A 2012 Statewide Amendments Overview With The League Of Women Voters
Election Day is less than a week away and there are many important races ranging from local all the way up to national for voters to decide. Alabamians will also have a chance to decide the outcome of 11 amendments on this year’s ballot as well. Alabama Public Radio’s Ryan Vasquez has an overview of the ballot measures and some of the amendments that are drumming up controversy.
Alabama’s Constitution is one of the longest in the world and after this election will have well over eight hundred amendments. Alabamians will get to amend the state constitution 11 more times November 6th. The Constitution includes amendments that go back and forth on many diver
se issues and even some provisions that are outdated. Hattie Kaufman is with the League of Women Voters of Alabama. She says Amendment 4 deals with one of those outdated provisions…racist language.
“There are still two provisions in the constitution; one that excuses veterans from paying the poll tax and one that excuses those with disabilities form paying the poll tax. So those are pretty much irrelevant parts of the constitution and this amendment would remove those two sections. The third section that it would remove is in section 111 which deals with public education.”
Kauffman says the education provision muddies the water on whether Alabamians have a right to education. Opponents of the amendment say it could reaffirm that education is not a right, but if the amendment is voted down it could open up another problem.
“ There’s been concern expressed really on both sides because the contrary argument of course is if Alabama votes this amendment down and keeps that blatantly racist language in there industry is concerned that other states will say look at Alabama they couldn’t even repeal blatantly racist language from their constitution.”
That argument would impact another amendment on the ballot, Amendment 2, which is getting major support from Governor Robert Bentley. When campaigning for Governor, Bentley promised to not take a salary until the state was back at full employment. He says without Amendment Two he can’t lure the industry necessary to create jobs. Again Hattie Kaufman.
“Right now under the Alabama Constitution the state is permitted to float bonds for a total of 750 million dollars. Under that they already floated 730 million dollars. So there’s not that much left.”
Now the amendment won’t raise the debt limit above 750 million dollars…
“ But what it does is it enables the state to first of all to go out and take advantage of some of the lower interest rates that are available now so that they can refinance some of the older bonds at a lower interest rate thus saving the state a significant amount of money.”
To put it another way the amendment will allow the state to charge more on its credit card.
“If you have a credit card with a credit limit of a thousand dollars and you charge a thousand dollars and then you pay off five hundred of that you can go back and you can recharge another five hundred dollars. Well under current law the state can’t do that. Once they borrow this 730 million dollars even though they’ve paid back a portion of that they can’t go back and re-borrow. This amendment would give them the ability to do that.”
Another amendment drawing strong feelings on both sides is Amendment 7.
“It guarantees the right to a secret ballot in civic votes but also in union votes. Now obviously we already have guaranteed the right to a secret ballot in your civic votes; when you go to the polls. But this would extend that to union votes and votes for representation.”
If passed Amendment 7 would make it harder for unions to operate in the state.
“As things stand now unions can launch a campaign where the workers can simply check off whether they want union representation or what union they want to represent them this would forbid that practice. Obviously there are two sides to it a number of businesses are very much in favor of this amendment and unions and a number of workers groups are very much opposed to it.”
There are eight more amendments on the ballot that range from local issues like Amendment 3 which would define the Stockton Landmark District within Baldwin County to Amendment 8 which deals with legislator’s compensation. For more information on all of the statewide ballot measures visit the League of Women Voters of Alabama website at l-w-v-a-l-dot-org. I’m Ryan Vasquez, APR News.