Constitutional rewrite necessary for state's future development

Published 6:27 am Wednesday, January 16, 2002

By Staff
If nothing else comes out of this year's regular legislative session, at least lawmakers are seriously discussing the idea of rewriting the state's 1901 Constitution.
During his state of the state address opening the session earlier this month, Gov. Don Siegelman called for the Legislature to ask voters in November to call for a Constitutional convention.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Jack Venable, D-Tallassee, has sponsored bills to rewrite six non-controversial articles of the Constitution, which is one of the longest such constitutions in the nation and has been amended more than 600 times.
This being an election year, many pundits have said little of substance will be gained during the legislative session as lawmakers are eager to hit the campaign trails, and if history is any indicator, the pundits are probably right.
However, the increasing demand for constitutional revision from grassroots organizations has reached a fevered pitch in recent years and apparently some lawmakers are seeing the issue as an opportunity to possibly win some support, despite the controversial nature of the constitutional rewrite issue.
Some pundits are calling the constitutional discussions within the Legislature, "cosmetic," and doubt any real changes will occur.
And with the dueling attitudes toward the constitutional issue, they may be right.
One camp says the Constitution is outdated and needs to be completely rewritten to correct inequities in the state's tax structure, outdated racist language and clear up issue of home rule and other issues.
The other camp says the Constitution is a historic document and should be preserved and amended to meet the changing times. The latter argument, however, is flawed and would just perpetuate the same problems that have existed, leading to the more than 600 amendments and the lengthiest state constitution in the land.
Finally, lawmakers are waking up to the real need to rewrite the state's Constitution. The debate now seems to be moving into the area of the best way to accomplish the rewrite.
Virtually everyone agrees that special interests should not be allowed to unduly influence the Constitutional rewriting process.
At issue is whether the Legislature would be the best source of the rewrite or a true citizen-led constitutional convention.
In today's world, it will be nearly impossible to keep special interest groups from influencing any rewrite effort, whether it is conducted by the Legislature or citizens.
During this legislative session, every citizen should pay attention to the issue and decide for himself or herself which would be the best way to rewrite the state's Constitution.

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