ON THE BALLOT: State Amendments 1-4 Explained

When Alabamians head to the polls on November 8th to cast their vote for president, they’ll also have 14 amendments to consider adding to the state’s already lengthy constitution.

We’re sitting down with political analyst Jon Gray to dissect the first 4 amendments on the list.

Amendment 1

On the ballot:  Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to establish procedures to ensure that no more than three of the members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees shall have terms that expire in the same calendar year and to add two additional at-large members to the board to enhance diversity on the board. (Proposed by Act 2015-217)

Gray explains Alabama’s lengthy constitution includes appointees to Auburn University’s Board of Trustees since the school, like Alabama, was created through the constitution.

“It’s a little bit of house-keeping because they have 9 trustees whose positions are expiring in 2019, and that could change the entire board in one year,” Gray explained. ” So, Auburn wants to put a cap that only three trustees can expire in any one given year.”

The amendment also adds two additional at-large members to the board.

Gray says a “no” vote keeps the board’s structure the same.

Amendment 2

On the ballot:  Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to prohibit any monies from the State Parks Fund, the Parks Revolving Fund, or any fund receiving revenues currently deposited in the State Parks Fund or the Parks Revolving Fund, and any monies currently designated under law for use by the state parks system from being transferred to any other public account, fund or entity or used for any purpose other than the support, upkeep, and maintenance of the state parks system; and to propose an amendment to Amendment 617 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 213.32 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended; to provide exceptions to the requirement that all state park system land and facilities be exclusively and solely operated and maintained by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. (Proposed by Act 2016-145)

This amendment would protect start park money from being siphoned by lawmakers to address other issues. Supporters of the bill argue that because the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which runs the state parks, doesn’t get any money from the General Fund, they shouldn’t be put on the chopping block for shortfalls in the budget. Critics of the amendment point out that one of Alabama’s biggest budgeting problems is that there is already too much legally earmarked revenue.

Gray said this amendment is especially important to our area because of Gulf State Park. “This is a protection law,” Gray said. “If the parks raise the money through their own revenues, they keep the money up to $50 million. If the voters say no, then the money continues to go to the legislature, and they can do what they see fit with it.”

Amendment 3

On the ballot: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to revise the procedure for adoption of local constitutional amendments to provide that a proposed constitutional amendment the Legislature determines without a dissenting vote applies to only one county or a political subdivision within one or more counties shall be adopted as a valid part of the constitution by a favorable vote of a majority of the qualified electors of the affected county or the political subdivision and county or counties in which the political subdivision is located, who vote on the amendment. (Proposed by Act 2015-44)

The way the Alabama constitution is written, a lot of the political power resides in Montgomery, meaning county commissioners have to turn to state lawmakers for a number of different tasks, no matter how simple they may seem.

“Something as simple as litter, we have to go to the state to get ordinances passed to get things issued,” Mobile County Commission President Jerry Carl said.

Currently, both chambers have to unanimously approve a local amendment in order to send the vote directly to the county, if even one person opposes it, the bill goes to a statewide vote. Amendment 3 is aimed at cutting down on the number of local issues that appear on the statewide ballot by allowing lawmakers to consider a resolution to keep the vote local, no matter how many of them oppose the actual issue at hand.

“If you’re worried about the philosophical issues of the state of Alabama where one county might allow something, say drinking, and a neighboring county doesn’t, that may be something that’s important to you,” Gray explained. “But 95% of these are things like the election of county commissioners or how many people serve on the water board, etc. It’s really inside baseball.”

Mobile County Commissioners passed a resolution on Monday showing their support for Amendment 3, 4, and 11.

Amendment 4

Ballot Text: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to authorize each county commission in the state to establish, subject to certain limitations, certain programs related to the administration of the affairs of the county. (Proposed by Act 2015-220)

Amendment 4  gives more leverage to individual counties when it comes to administrative powers. Under the proposed amendment, County Commissioners couldn’t raise taxes but could create a number of programs and policies without having to go through Montgomery first.

“Today, county commissioners have to go to Montgomery to get the authority to do virtually anything,” Gray said.

Gray said critics of the amendment might see “home rule” as a slippery slope, but Gray said commissioners still wouldn’t have the authority to create criminal laws or raise taxes.

Mobile County Commission President Jerry Carl said he supports the amendment.


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