Less than two weeks was all it took — after years of debate and little movement forward on the issue — for the Legislature to take a significant step toward reform of Alabama’s Constitution.
The Legislature Thursday passed a resolution to create a 16-member constitutional reform commission, which will suggest article-by-article changes to most of the Constitution over the next three years. Proposed changes could be accepted or rejected by the Legislature and any accepted changes would have to be approved by Alabama voters before taking effect.
The resolution awaits Gov. Robert Bentley’s signature.
“The governor has not signed that yet but he supports constitutional reform and will be signing it in the next few days,” Bentley press secretary Jennifer Ardis said Friday during a phone interview.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, introduced the resolution April 12 and was not surprised it passed through both houses of the Legislature less than two weeks later.
“I felt it had a lot of support,” Marsh said.
Marsh said the resolution passed quickly mainly because the commission will not be required to look at tax reform, which has held up many attempts to change the Constitution in the past.
Marsh said the Legislature could look at tax reform separately later. But for now, it could still make significant changes to the bloated, 800-amendment 1901 Constitution, including removing racist language.
“It’s time to clean it up,” Marsh said.
William Stewart, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alabama, author of two books on constitutional reform and connected to a similar sort of reform effort under former Gov. Bob Riley, was encouraged by the Legislature’s quick passage of the resolution.
“I am somewhat surprised by how disciplined the Republicans are,” Stewart said. “If their leaders want something, they’ll probably get it through. In the past, the Democratic Party was so fractionalized that they didn’t have much of an agenda.”
Stewart said without tax reform on the table, the commission would likely succeed where other constitutional reform attempts had failed.
“Yes, I think something will get done, such as where the language is outdated,” Stewart said.
Marsh said work would begin quickly on the commission so it could get a head start on its 2014 deadline to make all its reform recommendations.
“I’m already making my considerations for appointments,” Marsh said.
The commission members will include the governor and three of his appointees, Marsh and three appointees, House Speaker Mike Hubbard and three appointees, Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, co-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, chairman of the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee, Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood and Rep. Randy Davis, R-Daphne, chairman of the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee.
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561.