By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— Representative Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) is the only state representative to serve on the Constitutional Revision Commission who is not a Chairperson within the State Legislative body. Appointed to the commission by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) Todd says her selection was “interesting.”
Monday’s meeting of the Constitutional Revision Commission was, by all accounts, the first time there was any real contention among the members. A vote on including term limits caused a momentary rift in the normally cohesive group.
The commission is comprised of 12 appointed members and the chairs of the House and Senate judiciary committees and the House and Senate Constitution, Campaigns and Elections committees as ex-officio members.
At Monday’s meeting Governor Robert Bentley, House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, were represented by staff members.
When a vote was called for on including term limits as a part of the constitutional revisions, Sen. Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville); Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster); and Rep. Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood), joined Todd in voting to include term limits.
Todd, questioned the proxy votes, which caused a stir among many members. After some discussion a vote was taken to allow the Governor, Pro Tem and Speaker the special privileged of voting by representative.
“The people that represent them usually know the will of those they represent, but the vote should have been handled prior to the vote [on term limits],” said Todd.
Todd said that she believed the procedure by which the proxies are allowed should have been extended to all members and not just the Governor, Pro Tem and Speaker.
Todd who is champion of term limits said, “It was interesting to me that all the legislators voted for term limits but I guarantee you if it had of been a vote on the House floor many of them would not have voted that way.”
Known as an independent firebrand, Todd’s honesty has served her well since entering the legislature in 2006. She caucuses with neither democrat or republican and often says, “I belong to the party of right and wrong.” She says she thinks that perhaps she is on the commission because, “I will make my case, vote it up or down and move on to the next issue. I don’t have an agenda.”
Todd believes that serving on the commission has given her a great understanding of the “constitution and the administration of government.” She says that while it is a privilege to serve the commission is only “addressing low hanging fruit, in terms of arcane language, clarification and moving one section to a more appropriate section.”
But term limits and the age requirement to serve in the state legislature are issues that really concern her. “I don’t know that we are going to win that fight [on term limits] but for me sometimes it is about the process and the conversation and that can be as meaningful as the vote.”
She is disappointed that the commission did not allow a change in the age requirements to sever as a legislator. Under current law, to serve in the House one must be 21 and 25 to serve as a Senator. “I think this is hypocritical on our part. We ask young men and women to serve oversees, and risk their lives for our country,and to kill, we think they are smart enough to do that, but we don’t think that are qualified to serve in the legislature. It is ridiculous,” said Todd.
Todd says that she is against any artificial barriers other than geographic to serve the state.
During Monday’s meeting the commission heard from a group that wanted to address Home Rule another matter being considered for revision. Todd said, “The people we heard from today, wanted to talk about property rights, we are not going to really be addressing that in this commission.”
While she welcomed the citizens who came to speak she did express discouragement at the lack of “accessibility to such meetings.”
“The average citizen cannot take off in the middle of the day to attended these meetings,” she said. “The fact is most people don’t even know these meeting are taking place because it is poorly advertised, you really have to be paying attention.”
She regrets the lack of, “public input.”
Todd says that the Alabama Law Institute “has done a good job” in keeping a web documentation of the commission’s meeting, “but most citizen have never even heard of the Alabama Law Institute.”
Todd finished by saying, “We need transparency, discussion and democracy,” these are principles she believes in strongly and will continue to fight for.