document. Regardless of one's position on that subject, surely it can be agreed that the debate ought to be focused on the merits of a new constitution vs. those of the current one.

Instead, two opponents of the measure made statements that insult the intelligence of Alabamians.

"We have already let the people vote almost 800 times," said John Giles in an Associated Press report, referring to the number of amendments in the current constitution. Giles leads the Alabama Christian Coalition, which opposes a new constitution.

It's true that the people have voted that way, but for what were they voting? In hundreds of cases, they were voting on matters of purely local impact, matters that shouldn't be addressed in a state constitution to begin with, let alone be the subject of constitutional amendments.

Examples abound: Amendment 45, drainage ditches in Colbert County; Amendment 163, license taxes for school purposes in Bullock County; Amendment 241, compensation of certain officers of Lauderdale County; Amendment 343, local public service districts in Shelby County; Amendment 487, compensation of Wilcox County probate judge; Amendment 550, bingo games in city of Jasper; and on and on.

As Giles no doubt understands, the people were not voting on the constitution, but were voting under the constitution and its ridiculously restrictive construction.

Then there was this observation from Patricia Godwin of Selma, as quoted by the AP: "You say the constitution is long and old. Well, so is the Bible."

Well, so is "War and Peace." What of it? The comparison is irrelevant. The Bible is an ancient text held sacred by many adherents of religious faith. It is not an organic document for government. To compare it to the Alabama Constitution is absurd.
The debate over a new state constitution has to rise above this ludicrous level.

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