By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter
For months, Alabamians have been focused on who they are going to vote for President of the United States. On Tuesday, they go to the polls and vote, where they face the hard stuff: voting on another fourteen amendments to the Alabama Constitution. A number of state legislators have expressed their opinions on the various amendments.
State Representative Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa) said that Amendment 1, “Expands the Auburn Board of Trustees to promote and encourage diversity. It also staggers the member’s terms so that they don’t all expire at the same time. I am voting yes.”
State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay) said that it changes when some of the board members’ terms expire, and adds two additional members to the board. On this amendment, I recommend either voting “yes” or not voting at all.
State Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) said, “The Auburn Board of Trustees needs more diversity. They also do not need a large number of members terming out at the same time. Continuity and corporate knowledge is very important. I will vote yes.”
State Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) wrote, “The primary goal of Amendment 2 is to ensure that park guest fees stay in the system to maintain our beautiful state parks. Amendment 2 also allows all parks the option to enter into concession agreements with businesses, which many of the parks already have the ability to do and will level the playing field by allowing that option to other parks. These private business partnerships benefit our park system. At no time does the park system lose ownership of a park or park facility if they enter into these “concessionaire” agreements. It simply gives them another option if they can’t afford to run a particular park or park facility rather than being forced to shut it down.”
Rep. England said, that Amendment 2, “Prohibits the Alabama Legislature from transferring money designated for or generated by the State Park System to other purposes. The amendment would also allow the State Park System to contract with private entities for operation and management of certain state owned facilities and land. If this were just about keeping the Legislature from transferring money out of the state park budget, then I would be okay with it. However, I do not like privatizing state owned facilities and land. I especially don’t like it in the Constitution so it can not be stopped if something goes wrong. I am voting no.”
Sen. Bussman wrote, “To my knowledge, there are no other departments or agencies that are constitutionally allowed to keep all of their revenue for their own operations. Court system certainly does not get to keep all of their revenue for their operations, etc. All revenues go to the general operations for the State services. The legislature then decides priorities through the budget process. I think this sets a bad precedence. Not against state parks but this is not the solution for our funding issues. I will vote no.”
Rep. Morrow said, “The second amendment is meant to protect funding for state parks by earmarking the funds currently going to the parks. In recent years, the Legislature has transferred some funds out of the parks’ budget to help shore up shortfalls in other parts of the budget. If you want to prevent the Legislature from dipping into the park funds then you will want to vote “yes.” If you would rather risk cutting park funding to avoid other cuts or tax increases, then you would want to vote “no.””
State Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) urged voters to vote NO on Amendment 2. McClendon said that Alabama. “Has the highest earmarks in the nation – 90 percent. Next closest- 40 percent. US average 20 percent. Prevents legislature from putting money where needed. Earmarks are reason General Fund in big trouble. (Yes on 14).”
Rep. England wrote that Amendment three, “Attempts to make sure that local constitutional amendments that only apply to one county actually stay local and off of the statewide ballot. Although I am not a fan of the extra procedural hurdle this amendment creates, in my opinion it is a needed and necessary amendment. I am voting yes.”
Rep. Morrow said, “Right now, our state constitution requires some local amendments to appear on statewide ballots. Amendment three addresses this problem by allowing local amendments to appear only on local ballots as long as all legislators agree that the amendment applies to only one county or one political subdivisions (such as a city) that lies within multiple counties. I recommend voting “yes” on this amendment, because local voters should decide local issues.”
Sen. Bussman said that Amendment Three, “Simplifies local constitutional amendments that affect only one county. I will vote yes.
Rep. Morrow said that, “Amendment four gives more autonomy to the local county commissions and how they manage programs like their personnel system and emergency assistance programs. I recommend voting “yes.””
Rep. England wrote that Amendment Four, “Creates limited home rule so counties can create policies and procedures relating to county personnel, litter, public transportation, emergency assistance, and public safety. It does not, however, allow counties to raise taxes or fees or infringe upon a citizen’s property rights. More home rule and less Montgomery rule is always a good thing. I am voting yes.”
Sen. Bussman said that Amendment Four, “Provides more local rule for counties. Still cannot raises taxes or fees under this amendment without legislature approving. I will vote yes.”
Rep. England wrote, “Amendment 5 – Repeals and revises sections of the Constitution dealing with the separation of powers between the 3 branches of government to combine them into one section without making any substantive changes to the law. I am voting yes.”
Sen. Bussman said that Amendment five, “Just cleans up the constitution a little bit. I will vote yes.”
Rep. Morrow said, “Amendment five modernizes language in our state’s constitution relating to the separation of powers, but makes no substantive changes. I plan to vote “yes.”
Rep. Morrow wrote that, “Amendment six replaces impeachment language in the state constitution with a new version that provides more details about the process, including how many votes are needed in the Senate to impeach an elected statewide officeholder. I support this amendment.”
Sen. Bussman wrote, “Impeachment is a very serious process. It should require 2/3 vote. The State school board should also be included in this process. I will vote yes.”
Rep. England wrote that, “Amendment 6 deals with Impeachment. It increases the voting threshold in the Senate to two-thirds majority vote to remove an elected official from office without changing the reasons why an elected official can be impeached. It also removes the state superintendent from the list of officials that can be impeached and adds the entire state school board to the list. To be clear, this amendment was passed prior to the current impeachment investigation of Governor Bentley. I currently serve on the House Judiciary Committee that has been charged with investigating whether or not Governor Bentley should be impeached. Therefore, I will not offer an opinion on Amendment 6 at this time.”
State Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) who represents Etowah County said that Amendment Seven separates the Etowah County Sheriff Department employees from the rest of the county employees. Butler said, “The way it was previously required every county employee to get a raise if you gave a deputy a raise. That’s why many left as soon as they graduated the academy because a small city paid much more. There is not an employee retention issue in the other departments like the Sheriff’s Office.”
Rep. England said that Amendment Seven, “Only applies to Etowah County, so please don’t vote on this amendment unless you live in that county.”
Rep. Morrow said, “Amendment seven is a local amendment relating to the Sheriff’s office in Etowah County, and whose authority the office’s employees are under. I ask that you vote “yes” on this amendment.”
Sen. Bussman wrote, “Affects the citizens of Etowah Co only. I will not vote on this amendment.”
State Representative Art Mooney (R-Indian Springs) wrote for the Alabama Media Group that Amendment Eight is a “Reasonable ballot measure will ensure that union and non-union workers and businesses may peacefully coexist in a calm workplace environment, while, at the same time, helping to attract new investments, grow existing industries, and create additional jobs. It also provides you with a plain-spoken, air-tight constitutional right to hold a job and earn a living for yourself and your loved ones.”
Rep. England said that Amendment 8, “Enshrines Alabama’s right-to-work laws in our Constitution. We already have right-to-work laws so this amendment is absolutely unnecessary. I am voting no and I hope you will as well.”
Rep. Morrow wrote that, “Amendment eight makes “Right to Work,” which has been state law since the early1950s, a part of the constitution. This amendment changes nothing in state law and does nothing to help business, but makes limits on the rights of working people permanent. I plan to vote “no.””
Sen. Bussman wrote that Amendment 8, “Declares constitutionally that AL is a right to work state. I will vote yes.”
Rep. Morrow said, “Amendments nine and ten are local amendments affecting only Pickens and Calhoun counties. I ask that you do not vote on these amendments, and let their fate be decided by the people in those counties.”
Amendment 9 would allow a person who is under the age of 75 to be elected or appointed Probate Judge in Pickens County. Under the current law, the age limit is 70 for the Probate Judge in Pickens County. Amendment 9 would provide that a person’s age would be considered at the beginning of the time to qualify, or at the time of appointment.
The Pickens County Probate Judge is John Earl Paluzzi (D).
Sen. Bussman said that Amendment 9, “Affects the citizens of Pickens Co only. I will not vote on this amendment. ”
Rep. England said, Amendment 9 – Only applies to Pickens County so please don’t vote on this amendment unless you live in that county.
Amendment 10 would prevent any city or town that is not located completely or partially within Calhoun County from exercising police jurisdiction or planning jurisdiction over any territory in Calhoun County.
Sen. Bussman said that Amendment Ten. “Affects the citizens of Calhoun Co only. I will not vote on this amendment.”
Rep. England wrote, “Amendment 10 – Only applies to Calhoun County, so please do not vote on this amendment unless you in that county.”
Rep. Morrow said, “Amendment eleven creates “Tax Increment Districts.” Basically, the idea is that local county and city governments spend/borrow money to develop land for recruiting large businesses, and offer tax credits to recruit businesses to their areas. Then, once the business comes, the property tax on the developed land will incrementally increase over time to repay what was spent/borrowed to recruit them. Vote “yes” if you believe the risk of local governments incurring millions of dollars in debt is worth it to try to recruit business; Vote “no” if you think the risk is too high, and that counties and cities may end up borrowing money then not successfully recruiting a businesses to pay back what gets borrowed.”
Sen. Bussman wrote, “This amendment (11) would give cities the power to create Tax Increment Financing Zones. Essentially this allows cities to borrow money against expected property tax increases within the zone to pay for incentives to lure industries. I am voting no.
Rep. England wrote, “Amendment 11 – This amendment would give cities the power to create Tax Increment Financing Zones. Essentially this allows cities to borrow money against expected property tax increases within the zone to pay for incentives to lure industries. I am voting no.”
Rep. Morrow said, “Amendment twelve is a local amendment but could affect voters statewide. This amendment allows cities in Baldwin County to set up a toll road authority to build and operate more toll roads. Voting “yes” would help Baldwin finance its roadways, but could also mean you pay more when you go to the beach.
Rep. England, and Sen. Bussman both agreed that Amendment 12, “Only applies to Baldwin County, so do not vote on this amendment unless you live in that county.”
Rep. England wrote on Amendment thirteen, “Amendment 13 – This amendment would repeal any existing age restriction on the appointment, election, or service of an appointed or elected official with the exception of judgeships. I am voting yes.”
Sen. Bussman said that Amendment 13, “Removes age restriction on members of state boards, etc. Does not include judges. I will vote yes.”
Rep. Morrow said, “Amendment thirteen repeals age restrictions on appointed or elected office holders except for judges. Vote “yes” if you want to remove the limits; Vote “no” if you think the limits should stay.”
Rep. Morrow said, “Amendment 14 is complicated. This amendment fixes a hole between state law and legislative rules concerning a common procedural vote. The constitution requires one number of votes for this procedural vote to pass, but the rules of the House of Representatives require a smaller number of votes. This became an issue because most legislators abstain from voting on local bills, and a court recently overturned one such bill because it did not get the constitutionally required votes needed. This amendment retroactively fixes this hole by bringing the constitution in line with the House’s rules. I recommend voting “yes” only because, if this amendment fails, it could cause chaos and proration in cities and counties across the state, including taking away pay raises for law enforcement and stripping millions of dollars from local schools.”
Rep. England wrote on Amendment 14, “This amendment would ratify all local bills passed prior to November 8th, 2016 that received less than 32 affirmative votes on the Budget Isolation Resolution (referred to as the BIR). There is a lot of misinformation out there about this particular amendment. However, trust me on this one, if this amendment fails, the entire state, almost every county, could potentially suffer significant consequences including jeopardizing funding for schools, court systems, and many other vital local programs. So please vote yes!”
Sen. Bussman said that Amendment 14, “Fixes a glitch in the local legislation process. I will vote yes.”
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told the Anniston Star that Amendment 14 was the most important amendment on the ballot. Marsh wrote in the ‘Anniston Star’, “All across Alabama, these bills include local support for education, health care, public safety, jobs and many other worthwhile local projects and protections. As you can see, if this happens, the impact would be disastrous. To cure this, the Legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would correct this problem and leave in place the local laws that would otherwise be subject to being set aside.” “I strongly urge all registered voters to vote on Nov. and don’t forget to vote “yes” on Amendment 14.”
Many counties will also have local amendments on the ballot that only they get to vote on.
The general election is on Tuesday, November 8. The amendments will be on the back of your ballot. Polls open at 7:00 am and close at 7:00 pm. To vote you must bring a valid photo ID.