New hope for reform
The Huntsville Times
Saturday, May 03, 2008

House backers actually got more votes than their opponents

What happened to constitutional reform this week in the state House of Representatives could not, by any stretch, be called a victory. But even in a lopsided loss, reform advocates saw a glimmer of possibility.

The House vote to bring up a constitutional reform amendment for debate was 46 votes in favor to 44 opposed. While the vote in favor was the first time proponents had actually outvoted their foes, they still fell way short of the 63 votes needed.

Still, they were buoyed by their numerical edge. They vow to come back next year. After all, what they seek - all they seek, actually - is voter approval to organize a constitutional convention.

Even if a convention were approved, voters would still have to elect delegates. And even if the delegates produced a new constitution, it would still have to be approved by the voters.

Thus, the process does not suffer from a lack of safeguards. If anything, it suffers from an excess of them. But on one point there is no doubt: Alabama's 1901 constitution is an unwieldy and unworkable document for the 21st century.

This huge volume has been amended more than 800 times. Most of the amendments have to do with local issues. A reasonable alternative would be a constitution that allowed local citizens and local government decide purely local issues for themselves.

Constitutional reform remains a dream, but it's a dream that someday could indeed come true. - John Ehinger

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