County regroups after referendum vote

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, March 15, 2012

It will be another four years before the Pike County Commission will be able to authorize the limited self-governance act be placed back on the ballot for public consideration.

“Probably, the mood of the county would have to change quite a bit to bring it back,” said County Administrator Harry Sanders. “It was pretty clear statement made by voters.”

In Tuesday’s election, 3,126 voters showed up at the polls who were eligible to check “yes” or “no” on the act labeled Referendum Act No. 2005-200. Of those voters, 590 voted “yes,” 1,743 voted “no,” and 803 did not vote on the act.

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The act failed with more than 74 percent of the vote, according to unofficial data provided by the probate judge’s office.

More people voted “no” in every precinct except 3, 11 and 19. In Precinct 3 the vote was tied.

The option was available to voters because of legislation passed in 2005 called the “Alabama Limited Self-Governance Act.”

What does that mean for health and safety issues in Pike County?

“We don’t have a lot of tough laws,” Sanders said. “The county doesn’t have a lot of enforcement authority.”

Some voters and candidates voiced concern that they didn’t want to see the county commission gain more power. Others were worried that the law passed by the Alabama Legislature was too vague.

“I hope and trust that folks read about the referendum and voted based on what they learned,” Sanders said.

The act’s failure means it is business as usual when it comes to county problems such as noise, litter and garbage dumps.

“If there are any regulations brought forth now, they will be required to go through the Legislature as a local act,” Sanders said.

That means decisions can only be made while the Legislature is in session. The current procedure is that a group approaches the county commission, the commission passes a resolution in support of an ordinance presented, the resolution is sent to the county’s Legislative representatives, legislation is drafted and returned to the commission, the commission advertises the issue for four weeks, the Legislature considers the issue and, if it is passed, it is placed on a ballot.

That means that new ordinances or laws can only be considered about every two years, unless there is a special election, Sanders said.

“Typically, there aren’t any special elections. Special elections are probably more expensive than people think,” Sanders said, estimating that a special election in Pike County could cost up to $75,000.

If the referendum had passed, the county would still have had to have advertised an issue and held public hearings and there were limits on what ordinances could do or say, Sanders said. However, the county wouldn’t have had to go through the Legislature.

“The will of the people is the most important thing,” Sanders said. “That’s the way our government should work and it is certainly the way it’s intended to work. Right now, people are saying they don’t wish to have that sort of authority outside the city limits.”