REFORM IN THE NEWS

Constitutional reform at last? It’s a step in right direction, but tax matters will remain

The Anniston Star Editorial Board
July 25, 2011

When the history of constitutional reform in Alabama is studied, there is a good chance people may overlook the fact that it took a Republican Legislature to start the ball rolling.

What they must not overlook is what moved the new majority to action: the recognition that the state’s antiquated and inefficient constitution is — to put it simply — a job killer.

While there is general agreement that the original document was written by the rich to keep the poor — black and white — at the bottom of the social, economic and political ladders, what now is acknowledged is that the Constitution hurts the affluent as well.

By concentrating power in Montgomery, the Constitution made it difficult for county and city governments to address their problems, which in turn made it difficult for the state to prosper as other states do.

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BOB BLALOCK: Scoring on constitution reform after goose eggs all these years

The Birmingham News
June 26, 2011

For a decade, constitution reformers have watched Alabama lawmakers lay a goose egg on them every legislative session. Goose egg, as in zip. Zero. Zilch.

The bill (and later, a resolution) that reformers pushed year in and year out -- a proposed amendment to let state voters decide whether a convention of citizens should draft a new Alabama constitution -- died every session.

It died in the session that ended earlier this month, too. Yet, lawmakers actually passed meaningful legislation that will goose the grievously flawed 1901 document.

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A possibility for real reform: Seeking upgrade for Constitution

The Anniston Star
By: Editorial Board
June 23, 2011

In 1995, Bailey Thomson wrote the award-winning series of editorials for the Mobile Press-Register that linked so many of Alabama’s current problems to its antiquated state Constitution. Since then, a growing number of people have called for the state Legislature to set up machinery for reform and revision of that ancient and regressive document.

And there have been those who haven’t.

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Vanzetta McPherson: Fix state's constitution

The Montgomery Advertiser
June 23, 2011

In spite of the vociferous partisanship on display during the 2011 session of the Alabama Legislature, there is one issue on which Democrats and Republicans universally and timelessly agree. Both parties -- and apparently most of their members in the House and Senate -- refuse to accord constitutional reform the priority that it deserves.

For the past several weeks, Republican legislators have anointed themselves as "promise keepers" of the decade, but they, like the Democrats who preceded them for a century, failed -- or refused -- to pass the most consequential legislation on Alabama's agenda. After another session in the capital city, albeit replete with new laws, our state still holds the shockingly embarrassing record for the longest, most cumbersome constitution in the world, and arguably the most anti-democratic constitution in the nation.

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Piece-by-piece start toward constitutional reform (editorial)

The Press Register
By: Editorial Board
May 1, 2011

ALABAMA’S 1901 constitution is an outdated clunker that needs a complete overhaul.

But we’d settle for replacing one part here and one part there as long as progress is being made. Piecemeal constitutional reform is the plan being put forth in a resolution approved by the Legislature and expected to be signed soon by Gov. Robert Bentley.

Proposed by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the resolution would create a commission of 16 people to suggest changes to the bloated document that now has more than 800 amendments to its name.

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OUR VIEW: A constitutional revision commission could solve many problems with the state constitution

The Birmingham News
By: Editorial Board
April 27, 2011

There's more than one way to skin a constitution. But will the latest proposal -- a constitutional revision commission -- be enough to put the 1901 Constitution of Alabama out of our misery?

Not completely (more on that later), but the idea is a good start toward cleaning up the mess the constitution's drafters created more than a century ago.

It is a big job.

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Constitutional revision effort set to begin; taxes aren't in mix

The Gadsden Times
By: Dana Beyerle
April 18, 2011

MONTGOMERY — The Legislature on Tuesday could begin a three-year project to rewrite select portions of the lengthy and often-amended 1901 state constitution. Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, is sponsoring two proposed constitutional amendments that top the special order calendar the House Rules Committee will consider prior to the House convening on Tuesday.

“I've worked on this the last four years and hopefully this will be the year it gets to the public,” DeMarco said Monday.

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Marsh plan would reform Alabama Constitution by 2014

The Anniston Star
By: Patrick McCreless
April 19, 2011

Anniston Sen. Del Marsh wants Alabama’s constitution reformed, and he has a plan to achieve that goal.

Marsh, who is president pro tem, the top spot in the state Senate, proposed a resolution last week to establish a 16-member commission to suggest changes to Alabama’s constitution.

Many efforts have been made in the last few decades to reform the lengthy constitution, which took effect in 1901, but with little success.

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Alabama constitution rewrite commission proposed by lawmaker

The Birmingham News
By: David White
April 18, 2011

MONTGOMERY -- A top lawmaker is pushing a plan to set up a commission of 16 people that could suggest changes to Alabama's constitution.

Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the Senate president pro-tem and sponsor of the plan, said he's heard from many people over the years who said the constitution, which took effect in 1901, is too long, too cumbersome and needs to be updated.

"Let's just get it done," Marsh said. "Let's go ahead and accomplish this."

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Alabama constitution rewrite up to voters if representative's plan passes

The Birmingham News
By: David White
March 4, 2011

MONTGOMERY -- State voters would decide whether to call a convention of delegates that could propose a new state constitution, under a resolution filed Thursday by state Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham.

Under Newton's plan, Alabama voters would decide during the June 2012 primary election whether to hold a convention. If they voted for the proposal, they would elect 105 convention delegates, one from each state House of Representatives district, during the November 2012 presidential election. The top vote getter in each district would be elected, even if he or she didn't win a majority of the votes. Read more

EDITORIAL: Undo Alabama's racist past

The Huntsville Times
By: John Peck
February 25, 2011

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. _ Alabama's racist past will rear its ugly head again if the Legislature bogs down over a resurrected attempt to remove racist language from its 1901 constitution.

State lawmakers must resist the urge to demagogue.

A similar proposed constitutional amendment was rejected by voters in 2004 after a misleading campaign that it would trigger higher taxes for education.

State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, plans to lead the latest reform. Racist language referencing poll taxes and segregated schools harm Alabama's image when recruiting economic development projects, he said. Section 256, for example, reads,

"Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of another race." Read more

Republican, Democratic senators offer different plans to alter Alabama's 1901 constitution

The Huntsville Times
By: Bob Lowry
February 25, 2011

MONTGOMERY - Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, says he'll sponsor legislation to strip some racist and offensive language from the 1901 Alabama Constitution. Orr says the references hurt the state's image and can be used against Alabama when it's recruiting against other states for economic development projects. Read more