Lack of candor may harm amendments

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 3, 2000

Staff Editorial

Nov. 3, 2000 10 PM

Earlier in this election cycle The Messenger printed a story explaining the effects of local Pike County Amendments 1 and 2. These that should not be confused with statewide amendments 1 and 2 that relate to funding road and bridge improvements and lifting the ban on interracial marriages. Unfortunately the story and subsequent editorial that endorsed the amendments were incomplete.

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This was explained in more detail in Thursday’s Messenger, but we will attempt to explain it again in simple terms.

Local Amendments 1 and 2 are identical, except that Amendment 2 proposes to allow municipal mayors in Pike County into the state retirement system. The language in Amendment 1 is more restrictive and refers to "county" officials instead of "public" officials.

That said, here is what Amendment 2 will do in its entirety:

1) End supernumerary positions which would save Pike County $28,000 per year according to county officials.

2) Allow Pike County’s mayors into the state retirement system.

3) Potentially allow state legislators who represent all or portions of Pike County into the state retirement system through the county. Currently legislators are not in the system as state employees. Legislators outside of Pike County where similar amendments do not exist would not be admitted into the state retirement system. Retirement System of Alabama officials say they will not pay legislators retirement under this amendment unless forced by a court to do so.

4) Allow Pike County Commissioners access to state retirement.

While we contend, as we have done in the past, that supernumerary positions should be abolished, we also feel that this amendment, now that its full scope has been revealed, has some serious flaws.

We cannot and do not advocate allowing some legislators access to retirement through the counties they represent. It makes sense, as RSA officials have said, that a retirement system should be developed that covers all legislators, or legislators should be excluded entirely. We do not advocate letting some of them in the "back door" on a person-by-person or a county-by county basis.

We do not feel that county commissioners and mayors in Pike County should necessarily be excluded from retirement. In the case of mayors, though, their admission should addressed by each of our municipalities and not by sweeping countywide legislation.

Still, we recant our prior endorsement. This is an amendment that does some good and long overdue things. However, it’s also one that opens the door to bad legislation and could lead to future court battles. While we do not oppose this amendment either, we encourage the public to look at these four things it will do closely and to make a decision based on their convictions.

That said, some of our elected leaders who pushed for this amendment to be put on the ballot also deserve criticism. We feel they were not forthright in their assessment of this amendment, which makes sense after they put what appears to be self-serving language in it.

These smoke-and-mirror tactics have once again reinforced to the public the idea that politicians should be viewed suspiciously.

We also fear that a lack of candor about this will once again serve to show the public that all amendments are bad, when we know that’s not always the case.

Still, this political posturing over local amendments 1 and 2 could jeopardize some valuable state amendments that deserve passage. Many members of the voting public are likely to support throwing out the dishes with the dirty dishwater and Pike Countians may end up voting against statewide Amendment 1 which would improve road and bridge conditions here dramatically.

It’s too bad. Open discussion and candor by our leaders could have eliminated this unfortunate dilemma. But once again, it’s politics as usual and the voting public has a right to hold on to its skepticism about politics and legislation.

Look for a sample ballot on Page 4 in Sunday’s Messenger.  

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