By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

Look closer at proposed amendments


October 25, 2018

In addition to multiple races that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot in Alabama there are four constitutional amendments that will be added to the original document passed in 1901 that the last time I checked was the largest constitution in the nation.

Amendments are many times written in a way that you really can't understand what they are saying. When I get the list of amendments I read them twice before I pull out my highlighter and start making notes. I talk to other people, including members of the Legislature, to see if I'm reading them right. I talk to other newspaper people and then I come to my own conclusion and try and give you my best advice.

The amendments as a whole are printed as written and published inside today's legal section for you to read. But as they appear they don't line up with how they will be presented on the ballot. So here we go and I'll follow the numbers as they appear on the ballot.

Amendment No. 1 deals with the display of the Ten Commandments on public property and gives the right to have such displays on school campuses and other taxpayer-funded properties.

I've read the amendment multiple times, talked to others and I don't see that it allows public funds to be used to construct a Ten Commandments monument on taxpayer-owned property, but it specifically says that “No public funds may be expended in defense of the constitutionality of this amendment.” That's an important sentence. What it basically says is if someone does file suit if the Ten Commandments are put in front of city hall or in front of a school, there's really nobody to sue because the people to sue are shielded by the amendment.

This amendment will pass in Alabama. Whether it passes the test on the appeal process up the federal level will be a different story.

I'll let you be the judge on this one. It will pass, but I do feel it will be struck down on the appellate level.

Amendment No. 2 on you ballot basically protects the rights of unborn children and the right to life. This is another amendment that will pass in Alabama but has serious issues once it works it way up the judicial ladder to possibly the U.S. Supreme Court. It's an anti-abortion amendment plain and simple and whether you vote yes or no, the amendment isn't worth the paper it's written on until suits get filed.

I think it was two years ago Alabamians passed a constitutional amendment banning late term abortions. It got struck down on the appellate level.

I see No. 1 and No. 2 dealing with the Ten Commandments and abortions as pre-emptive strikes in the event the U.S. Supreme Court starts whittling away on abortion rights and the separation of church and state.

Vote yes or no on No. 1 and No. 2 and it won't have any effect on the laws we currently live under.

No. 3 on the ballot deals with the number of trustees in the University of Alabama system that includes the main campus in Tuscaloosa as well as UAB in Birmingham and UAH in Huntsville

Currently, there are a certain number of trustees appointed from each of Alabama's seven congressional districts; there are three members from the Tuscaloosa district and two from the other six districts. The governor and the superintendent of education also serve on the board.

Feeling that it's possible and possibly likely that Alabama will lose a U.S. House seat after the next census, this will lock in the number of trustees as of Jan. 1, 2018.

When I first read this amendment, I had no problem. More people on the board could give us more diversity and more opinions.

But then I came across language in the amendment that said if there is a vacancy on the board, the remaining board members can name a replacement “By secret ballot”.

I cry foul on the secret ballot voting. We're talking about a board that spends tax dollars. They need to be held accountable for their actions. We don't allow secret ballots at town hall, in the county commission or in the Legislature. I don't allow anonymous letters to the editor in the Tri-City Ledger because I feel everybody needs to be held accountable for what they say and do.

I could care less how many members there are on the Alabama Board of Trustees, but I'm not about to vote to allow secret votes.

I'm voting no on Amendment No. 3.

Amendment No. 4 deals with filling vacancies in the Alabama House or Senate should a member leave office before his or her term expires.

Legislators are elected to four-year terms and under current law when one doesn't finish a term, whether by death or other circumstances, the governor is require to call a special election to fill the unexpired term.

This amendment says if that vacancy occurs within the final 14 months of a four-year term, there would be no special election and the House or Senate seat would be filled during the next General Election.

The intent is to save taxpayer money spent special elections. I understand that.

But I have a big problem with any legislative district being without representation for 14 months, that will include a legislative session when critical bills that may affect that area are either introduced or not introduced due to the lack of representation.

I'm voting No on Amendment No. 4.

So here's my two-cents worth. Votes on Amendment 1 and Amendment 2 won't matter because both violate the U.S. Constitution.

I'm voting no on Amendments 3 and 4.

If you want to read the amendments as passed by the Legislature, turn to Page 6B in today's Ledger and see if you can make any more sense out of them than I did.


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