Can Alabamians really ‘change government’?

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 22, 2002

Can we fundamentally change government?

U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, a Republican candidate for Alabama governor, seems to think so. He talks often about how a different paradigm, a different approach, to government can produce sweeping results. He cites welfare reform and the balanced budget as two success stories.

But what about here in Alabama? Can we fundamentally change government?

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More to the point, can we even have a real debate about the issue?

We wonder

as we watch the Alabama Legislature’s handling of a bill to put the constitutional reform issue to a statewide vote.

The controversial legislation passed form the House Rules Committee to the full house this week, but lawmakers have since taken no action on it. With only six days of session left, we wonder if they will take any action. Given the election year politics, it’s a safe bet the proposal will die in the Legislature.

And that’s a shame.

Because Alabama voters deserve the opportunity to fundamentally change their government ­ or to keep it fundamentally the same, if they choose.

Constitutional reform is a real issue in this state, with battle lines drawn between lobbying groups and grassroots campaigns. And emotions run high on both sides. At issue are things like tax reform, home rule and the taming of an unwieldy and outdated document that even opponents of reform have said contains racist and offensive language.

But the issues of how we shape our government, how we craft the document that sets forth our mission and our responsibilities, are simply issues that address fundamental changes in government. And they are issues we must address.

Alabama residents deserve the chance to have a statewide referendum on constitutional reform. We deserve an opportunity to say "yes, we want to reform our Constitution" or "No, we don’t."

Unfortunately, we must rely on the government to give us that chance.


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