Debating the Constitution: Let's go at it another way
The Anniston Star
In our opinion
02-21-2009

For a number of years, state Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, and state Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, have introduced a bill that would allow Alabama voters to decide if they wanted a convention to rewrite the 1901 Constitution or replace it with another.

Every year, the bill has died. It's been stuck in a procedural roadblock known as a budget isolation resolution that requires a three-fifths majority before a measure can be considered.

Newton and Little now think they have found a way solution.

They have introduced resolutions in their respective houses calling for what the bill wanted — a chance for the people to vote yes or no on calling a convention.

A resolution doesn't need the budget isolation resolution to move it along.

This is all well and good.

We hope the resolutions pass and Alabamians finally get a chance to decide if a convention should be the way to a new state constitution.

For the most part, opponents of this plan are opponents of any movement to write a new constitution. Apart from those who see the whole thing as a secular, humanist plot to take God out of the document, those opposed are those who have benefited under the current system. They may have gotten certain advantages from the original document, but in most cases they have gained from the exemptions and earmarks that were amended in over the years.

When they speak out against a convention, or simply try to kill the idea by ignoring it, it is easy enough to find out why — follow the money.

These groups will spread the word among the unsuspecting that a convention made up of delegates from each state House district, chosen in a nonpartisan election where donations to candidates' campaigns would be capped at $100, will be controlled by "special interests."

The irony — maybe the hypocrisy — is that these opponents are among the most "special" of the interests in Alabama. They are "special" because the 1901 Constitution treats them as such.

And they like it.

That's why they will fight hard to keep the resolution from passing. They don't want the people to vote. But if by some miracle the resolution does pass and the question of a convention is put to the people, these interests will fight even harder to convince Alabamians to reject the convention plan.

In other words, special interests will spend a great deal of time and money to get Alabamians to vote against their own interests and vote for the interest of those the current Constitution has made special.

So, get ready. This could get nasty.

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