Legislators stand out for different reasons
Mobile Register
Saturday, February 18, 2006

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FOUR LEGISLATORS from Mobile and Baldwin counties distinguished themselves in the Legislature this week. Unfortunately, only Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores, deserves praise.

The other three — Reps. Joseph Mitchell, D-Mobile, Randy Davis, R-Daphne, and Joe Faust, R-Fairhope — marked themselves by working against south Alabama.

Reps. Mitchell, Davis and Faust let their constituents down when they voted against a bill before a House committee that would have let voters decide whether to call a convention to rewrite the state's outdated, ineffective 1901 constitution.
All of them should know better. Indeed, Reps. Mitchell and Davis had previously expressed support for constitutional reform. They've talked the talk, but have failed to walk the walk.

Rep. Mitchell insists he only voted against the bill offered by House Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, because he couldn't get an amendment added that would have provided funding for convention delegate elections. Rep. Mitchell said he worries that without a fund to finance campaigns, special interests will gain influence over delegates.
But such safeguards could have been added later. At this stage, Rep. Newton's bill should have moved forward. Instead, it died in the House Constitution and Election Committee because Reps. Mitchell, Davis and Faust were among the seven committee members who voted "no."

Reps. Davis and Faust should be particularly ashamed: Rep. Davis, as a retired public school employee, and Rep. Faust, as a former Baldwin County commissioner, have seen firsthand how badly county governments and school boards need the home rule a new constitution could offer.

Rep. Mitchell said he favors constitutional reform section-by-section. But that would be awkward and would open the process to special-interest meddling.

A better approach was offered by Rep. Newton. His bill would have let voters decide whether to call a convention. Under his plan, citizen-delegates would be elected to rewrite the constitution. And as a final safeguard, voters also would have to approve the reformed document before it could take effect.

It's a do-able plan that allows the citizenry to control the process.

Fortunately, a bill similar to Rep. Newton's is in the Senate. Mobile and Baldwin senators should work hard to get it passed, and then area lawmakers in the House can redeem themselves by going along with the Senate's bill.

Unlike his colleagues, Rep. McMillan served his constituents well by voting against an irresponsible $6 billion education budget that doesn't accommodate Gov. Bob Riley's call for income tax reform.

The bloated, pork-filled bill gained the House's approval Thursday, but Rep. McMillan didn't bend. He voted "no," as all House members should have done.

The House wrongly rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, to cut $28 million from the education budget ? the amount needed to accommodate next year's portion of Gov. Riley's tax reform plan.

The governor wants to cut income tax rates and raise the too-low threshold after which incomes are taxed. Families with a poverty income of only $4,600 have to pay income taxes in Alabama. That's outrageous. Gov. Riley's plan would raise the threshold to a more reasonable $15,000.

Reps. Mitchell, Davis and Faust could use a dose of the courage shown by Rep. McMillan, who stood up for what is right.

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