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Tue November 2, 2004
Continuing the Movement for Reform
By Bobby Puppione, Alabama Public Radio
Tuscaloosa, AL – The U.S. Constitution has 27 amendments. Multiply this number by 28 and you get close to the number of amendments in the Alabama Constitution -- 751. A number of amendments will be voted on in tomorrow's election, but issues inside of the constitution are still a problem for some people in Alabama. Alabama Public Radio's Bobby Puppione reports...
University of Alabama Political Science Chairman David Lanoue sits on a bench on the U-A campus one Fall morning and flips through the pages of the Alabama Constitution. He pauses to comment on one amendment.
"Amendment 482 refers to the disposal of dead farm animals in Limestone County. Now the idea that Limestone County would have to get a constitutional amendment to deal with its disposal of farm animals is just absurd."
This is just one of many amendments constitutional reformists in the state use as an example of the need for change in the Alabama constitution. Taylor Nichols is the President of Alabama Students for Constitutional Reform. He says these amendments exist because counties have very little control over their policies.
"A lot of times county races are not taken seriously because no one really cares how well they can do their job because everyone knows that the legislature in Montgomery are the ones that control the issues."
Professor Lanoue echoes Nichols thoughts on the legislature's involvement with local issues. He says the length of the document also causes a problem for the legislature.
"The Alabama state constitution is just massive. It's the blueprint for government and the idea that this is a really unwieldy, unworkable blueprint that makes government more inefficient and makes government less workable."
Taylor Nichols says his student chapter is focusing on public relations campaigns and open forums to educate citizens about constitutional reform. He uses recycling as a metaphor.
"Most people are for it but a lot of times they are not really going to make a big effort to go after it. In fact with recycling if you don't have a recycling bin sitting there, people will still throw it in the trash. Constitutional reform is kind of the same way. If you don't go out their and promote the issue, if you don't have petitions for them to sign, if you don't have little small things that they can do without a great deal of effort than they aren't going to get out their and make that effort to do anything."
The push for constitutional reform is not unanimous. Several political and religious groups have come out against the movement. Eight amendments will be voted on in tomorrow's election, including Amendment 2, which would remove language from the constitution requiring the segregation of public schools and the mentioning of poll taxes. These provisions were struck down in federal court years ago, but remain in the constitution.
"I think if we look at each one of the articles of the constitution that we would like to change than we have the ability to do exactly what we are doing now and that's the way it should work."
Governor Bob Riley.
"You have an opportunity to talk about it, you have an opportunity to vent all sides of it, and then let the people vote."
And the people will have that opportunity tomorrow.
For Alabama Public Radio, I'm Bobby Puppione.