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Odd laws still on books

By By Jonathan McElvy
BNI News Wire
Alabama's 1901 Constitution has come under fire by numerous citizen groups and even Gov. Bob Riley. A majority of the concern over the state document deals with serious issues like the government's inability to spend money in areas of need.
Areas like that give citizens and public officials headaches. But in some of the following amendments to Alabama's constitution, citizens and public officials get a good dose of humor.
Take, for instance, Section 86 of the Alabama Constitution, which says: "The legislature shall pass such penal laws as it may deem expedient to suppress the evil practices of dueling."
If dueling isn't evil enough, the constitution also has a stern warning for the harlots of Jefferson County.
According to Amendment 688 of the state constitution, prostitution is banned in unincorporated areas of Jefferson County.
Maybe an increase of mosquitoes would run off some of those unincorporated prostitutes. Not in Mobile County, where the Alabama Constitution was needed to intervene in the mosquito dilemma.
Says Amendment 351: "The legislature may authorize the levy and collection of a 1 mil ad valorem tax in Mobile County on real and tangible personal property that is subject to such tax under the laws of the state for the purpose of controlling mosquitoes, rodents and other vectors of public health."
If the constitution must deal with a bunch of vectors, it probably should include pigs in the discussion, shouldn't it? Never fear.
Amendment 400 takes care of our concerns: "Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, the legislature may hereafter, by general law, provide for the promotion of, the production of, research, distribution, marketing, use, improvement and sale of swine and swine products."
Thank goodness.
This sounds humorous, doesn't it? Well, some of it is just plain embarrassing. Amendment 111 is a perfect example: "It is the policy of the state of Alabama to foster and promote the education of its citizens in a manner and extent consistent with its available resources, and the willingness and ability of the individual student, but nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense."
Is there really a need for this sort of language in Alabama's constitution?
Does it breed pride in this state's citizens?
If nothing else, the Alabama constitution takes up more space dealing with local and needless issues than it does anything else. Listen to these statistics compiled by Citizens for Responsible Constitutional Reform:
* At least 181 amendments authorize higher property taxes for city and county government and school districts.
* 121 give more power to counties and cities to deal with local problems.
* Five allow bingo in specific counties and cities.
* 63 allow local control of court costs and compensation of local employees
* 51 exempt local government from the ban on working with private companies toward economic development.
And this is the state of our Alabama Constitution.