The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 17, 2014

Alabama Constitution revisionists aren't giving up

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Advocates of rewriting Alabama's 113-year-old constitution aren't giving up even though the process stalled after an advisory opinion from Chief Justice Roy Moore disputed the legality of the process.

"If I come back in the next quadrennium, I'm going to continue to push for us to finish up the job we started," House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said.

Alabama's 1901 constitution is the longest of any state, with more than 800 amendments. One portion can be amended by the Legislature approving a proposed constitutional amendment and submitting it to voters statewide for ratification. The whole document can be rewritten if the Legislature and Alabama voters approve of holding a constitutional convention with delegates from across the states.

After Republicans won control of the Legislature in the 2010 election, the new Republican leadership began pushing to rewrite the constitution one article at a time. The Legislature created a commission to make recommendations. Then the Legislature turned those recommendations into proposed constitutional amendments, which were approved by lawmakers and submitted to voters statewide for approval.

So far, the process has led to the articles on banking and corporations being revised and approved by voters.

In the 2014 legislative session, lawmakers were working on five articles. After some critics challenged the legality of the process, the chairman of the Senate Constitution and Elections Committee, Republican Bryan Taylor of Prattville, asked the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion. The answers caused the committee to put its work on hold Wednesday.

Chief Justice Moore and Justice Tom Parker wrote advisory opinions this month saying the Legislature's article-by-article revision is not constitutional.

Moore said addressing a few articles each year does not change the reality that the Legislature has undertaken a near total rewrite of the document through an in-house constitutional convention. "By wresting the convention process from the people, the Legislature has unconstitutionally made itself the paramount mechanism of constitutional revisions," he said.

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