ASCR starts letter-writing campaign for reform
Crimson White, February 9, 2004
By Rebecca Evans, staff reporter
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It's out with the old and in with the new -- or at least that is what Alabama Students for Constitutional Reform wants.

With 742 amendments, the Alabama Constitution, ratified in 1901, is the longest state constitution in the United States. Reformists say it is also one of the most repressive and backward.

"It is not a document that ensures fairness and liberty for the citizens of Alabama," ASCR President Prince Cleveland said. "Its purpose was to tie the hands of local government, centralize enormous power in Montgomery and to limit the rights, particularly voting rights, of many of Alabama's citizens."

This semester, ASCR, has begun a letter-writing campaign targeting various representatives and senators and seeking their support for constitutional reform during this year's legislative session.

ASCR secretary Heather Edwards, a junior majoring in political science and German, said that since the failure of Gov. Bob Riley $1.2 billion tax and accountability package in September, the quest for constitutional reform has become even more difficult.

"It was shown that Alabamians do not trust their government, but we need that trust to improve our state," Edwards said.

"The letter-writing campaign is to express that there are those of us out there still willing to have the Legislature reform our state, and they will be held accountable while in office for their constituents' wishes."

Among the legislators to whom members are writing is Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope. He said he agrees constitutional reform is necessary, referencing his own work on the issue while he attended law school at the Capstone in the late 1970s.

Byrne said he was doubtful, however, about reform's chances in the Legislature in the near future.

"There is substantial opposition to constitutional reform, and the failure of last year's tax referendum, which had some reforms in it, was a setback to the reform effort," Byrne said. "I do not see any initiative for constitutional reform this session."

One legislator who opposes constitutional reform proposals is Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden.

He complained that a constitutional convention would be difficult. He said he also opposes it for religious reasons.

"I am against any rewrite of the preamble," Galliher said. "The current preamble makes reference to and acknowledges the presence of God. And I do, too."

Edwards said she thinks the state's charter continues to inhibit Alabama from reaching its full potential.

"For me personally, I believe the constitution is hindering our state from progressing out of the 20th century and into the 21st," she said.

"Just open up any hometown newspaper and you will see the effect of our constitution: no alcohol sales on Sunday, a victim fails to get compensated because they were 1 percent at fault in an accident, et cetera."

The UA chapter of ASCR was formed in 2001 as an affiliate of Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform to inform the public, especially college students, about the need for constitutional reform.

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