By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Liberal groups have long complained about Alabama’s State constitution and have advocated a constitutional convention to draft a document to replace the 1901 document. They argue that the document is too long, has too many amendments, places too much power in the hands of the state versus delegating more of that to counties, has archaic and even racist language, and makes it too difficult for the State to raise taxes.
Conservatives have long defended the state constitution: arguing that it should be hard for the State to raise taxes on the people of Alabama, making counties go through the state provides the people another layer of protection from government oppression even if it is local, and allowing the people regular votes on a wide variety of government initiatives in the amendment process gives the people of Alabama much more control over what happens in this State.
Well, Alabama is getting a new Constitution but the people of Alabama are not getting a state constitutional convention to voice their concerns about home rule, the proper role of government in the 21st century, whether or not education is a right, or any of these other weighty issues. Instead a little known committee is rewriting our Constitution line by line far outside of the view of the public based on recommendations from the Alabama Law Institute, periodically releasing rewritten articles to the public to vote on in elections without ever seeing the final constitution.
Last week Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) and Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker (R) were asked to review the legality of this, largely behind closed doors, process from the Supreme Court of Alabama. The opinion that they wrote asserted that it is illegal, unconstitutional and a “usurpation” of the people’s rights.
Chief Justice Moore wrote that, “Stretching out the constitutional-revision process over a number of years by submitting to the people two, three, or five revised articles per general election under the amendment procedure of § 284 does not change the reality that a nearly total revision of the Alabama Constitution is occurring.”
Chief Justice Moore wrote, “The Alabama Constitution states that ‘all political power is inherent in the people,’ who are the rightful engineers in the constitutional locomotive. Any branch of government that wrongfully seeks to hijack the process of constitutional revision must be stopped before the train runs out of control. For the reasons stated above, I would provide the advisory opinion requested and hold that the proposed amendments are constitutionally invalid because, taken as a group and also as a part of the Act No. 2011-197 revision train, they violate the exclusive prerogative of the people to revise their constitution through a constitutional convention held pursuant to § 286.”
The other Supreme Court Justices refused to even given an opinion. The opinion was requested by State Senator Bryan Taylor (R) from Prattville under Senate Resolution No. 44, requesting an advisory opinion on whether the amendments to the Alabama Constitution of 1901 proposed by five senate bills would be constitutionally valid if passed by the legislature and then sent to the voters for ratification pursuant to Sec. 284.
Now, a conservative group is suing the state to block what they charge is an un-constitutional process or re-writing Alabama’s constitution. The Alabama Association For Judeo-Christian Values will be holding a press conference on the Alabama Statehouse Steps on Thursday March 6, 2014 at 10:30 AM . The group is expected to make an announcement concerning the lawsuit Bell vs Strange appealed to The Alabama Supreme Court to stop the unconstitutional re-write of the Alabama Constitution through the Constitution Revision Committee (CRC).
They are arguing that the Alabama Constitution can only be rewritten through the convention method which is reserved to a convention of the people which may only be called by popular vote according to the Section 286 of the Alabama Constitution.
The lawsuit claims the Constitution Revision Committee is a committee comprised of legislators and special interest groups such as the ACCR and the Alabama Law institute and is acting as an in-house constitutional convention, therefore, circumventing the requirements of Section 286 of the Alabama Constitution which first submits the question: Convention or No Convention to the people of Alabama.
They argue that this action takes away the people’s source of power according to Article 1, Section 2 of the Alabama Constitution.