Piecemeal reform not the best way: Redo all of the Constitution
The Anniston Star
In our opinion
04-11-2007

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For years the late Rep. Jack Venable argued that Alabama’s Constitution needed to be rewritten. But Venable, ever a member of the Statehouse gang, felt the rewriting should be done by the Legislature — article by article.

Venable even got some of his proposals passed in the House, but as has been so often the case in years past, reform bogged down in the Senate.

Sadly, Venable is no longer with us, but his torch has been picked up by Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, who has introduced bills that would rewrite the banking and corporation portions of the document.

The House Constitution and Election Committee approved the banking proposal. They will take up the corporation rewrite next week.

These are sections of the Constitution that are badly out of date and need to be revised. Since the business block in the House wants them passed, they likely will go through.

After that, one can only wonder if the business-minded Republicans who are the core of the coalition that has been keeping the Senate from doing business will back off to let the bills they favor pass? Which self-interest position will prevail?

As necessary as this rewrite might be, it still is not real constitutional reform — nor is this article-by-article method really likely to accomplish what the state needs.

As Howard Walthall, the Samford University law professor who for years worked with Venable, observed, our Constitution is “filled with details that should be in code books.” The Constitution’s authors, determined to keep power in the hands of themselves and their political descendants, made it difficult if not impossible for local governments to function efficiently and for the Legislature to pass all but constitutionally sanctioned bills without going through the amending process.

This rewriting of banking and corporations underscores the problem. In most states the changes being proposed would have long ago been made with legislative approval — as laws, not constitutional amendments. But under our Constitution, after the Legislature gives its OK, the people must vote to amend the Constitution and pile on more amendments.

The only way to rid the state of this cumbersome and costly process is to rewrite the whole Constitution. The only efficient and effective and timely way to do this is through a constitutional convention.

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