For the past several years various leaders have introduced bills that would allow Alabamians to decide for ourselves whether to rewrite our outdated and cumbersome state constitution.
The same is true this year. Senate Bill 177, Senate Joint Resolution 42 and House Joint Resolution 54 have been introduced and are in committee pending a vote. If they were to pass, Alabamians would be allowed to decide whether to rewrite our governing document.
Unfortunately, if the pattern of the past continues, stalling and procedural hand-wringing will leave the bills languishing in their various rules committee and once again Alabama voters will be denied the opportunity to speak in our own voice on this matter.
To all state legislators who allow this to happen, shame on you.
It is past time to allow us to speak for ourselves on this matter. Our state constitution is an embarrassment that needs to be sent to the nearest museum, and a better and more just governing document put in its place. We need to have a constitutional convention where citizens can rewrite our constitution, and that needs to be sooner rather than later.
There are many reasons why our constitution needs rewriting. Here are just a few.
Rewriting the constitution would put an end to the ludicrous practice of having city and county matters managed in Montgomery. Obviously, this would seriously dilute the power now wielded by legislators, but it would place power in the hands of the people where it belongs.
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Rewriting the constitution would make it possible to break the stranglehold now enjoyed by big agribusiness and the timber industry. I am not talking about family farms of 2,000 acres or less. I am talking about huge corporations that hide behind our current document, and use legislators as their puppets.
Rewriting the constitution would likely put an end to earmarks. Many in public education fear this would put public schools at risk for adequate funding. But I have an announcement for you: schools under the current arrangement are already under funded. Our current method of providing for schools only ensures that rich school districts get richer, and poor districts stay poor. If we care about educating children, our first step is changing the constitution.
Rewriting the constitution would allow us to remove the racist language and intent of the document. Even though federal law has superseded those elements that stripped black voters of their ability to vote, the words are still there, unrepentant. The only reason I can imagine why anyone would not want them removed is because they secretly hope to one day reinstate them.
Our constitution has been amended more than 800 times. Nothing screams inefficiency more than that.
Rewriting our constitution would allow Alabama to finally leave the 19th century and make some tentative steps toward the 21st century. Seriously, the confederacy is not coming back.
Rewriting the constitution is the best way to ensure religious liberty for all. The nonsense that a new constitution would leave God out is ludicrous. God was never in it. A document aimed at disenfranchising an entire race of people is godless by definition.
A new constitution would make it possible for local governments to adequately govern themselves, attract industry and make improvements without bowing in obeisance to the state legislature.
But the number-one reason we should rewrite the constitution is because it is the sane and reasonable thing to do.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.