A matter of trust
Birmingham News
Sunday, January 08, 2006

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On Nov. 7, Alabama voters will choose the next governor and other constitutional officers, as well as who will represent them in the next Legislature.

All those candidates are trusting the people to make the right decision in their races. But how much do the candidates, particularly those running for legislative seats, really trust the people?

One way to find out is by watching what happens in the Legislature to a proposed amendment to the Alabama Constitution that would let voters choose in November whether they want a convention of citizens to write a new constitution.

"Let's let the people decide if they want a new constitution that would protect the interests of all the people of Alabama," said House Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, who, along with Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, has pre-filed the legislation for the upcoming session, which starts Tuesday.

And why shouldn't the people decide?

As a legislative finding in the proposed amendment says, "Alabama's voters are intelligent, insightful, wise and spiritual, and thus, totally trustworthy to decide fundamental questions of current and future state policy and law, including and especially the character and content of their own constitution."

Voters regularly elect state and local officials, decide whether to raise property taxes in their cities and counties, and each election cycle try to make sense of a slate of proposed amendments to the Alabama Constitution.

The very least the Legislature should do besides passing budgets this session is to give the voters of Alabama a say on the future of what is supposed to be the state's fundamental charter. Instead, the 1901 Constitution is a fraudulent, constricting, racist document that keeps state and local governments from operating efficiently and effectively.

If a majority of citizens wants to keep the constitution, then so be it. But at least let voters decide.

If voters choose a citizens convention, the proposed legislation sets an ambitious timetable: If voters approve the proposed amendment in November, they would elect delegates to a convention in April 2007. The convention would convene in July 2007 and would have until May 1, 2008, to draft a new constitution. That November, voters would decide whether they want the new constitution; if approved, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2009.

Because 2006 is an election year for lawmakers, some naysayers believe the Legislature won't touch anything as controversial as constitution reform. They may not. But what's so controversial about trusting voters enough to make the right decision, whether it's choosing who will serve in Montgomery or choosing the path to a new constitution?

It all comes down to a matter of trust. Our elected officials trust us enough to re-elect them; they must trust us enough to decide whether Alabama needs a new constitution.

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