By Minority Leader Craig Ford
In two weeks, we will cast our votes in several crucial elections. But there will be more than just political offices on our ballots. This year’s ballot also includes eleven statewide amendments, some of which will have significant impacts on our state.
To help voters have a better understanding of what these amendments will do, I have written a summary of each one and provided my personal opinion (and I stress that these are my personal opinions and not necessarily those of other Democrats in the legislature) to help voters make their own decisions.
Amendment 1: This amendment reauthorizes the Forever Wild Land Trust for another 20 years.
Forever Wild protects Alabama’s natural beauty by purchasing land for public use and recreation, including hiking trails, wildlife preserves, and ten state parks. The program has been supported by people from all sorts of backgrounds, most recently in a TV ad featuring former Alabama and Auburn football coaches Gene Stallings and Pat Dye. Taxpayer money purchases the land, but the land is maintained and protected without relying on taxpayer money.
Amendment 2: Under current law, the state is allowed to become indebted and to issue interest-bearing General Obligation bonds as long as the bonds do not exceed $350 million (Amendment 666, Section VIII of the state Constitution). This amendment would increase the limit on the bonds from $350 million to $750 million.
Supporters have argued that this amendment is necessary to help pay for economic incentives such as corporate tax breaks. While I support using incentives to help recruit or expand business, I do not believe we need to be borrowing more money after we just asked voters to borrow $437 million from the state’s Trust Fund.
Amendment 3: This amendment is specific to Baldwin County and involves a local annexation issue. I recommend that voters outside of the county not vote on this amendment.
Amendment 4: Removes references to segregation in schools and the poll tax from the state constitution. The amendment also states that: “nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense….”
We shouldn’t have to forego our children’s right to an education just to get racist language out of our state constitution. So I am encourage everyone to vote no on Amendment 4.
Amendment 5: This amendment is specific to Mobile County and involves transferring assets from one local municipality to another. As with Amendment 3, I encourage everyone outside of Mobile County to not vote on this amendment.
Amendment 6: This amendment would prohibit any person from being compelled to participate in any health care system, meaning the government can’t make you buy health insurance.
This amendment is meant to oppose Obamacare, but the U.S. Supreme Court already upheld the mandatory insurance requirement. So even if this amendment passes, it won’t matter.
Amendment 7: This amendment guarantees the right to vote by private ballot in elections for public office, referendum, or employee representation is “fundamental.”
This amendment has also been called the card-check amendment. It is misleading because you already have the right to vote by secret ballot in political elections. What this amendment is really about is taking away a tool that unions have to organize in the workplace. But I am also afraid of the path it takes us down. If we start telling private organizations how they can and cannot organize, then what’s next? Are we going to start telling churches or private groups like Kiwanis Clubs how they can and cannot conduct their business?
This amendment is dangerous, and I urge you to vote no.
Amendment 8: This amendment sets legislators pay at the median household income and increases the reimbursement rate for travel.
There are several things wrong with this amendment. First, it does not repeal the pay raise of 2007. In fact, this amendment is actually a backdoor pay raise. If the average household income increases, so will legislators’ pay. Also, legislators who live further away will actually make more because of the increase in travel reimbursements.
More legislative pay raises are not the answer – especially when legislative leaders could not even balance the budget without raiding the state’s Trust Fund.
Amendment 9: This amendment updates the language in the constitution regarding the regulation of business. I do not oppose it.
Amendment 10: This amendment updates some of the constitution’s language regarding banks. It also eliminates any time limits on the charters of banks, it eliminates the need for a bank to renew its charter, and it requires banks to report to the legislature and for the legislature to exam banks’ resources and liabilities.
I don’t like everything in this amendment, but it also has some good points, so I will not oppose it.
Amendment 11: This amendment is a local issue relating to Lawrence County and its neighboring counties. As with amendments 3 and 5, I encourage voters outside of the effected counties to skip this amendment.
I hope you will find these summaries useful as you make your decision about how you will vote on November 6th.
Representative Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden. He has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2000. In 2010, Representative Ford was elected House Minority Leader by the House Democratic Caucus. He was re-elected Minority Leader in 2012.