Constitutional woes plague our state

Published 9:52 pm Thursday, May 19, 2011

I am having a bad stretch of days and I hope that they will end. So I decided to do something to cheer myself up. I decided to take a good, long laugh at the state I love and what did I know, Alabama did not disappoint.

If you talk to the majority of good Alabamians they will tell you that the closer you bring government to the people the better it is. But this only applies to national politics. At the state level Alabama micromanages everything and is a super-centralized state. There is very little home rule at the county level, and as any person who has voted in an Alabama election knows, to get an admendment passed at the county level requires a statewide vote. Sometimes it can get passed by the state legislative body. Let me repeat this is for a county issue not a state issue. As a kind older lady in the state government told me they do not want to give home rule because people might tax themselves too much. (No these were not her exact words but very close to them.)

Alabama is the only and the last remaining state in the union to have two different budgets. We have one budget for education and one for the rest of the state. This is not such a bad thing except for the wasted time that is spent in the legislative session on debating the two budgets. This was originally done to keep money being taken from education and spent elsewhere. But the major flaw in the Alabama budget is how much is earmarked for certain things. Effectively about 92 percent of the budget is earmarked and leaves only 8 percent of the Alabama budget that can be shifted around and used to shore up things in other areas. This is a horrible way to make a budget and the other 49 states in the union know better and do it differently. This needs to change and it needs to change fast, for the benefit of the state. Nevada is the next closest state in the Union to Alabama when it comes to earmarking and they earmark 38 percent of their budget. Yep you got that: a whole 55 percent less than Alabama.

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Also has anyone taken a look at the constitution of Alabama? The thing is thicker than my current set of encyclopedias. It is huge and unwieldy. Let’s take a look at some stats about the constitution. At 340,136 words, the document is 12 times longer than the average state constitution, 40 times longer than the Constitution of the United States, and is the longest still-operative constitution anywhere in the world. Also there have been over 800 amendments to the constitution. (Giving it most of its length and most of them deal with local issues.) This is embarrassing people. I am not sure how you can defend this constitution. Some people say they like it because it works in keeping taxes low. Well you could make the constitution less of a hassle to understand and work and still make raising taxes difficult. So this reason does not pass muster. The only logical reason to not get reform the constitution is that we are lazy and do not want to take the effort to do this.

After writing and proofreading this I am glad to say that I love Alabama still but did get a laugh out of these three issues that need changing so bad that they are funny. To move Alabama forward we need to fix these issues and we will have a future full of more prosperity than we already can expect. (And this is a lot.)

Bart Wallace