Seeing the 'groundswell'
Anniston Star
Editorials
In our opinion
02-29-2008

Alabama is locked in convention detention, a prison saying the right thing and doing the right thing are miles apart.

Amid considerable fanfare and high expectations, a bill has been introduced in the state Legislature to allow Alabamians to decide, by vote, if we should hold a convention to rewrite the state's antiquated and inadequate Constitution.

Once again, legislators lined up to testify about their belief in the will of the people — and how the only way the people's will could be known was to let the people vote on such issues.

As you can expect, that's when the back-peddling began. Listen closely and you can hear how legislators can turn democracy on its head.

Hear the words of Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, who claims to support a convention, but who does not expect the plan to be approved. "I don't see the groundswell for a convention bill," he told the press.

That's almost the same thing former Gov. Don Siegelman said back when he was in office and people began pressing for constitutional reform. Siegelman didn't see the support, so he sat on the sidelines.

Ask yourself, what is a "groundswell?"

In the Alabama Legislature, it appears to be whatever a legislator wants it to be.

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, has promised to fight the convention bill with every means at his disposal. Why? Because he fears that special interests would control the gathering and remove the requirement that the people vote on tax increases — which is the way opponents of the bill describe tax reform.

In other words, to find out whether there is a groundswell against changes in the tax code, Beason would go to the people and let them vote. But he is not willing to let people vote to see if there is a groundswell in favor of a constitutional convention.

No, Beason and his ilk only want groundswells that favor what they, and the special interests that back them, also favor. Any other groundswell out there should stay out there.

They are all for democracy, so long as they think the vote will go their way. And that's not so swell.

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