Still waiting for a people's vote
The Birmingham News
Wednesday, October 04, 2006

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THE ISSUE: The Legislature refused to let voters decide in November whether they want a citizens convention to draft a new state constitution. Fortunately, ACCR is making sure the issue doesn't go away.

Had the Alabama Legislature done its job this year, Thursday's annual meeting of the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform would be one of celebration, of anticipation, of commitment.

Celebrating the chance for Alabamians to vote Nov. 7 on whether to allow a convention of citizens to write a new state constitution. Anticipating the outcome of the vote. And committing to work tirelessly for the next month to ensure the measure passed.

Of course, the Legislature did not do its job. People won't be able to vote on a convention next month, and there are very few lawmakers to blame. That's because there were only two recorded votes, both at the committee level, to identify for voters the good guys and bad guys. A recap: The House Constitution and Elections Committee in February deadlocked 7-7 on whether to send the bill to the House floor for a vote. Those who trusted the people enough to vote for the bill are Reps. George Bandy, D-Opelika; Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood; Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville; Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville; Bryant Melton, D-Tuscaloosa; Mary Moore, D-Birmingham; and Sue Schmitz, D-Toney. The Spineless Seven: Reps. Greg Albritton, R-Excel; Randy Davis, R-Daphne; Joe Faust, R-Fairhope; Mickey Hammon, R-Decatur; Steve Hurst, D-Munford; Joseph Mitchell, D-Mobile; and Randy Wood, R-Anniston. A week later, the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee, perhaps sensing a free, "look-at-me-do-good" vote, unanimously approved the bill letting voters decide. Still, credit is due senators who voted for the people's right to decide. They are Sens. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville; Vivian Figures, D-Mobile; Steve French, R-Birmingham; Pat Lindsey, D-Butler; Zeb Little, D-Cullman; Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne; Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Hartselle; Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham; and Gary Tanner, D-Theodore. There are others to blame. House Speaker Seth Hammett, who appeared at a January constitution rally, did nothing to lead on this effort and get the measure to the House floor. Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, chairman of the Rules Committee, which schedules bills for Senate debate, kept the bill from coming to a vote in the Senate. Thursday's ACCR meeting at 1 p.m. in the Capitol auditorium won't dwell on the disappointment of this year. Instead, organizers will acknowledge the achievements of the past, such as ACCR's birth and growth as an education and advocacy group that collected 70,000 signatures to present to the Legislature this year requesting a vote of the people. The group on Thursday will announce its plans for 2007. They include another effort to convince the Legislature to let the people decide whether Alabama needs a constitutional convention to write a new document that would replace Alabama's racist document, which prevents local government control and enshrines one of the nation's most unfair tax systems. Those supposedly in the know always say the first year of a Legislature's four-year term is the time to get things done. Let's hope that's true in 2007, when lawmakers finally should let the people vote. For more information about Thursday's annual meeting, visit www.constitutionalreform.org.

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