Another reason we need reform: Amending Constitution, again
The Anniston Star
11-20-2007
In our opinion - Editorial
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Alabama’s state Constitution has been amended 799 times. By now, one would think we would have gotten it right.

But that’s not the case.

In 2008, we will have the opportunity to add 25 more amendments to the ever-expanding list.

In case you do not know why our Constitution has been amended so many times, here’s why: It’s because the founding fathers who drew it up in 1901 wanted to make sure that the Legislature — in which they and folks like them were in the majority — continued to control the state. Therefore, in a classic case of micromanaging, the authors of our fundamental law required that measures which most states passed as laws or local ordinances had to be approved by the Legislature and then voted on by the people, statewide, even if the issue was purely local.

After 554 amendments, some folks decided this was idiotic. The 555th amendment changed the Constitution so that a local amendment did not have to be voted on statewide if it passed both houses of the Legislature without a dissenting vote. (Note that even after most of those who wrote the Constitution were dead and buried, their legislative descendents had no intention of giving up much of the power that Alabama’s founding fathers gave them.)

Which brings us to today.

Twenty-five amendments were proposed for 2008. Twenty-four of these are “local” as determined by the commission set up under Amendment 555. Twenty-three will be voted on only in the county affected. But another one, a measure to set up a commission to fill judgeships in Shelby County, and only Shelby County, will be on every ballot in every county in the state.

Why? Because two senators — Larry Dixon of Montgomery and Jim Preuitt of Talladega — cast “no” votes when it came up. Why did they do this? Reportedly, it had something to do with the power struggle that was going on in the state Senate last session. Their votes had nothing to do with the merits of the measure.

The other amendment to be voted on statewide is a proposal to let the people of the city of Madison raise their ad valorem taxes for their public schools. It will be voted on statewide because the city of Madison is in two counties, Madison and Limestone.

Apart from an effective way of preventing Alabama residents from deciding issues that pertain to them and only them, what is the sense of this?

There isn’t any.

So, if you want another reason for supporting constitutional reform in Alabama, here it is. Not that we need it.

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