Constitutional reform ought to be priority in state
Daily Home Online, Talladega, 01-22-2006

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Alabama has been through it before. Momentum builds among the people for a constitutional convention to rewrite the state's archaic governing document, and nothing happens in the Legislature to bring it about.

The chance is here once again. More than 60,000 signatures petitioning the Alabama Legislature to let the people decide whether or not they want a convention are to be presented to lawmakers this week. And this time around, we hope the effort is successful.

If government is truly about the people of Alabama, Alabamians ought to have a say in whether they want to rewrite a more than century-old constitution that is the most amended in this country because it simply does not serve its people well. At 750 amendments and counting, Alabama's changes thus far mainly deal with local issues rather than statewide measures.

Why? Because it concentrates the power in the hands of those sent to Montgomery, and the neighbors, friends and family we elect back home who know what's best for their community still have to ask Montgomery for permission.

Thank goodness for far-sighted lawmakers like state Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, and Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham. They see the value in letting the voters, not politicians, decide the issue, and they are introducing legislation that would allow just that.

Their bill calls for the people of Alabama to decide whether or not they want a constitutional convention made up of rank and file Alabamians to reform the state's outdated constitution. It's as simple as that. Will lawmakers allow the people to decide this vital issue for themselves, or will they continue to hold on to their power?

As much as we would like to say every lawmaker would want the former, we sadly suspect the answer is the latter if history is any indication.

Reformers have been calling for a change virtually since the time the constitution was written in 1901. It disenfranchised the less fortunate and put a lion's share of the power of government in Montgomery. It still does.

But the reformers keep trying, and we keep joining the call for change for good reason. Whether or not a city can form its own school system should not be a decision made in Montgomery, it ought to be made by the people back home. Annexations, zoning and a host of other local issues best handled by local people still find their way to Montgomery, and then the entire state votes. That's a cockeyed way of operating government, yet that is exactly what we do here in Alabama year after year, decade after decade, and now we're starting on century after century.

It is long past time for lawmakers to trust the public to make the right decision. After all, it should be the public's decision to make when it comes to how it is to be governed.

Let's hope this time around, lawmakers hear the people's plea and let them decide how they will be governed once and for all.

It's a shame that as a state, we seem to want more for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan than we want for ourselves.

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