Moving forward, albeit slowly
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 15, 2013 | 1595 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We’re not surprised the state’s Constitutional Revision Commission is moving slowly. It’s well-known that reforming the antiquated 1901 Constitution would generate opposition from the special-interest groups for which it was written to make “special.”

The surprise is that it is moving at all.

Let us remind Alabamians that one of the objectives of the state’s Founding Fathers who wrote the document was to consolidate power in the state Legislature. That would make it impossible for counties to institute innovations that would in some way reduce the power of local elites who wanted to keep their grip on local power.

However, it became apparent over the years that this consolidation also prevented counties from making necessary changes, especially in economic development. Therefore, as business interests became less opposed to giving counties more authority over their own affairs, the stage was set for change.

That is what the Constitutional Revision Committee is proposing.

Being discussed are plans that would give counties the power to ratify — and, by implication, reject — changes the Legislature might propose.

That’s not a bad idea. But it doesn’t get to the root of the problem counties face — the inability to do virtually anything without permission from the Legislature.

Another plan addresses what is called the “delegation” option, which would let counties run their own affairs when the Legislature was not in session, but only on the condition that lawmakers could review (and, by implication, reject) those changes when they meet again. However, that solves one problem and creates another.

One could easily see counties waiting for the Legislature to adjourn before taking action on certain issues; likewise, it’s easy to see the legislative calendar cluttered with county “reviews.” Since the Legislature has trouble enough getting its work done under present conditions, adding what might be controversial items to the calendar could make things worse, not better.

Another plan that creates different classifications of counties was rejected by the Association of County Commissioners because it would allow the Legislature to pass laws aimed at a single county.

More acceptable to the association is the ratification (or “collaborative”) plan that would allow commissioners and legislators to check each other’s powers under certain conditions — conditions that will be at the heart of the debate over this proposal.

A recommendation will come from all of this. And, oddly, at that point the system so badly in need of reforming will take over.

The Legislature will have to approve the recommendation and the people will vote on it in the form of a constitutional amendment — just like the state’s Founding Fathers intended.

More hurdles to jump, more opportunities to reject the whole thing.

Nevertheless, let this be said: The Constitutional Revision Commission is on the move. That is good for Alabama.
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