Currently in the State of Alabama, there is a large scale debate over what to do with the State Constitution. It has become antiquated and unwieldy. Some people desire directed amendments to correct what's wrong. Others want a complete rewrite, convention and all. I happen to be a proponent of rewriting the Constitution of State of Alabama. I think the argument makes itself.
The State Constitution is far too long for me to desire to node it; however, it can be found at the website http://www.legislature.state.al.us/misc/history/constitutions/1901/1901.html and is useful as a point of reference.
The 1901 Constitution was written by the Big Mules, for the Big Mules and to hold the people down, and to hold the people hostage and to hold Alabama back. We've got to change that 1901 Constitution.
We should change the constitution so that people in local communities can make a decision. If they want to put a laptop on the desk of every high school student at Moody, they don't have to come down here and beg Alfa1 for permission to vote on it. That's where we are now."
- Gov. (and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate) Don Siegelman2
For those of you who have decided against going to the constitution's home, I'll give you an overview of the main issues:
- It is (according to rumour) the longest constitution of any government in the world. That means it has 18 Articles, subdivided into 287 Sections. Then, to spice things up, it has 706 Amendments. An example of an extremely important amendment would be Amendment 494, reprinted here in full.
AMENDMENT 494 RATIFIED
Appropriation by City of Anniston in Calhoun County for East Alabama United Cerebral Palsy Center.
The governing body of the city of Anniston in Calhoun county is hereby authorized to appropriate the sum of $35,000.00 from public funds on a one-time basis only to the East Alabama United Cerebral Palsy Center for the cost of its complex at the Jaycee park.
- It inordinately ties the hands of cities and counties, thereby requiring them to file state amendments for one-time charges, such as 494 above, day-to-day business of the county, and other circumstances which are not particularly the business of Montgomery. I think this next amendment is a good example of both of those last two problems.
AMENDMENT 535 RATIFIED In other words, cities are not allowed to conduct business of their own. This really isn't that unusual for constitutions of the time, but it is an area that will become very stifling for the state in short order, as all three of the major metropolitan areas (Huntsville/Decatur, Mobile, and Birmingham) face significant amounts of growth and sprawl, with outlying communities incorporating and offering more and more services. If four cities in the Birmingham area have decided to start school systems in the last year, that's four more amendments. At least.
Election of Board of Education of City of Tallassee.
This legislature may by local act provide for the election of the members of the board of education of the City of Tallassee in Elmore and Tallapoosa Counties.
- The State Constitution is almost a shrine to Civil Rights faux pas. Article VIII - Suffrage and Elections contains several statements of a racist or sexist nature. The poll tax is in place in the articles of the constitution, and was never actually amended out, just made illegal by the federal government. In my opinion, this is less of an issue than it is made out to be. No state government is capable of race or gender based civil-rights infringement under our federal government. Regardless of practicality, it is insulting, and those portions should be removed.
- The 1901 Constitution lacks Initiative, Referendum, and Recall. The drive to remove the 1901 Constitution is a grass-roots campaign, even if it has big-money supporters. If the 1901 Constitution contained empowerment for initiative, then a constitutional convention would be underway by now. Instead, the State Legislature drags its feet and bows to special interest groups that adamantly do not want a new constitution in Alabama. While I'm personally not so sure about recall as a political concept, I am firmly for initiative and referendum. This is probably the least commented on of all of the flaws of our state constitution.
1 Alfa is short for Alabama Farmers Federation, the largest special interest group in the state, economically. Their website is found at http://www.alfafarmers.org or you can buy their insurance at http://www.alfains.com
2 The Don Siegelman quote is from the Birmingham News, housed at http://www.al.com/birminghamnews and was given without reference to when or where he spoke it. It is on the first page of the commentary section of the November 3, 2002 edition.
More proponent information can be found at the website of Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform at http://www.constitutionalreform.org
There is difficulty finding opposition information. I'm guessing this because most citizens of Alabama are ignorant of the subjects involved, a good few proponents of reform, and the remainder have special interests that are already being looked after.