Will '07 bring new Constitution?
Anniston Star
In our opinion
Editorials
01-06-2007

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Despite the fact that polls show a majority of Alabamians support efforts to rewrite our antiquated Constitution; despite the fact that the state's democratic heritage all but demands that Alabamians be given the opportunity to vote on how this rewriting would be done; and despite the fact that Alabama legislators are elected by the same people who want to vote on this issue; last year enough of these representatives blocked legislation that would give citizens the right to choose.

The result: Constitutional reform died.

Now it is 2007, and once again the Legislature gathers.

And, once again, reform advocates are optimistic that this will be the year.

This time they may be right.

A couple of things happened in 2006 that may point us in that direction.

First, Alabama voters approved a tax-reform measure, one that required every school system in the state to levy at least 10 mills of property tax for education. Now that does not seem like much, especially since most school systems do that already, but what the vote did was reveal that a simple tax-reform measure, when not cluttered with all sorts of anti-tax rhetoric, can pass voter inspection and go into law.

Since tax reform has been often linked to constitutional reform, this vote should help convince anti-reform elements that the earth will not open and swallow them if the system is adjusted to better support essential services.

At the same time voters rejected an amendment that would have allowed the city of Prichard to set up a tariff-free trading zone. Even though Prichard wanted it and even though no other part of the state would have been affected by it, under our Constitution everybody gets to vote on things like this. By a whopping 1 percent of the total vote, folks who had no interest in the matter told Prichard that the city could not have the economic development it wants and needs.

The irony of having a Constitution that requires people to vote on issues that do not pertain to them and a Legislature that will not let people vote on issues that do pertain to them is impossible to ignore.

However, what may be working best this year for reformers is timing.

Historically, it has been during the first year of a Legislature's quadrennial that reform measures have the best chance of passing. With four years remaining before they have to face voters again, legislators are more willing to take on issues such as this.

So maybe they will be bold enough to do what the majority of Alabamians want them to do.

Let's hope so.

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