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Some legislation killed due to session end

Staff Writer

Legislation proposing a Constitutional Convention has has been killed because time has run out during the Legislative Session.

Tuesday night was the last opportunity for legislators to get bills approved by at least one house of the Legislature. Not getting past that point meant automatic death since the last day of the 2000 session is Monday.

And, the bill calling for a Constitutional Convention to give Alabama voters a chance to pick who will rewrite the lengthy 1901 Constitution was one of those bills that has died although legislators are promising it will be back next year.

Bills by Rep. Todd Greeson, R-Ider and Rep. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville, that would allow the state’s citizens to vote to hold a constitutional convention, have met with some opposition.

"We’ll be back again," Gipson told the Associated Press.

Like Gipson, Greeson is not discouraged.

As a matter of fact, he is planning to pre-file the updated version of his bill for the next session.

"As soon as this session ends, it will be pre-filed," Greeson said from his Montgomery office.

What pleases him the most is other representatives have joined his effort. In the beginning his only co-sponsor was Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Eva, and, now, he has about 10 other names on the bill.

"Before, I couldn’t get anyone to discuss the issue," Greeson said.

Some of those new co-sponsors have even helped him with some changes, including establishing a run0off for delegates, setting the convention location as the old House chamber in the Capitol and having delegates conform to the ethics laws.

Those bills from Greeson and Gipson will have the company of legislation introduced by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, in the closing days of the session. He wants the Legislature to approve a new constitution in the 20001 session. Bedford has said he believes having the Legislature rewrite the constitution ­ with the approval of the state’s voters ­ is safer than having a constitutional convention.

"People are scared one political group might dominate the convention," Bedford said.

Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, is another legislator who tried to stall plans for a constitutional convention.

"You are not going to get around special interests," said Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile. "They are going to control who is elected to this convention."

Pringle is one of the House leaders working to rewrite the Constitution of 1901 piece by piece.

Secretary of State Jim Bennett, who has called for a constitutional convention, sees things a bit differently.

He said the Alabama Legislature appears to want to do the rewriting itself at a slower pace.

"I think delegates would be closer to the people than the Legislature," Bennett said, adding those that don’t want a constitutional convention don’t trust the people of the state.

Greeson has said a constitutional convention "would provide for an immediate and complete reform of our constitution, rather than a slow process which would be subject to delays and politics of time."

Having a constitutional convention would give Alabama voters a chance to select delegates who will write a new constitution. Work by the delegates will then be approved by voters in a referendum.

State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, has said he believes the constitution needs a facelift, but isn’t sure a constitutional convention is the way to do it.

"I think you have to be extremely careful when you’re dealing with the Constitution," Boothe said. "The Constitution needs revision. It’s antiquated. But whether a Constitutional Convention is the best way to do that, I don’t know."

Boothe said a constitutional convention is something that "needs careful consideration."

Boothe pointed out a convention had to be held in 1901 because of the lack of communications technology.

Although Bedford’s proposed constitution keeps property tax exemptions and legislative pay in the current constitution, his plan would give local governments more freedom to make decisions without having to go through the Legislature.

His proposal can be seen at www.alabama2000.org.

Other bills that have died include:

· Creation of a scholarship program.

· Allowing video poker at dog tracks.

· Requiring local governments to have at least 20 mills of property tax for their public schools.

· Moving to non-partisian elections for judges.

· Ending the state sales tax on food.

· Creating a commission to study binding arbitration.

· Allowing the Confederate battle flag to be flown on the Capitol dome.

· Enacting stricter regulations for assisted-living facilities.

· Rewriting the state wine tax to try to negate a lawsuit challenging the tax.

· Raising the age for driving a boat from 12 to 14.

· Enacting a tax break for the coal industry.

· Requiring an abortion clinic to provide a woman with detailed information about the procedure and then require her to wait 24 hours before having the procedure.

· Providing the death penalty for adults with repeat convictions for sexually abusing children.