Constitutional reformists to host mock convention
From the TimesDaily
By Trevor Stokes
Staff Writer

Published: Friday, November 14, 2008 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 10:46 p.m.

FLORENCE - Alabama constitutional reform advocates Thursday discussed 2009's mock convention, a non-legally binding reworking of the 1901 state constitution supporters hope will relieve the state from what they call an outdated political framework.

How to apply
Residents interested in applying to become a 2009 Mock Convention delegate can receive application forms online at constitutionalreform.org/mockconvention.shtml, or by contacting Audrey Salgado at (205) 437-0951 or Audrey@constitutionalreform.org.

Deadline for applications is Dec. 31. The convention will be at Prattville Marriott, 8 a.m. Feb. 14 through Feb. 16, and again at another location April 24 through the afternoon of April 26.
Source: The Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform Foundation

Proponents of a new constitution say the 1901 version has become bloated, reaching its 800th amendment this year, and that it gives an imbalance of power to a small number of landowners while robbing municipalities of home rule.

Resistance against the movement has come from Roy Moore, former chief justice for the state Supreme Court, the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) and state legislators.

The convention, sponsored by the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform Foundation, is for educational purposes, but is part of a grassroots effort to rework the state's sixth constitution.

"A convention, as some say occurred in 1901, could produce a constitution much less desirable and would require a take-all or leave-all vote. An article-by-article approach presented to the people for ratification would be more easily understood and more widely accepted," are claims made on the ALFA Web site.

The Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform Foundation will host a mock convention with representatives of Alabama's 105 districts. The convention will occur in two sessions, the first in February, under the hook: "105 residents in Alabama loved their state so much they gave up their Valentine's day to rewrite the state constitution," said Mark Berte, grassroots education director for the foundation.

To be qualified as a potential delegate, interested residents must complete an application by year's end and must have lived more than three years in the district they want to represent. Some scholarship funds are available, Berte said. A local delegation committee will choose the candidate, who will be required to attend meetings in mid February and late April.

"We'll never write the perfect constitution; there is no such animal," Berte said.

Since 2006, state House legislators have considered a bill to call a special statewide election to submit the question of whether to call a constitutional convention, sponsored by Rep. Demotrius Newton, House speaker pro tem.

The bill received no vote in 2007, but a 46-44 vote in 2008 showed local support for a convention vote, including from Representatives Marcel Black, Mike Curtis and Tammy Irons, according to the Alabama House Journal. Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow voted against the proposed bill.

Wholesale state constitutional reform does have precedence - namely the 1973 reform in Louisiana - a combination of a governor campaign platform, a fed-up populace and Young Turks grass roots effort, said Barbara Nash, board member of the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, Inc.

"Right now, we are probably like a flea on the back of a large dog, we are somewhat annoying from time to time," said Jim Brasfield, a self-described "interested citizen."

Brasfield argued reform would economically help the people who are fighting it.

"This is not going to just be an intellectual uprising, but an emotional uprising with people saying enough is enough," Brasfield said.

Trevor Stokes can be reached at 740-5728 or trevor.stokes@TimesDaily.com.

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