Yet, the document survives because the special-interest groups it protects have either prospered under it or fear that change may take away what little they receive.
So it follows that any change to the document must benefit enough of those groups to garner their support — or minimize their opposition.
This is why changing the state Constitution to give county governments more power will be one of the topics discussed at the upcoming meeting of the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform.
The authors of the state Constitution feared that counties might come under the control of popular leaders who would institute changes that would broaden the electorate and make county government more responsive to popular needs. If that happened, conservative reasoning went, a reform movement might spread across the state and the system of planter-industrialist control might come crashing down around them. Thus, keeping county government small and powerless was one of the many anti-democratic elements written into the document.
As the state has grown over the years, counties have needed more authority, not less, if they are to provide local services. As a result, the pressure to change this aspect of the Constitution has increased, especially among business groups, county commissioners and educators.
In addition, the fear that counties might challenge the state status quo with innovations and reforms has diminished because county interests are less in conflict with state interests as they might once have been.
In other words, the time is right to seriously consider expanding the authority of county governments and bring Alabama more in line with states where local authorities have more control over local matters. For too long, counties have had to run to Montgomery to get permission to do things that counties in other states do as a matter of course.
Last year, the state Legislature created a 16-member Constitutional Revision Commission to begin a piece-by-piece approach to changing the document. This would be a good piece with which to start.