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Constitution Reform Under Way

By Sen. Cam Ward

Over the last several years I have heard many people discuss the need for Constitution Reform in Alabama.  It is one of those issues that is like a desire for good government reform—it sounds good until you define what the term means then there is a great deal of disagreement.

When attending meetings in my district, I don’t get asked very often about reforming our state constitution but when I am asked, I get differing and often contradictory ideas about what reforms should be made. This impression has led me to be a proponent of an article-by-article rewrite of the Alabama Constitution.  There is little arguing that some changes do need to be made to our state’s governing document, but it should be done in such a way that is deliberate and allows maximum citizen input.

In 2011, the Alabama Legislature created the Constitution Revision Commission.  This bi-partisan Commission is made up of citizens from around the state, the governor, and leaders from the legislature. As the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, this will be my first year serving on the Commission.  The Commission, which is being chaired by former Governor Albert Brewer, is charged with leading the effort to reform our state constitution on an article-by-article basis.

The article-by-article approach has been successful twice before.  In 1973, Article VI, relating to the Judiciary, was revised in an effort led by then Chief Justice Howell Heflin. This same approach was followed again in 1996 when State Representative Jack Venable led the effort to revise Article VIII, relating to Suffrage and Elections.  Both of these efforts have been mentioned by many throughout the country as a model for reforming state constitutions.

On November 6, 2012, the work of the Constitution Revision Commission will have its first year’s product on the ballot.  Citizens will have a historic opportunity to amend the Alabama Constitution by voting in favor of Amendments 9 and 10.  These revisions to the Articles dealing with governance of corporations and banking will remove antiquated language and shorten the length of our state’s governing document.  Some of the outdated language in these Articles includes obsolete terms that have not been used in decades, yet still clutter our Constitution.  While these revisions will not impact taxes for corporations or citizens, their adoption will help us begin shrinking the size of our state constitution and make it a more functional governing document.  I urge you to vote yes on these amendments and help the Alabama Constitution Revision Commission move forward with its work.

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