James opposes reform

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 14, 2002

BNI News Wire

While Gov. Don Siegelman has taken to the road this month to promote a constitutional convention, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James is on the road advocating just the opposite: no rewrite to the state’s 1901 document.

In fact, James, according to his campaign office, is the only candidate to oppose any kind of Constitution reform. It is what sets him apart, said campaign manager Mike Shields.

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"He is the only candidate not for a rewrite of the Consitution," Shields said. "That’s because he understands what a constitutional rewrite is all about – raising taxes."

The two other announced GOP candidates, U.S. Rep. Bob Riley and Lt. Gov. Steve Windom, are for Constitution reform.

Windom has said he backs a constitutional convention, while Riley has not chosen how he would like to see the document revised.

"No decision has been made," said Riley campaign manager Jay Sam Daniels. "He has always been for Constitution reform. … He believes it just needs to be revised, not rewritten."

"There are a lot of different proposals out there," Daniels said, adding Riley wants to see a process that is "quick, efficient, and (that) protects what we believe in."

Windom’s campaign office did not return a call for comment, but the lieutenant governor has said he supports a convention run by the people.

Siegelman has backed a proposal by the grassroots organization Alabama Citizens for Constitution Reform. The proposal calls for a convention run by elected delegates from the state House districts, but Siegelman said he will continue to push ACCR to exclude lobbyists and elected officials from serving as delegates.

But James’ campaign believes it is naive to assume special interests won’t have an impact on a convention, Shields said.

Instead of a total rewrite, Shields said, James believes reform can be achieved through the amendment process already being used.

"With the amendatory process, the people have more control," he said. "The people have an up or down vote on changes."

Supporters of a convention, however, are claiming that a rewrite would be the "panacea for all of our problems," Shields said.

James does support "very limited home rule," Shields said, the lack of which is one of the main thrusts behind the reform movement.

Without home rule, counties must ask the Legislature’s permission on many local measures.

Another of the main reasons supporters cite for reform is the state’s tax system, blamed last year for the proration that cut school budgets.

Daniels said Riley supports tax reform – but he does not support raising taxes.

"We are not for any type of tax increase," he said.

But James believes raising taxes is the main reason for Constitution reform, Shields said.

Proponents of reform also want to remove racist language from the century-old document.

James’ campaign said those racist issues have been taken care of through amendments.

"You learn from the past," Shields said. "You can’t just pretend it didn’t happen."

Riley’s camp, on the other hand, believes that racist language must be removed, Daniels said.