Reading for reform
Published Monday, October 23, 2006 Gadsden Times

College students take up cause of new constitution
On at least 15 college campuses in Alabama, there is reason to hope students will be taking about for than their classes, or football and festivities for the weekend passed and the one coming up. Students at colleges across the state will work to draw attention to the need for a new state constitution by reading the old one - a document that dates back to 1901 and is dated in many ways.

The state's constitution has been subject to piecemeal changes literally hundreds of times over the last 105 years. Three more amendments to this constitution can be found on the Nov. 7 ballot. In part because the state constitution was designed to focus power in the state capital, lawmakers have been forced to amendment it again and again to meet the needs of individual counties and of the state as a whole.

In recent years discussion has brewed about constitutional reform, but lawmakers have yet to allow Alabamians to vote for it. And somexperts have indicated they don't believe its time for that yet - that it will take a more far-reaching educational effort to create the kind of grassroots support needed for reform. Certainly a word-by-word reading of the constitution is a good way to call attention to its shortcomings.

Not only would it outweigh other state constitutions, it is weighted down with racist language from past efforts by law to separate the races. Even though portions of the constitution dealing with segregation have been rendered invalid by federal laws, the language remains in our constitution. That alone illustrates the need to streamline the document and make it a more workable basis for government.

Still the issue is likely to raise conflict. Some are concerned special interests would try to rewrite the constitution in their own best interest, or that a rewrite could be used to raise taxes.

It is perhaps good that college students are being asked to take part in calling attention to the need for change. Considering the resistance in this state to change, a new constitution may take quite some time.

These future leaders should be involved in the campaign now, because it could be up to them to take up this cause if support for this change comes as slowly as it often does for change in Alabama.

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