Alabamians should not fear reform, but the lack thereof
Editorials from The Daily Home
11-06-2007

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Halloween may be over, but still the boogey man lurks around every corner if you listen to opponents of constitutional reform in this state.

He’s been there in the shadows for more than a century now, threatening the balance of power in Alabama. He comes in different forms – taxes, gambling, anything that might scare an Alabamian into thinking he’s better protected by a constitution that really renders him powerless.

That point isn’t lost in a new documentary, “It’s A Thick Book,” which underscores the fallacy that a document to disenfranchise poor white and black voters in 1901 could protect the masses today.

It didn’t then, and it doesn’t now. That’s why it has been amended more than 700 times and is longer than any constitution in the country, including the U.S. Constitution.

Certainly, it’s a thick book. It’s thick because it falls well short of fairness, prompting the need for an amendment for just about any issue that ought to be decided by a local community. Instead it keeps the power from the people and puts it in the hands of lawmakers in Montgomery.

It hamstrings good government by putting purely local issues into a maze of unnecessary hurdles.

A good example is a 2004 proposal from the city of Trussville to annex a portion of St. Clair County. The proposal involved only two communities, Trussville and St. Clair County, yet officials of those communities first had to ask lawmakers for permission to decide the issue.

The matter had to be approved by Alabama legislators before it could even reach a ballot back home. But wait, there’s more.

It did indeed go to a ballot, but because the Constitution says so, it went to a statewide ballot. St. Clair and Trussville had their say, giving the annexation an affirmative nod.

But it didn’t pass. Voters across the state defeated the local measure by a 2-1 margin on an issue they probably knew nothing about.

What’s worse is it helps protect timber and large landowners by keeping their taxes low while shortchanging school funding. It protects a regressive tax system that relies largely on sales tax, making rank and file pay more of every hard-earned dollar in taxes.

And it continues to keep special interests safe and sound and in control of state government.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of other examples that should expose the Constitution for what it is – a thick book that long ago outlived its usefulness.

A constitutional convention to rewrite it so that it serves the people instead of a selected few is in order, but it doesn’t have a ghost of a chance until the people rise up against what they should fear the most.

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