ON THE BALLOT: State amendment could give county leaders more power

Published 3:00 am Friday, September 30, 2016


Election_WebThe attention of the nation is focused squarely on the presidential election, but voters must also vote for congressional representatives and constitutional amendments on Election Day.

There will be 14 amendments on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

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One of those amendments, Amendment 4, would give county commissions more authority over certain policy changes.

Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy, is one of the representatives who voted in May 2015 for the amendment to be placed on the ballot.

“This bill will allow counties to pass ordinances for things like roadside litter and animal problems,” Boothe said. “Those aren’t things that the Legislature needs to deals with. Local issues need to be dealt with by local people. This bill will allow counties to enact rules and regulations without going through legislative approval.”

The bill will not give counties the power to levy taxes.

Pike County administrator Harry Sanders said that it’s an important distinction.

“I think that sometimes when we see amendments like that, especially as it regards governmental authorities, it’s easy to think it’s a way of expanding authority,” Sanders said. “It doesn’t provide any taxing authority, it just takes out some of the hindrances for daily operations.

“This is to make it a little easier for counties to conduct the normal business that they already do.”

A summary of the amendment from the Alabama Secretary of State’s office reads: “Specifically, Amendment 4 would allow for counties to adopt programs and policies relating to county personnel, litter-free roadways and public property, public transportation, safety on public roads and emergency assistance.

“Amendment 4 would prevent a county from imposing a tax or fee, or establishing any program that would infringe on a citizen’s rights to the use of his or her private property.  Amendment 4 would not change any of the compensation, terms of office, powers or duties of elected officials of the county.”

Boothe said that another amendment that could have an affect on Pike County residents is Amendment 14. The amendment deals with the ratification of over 500 local laws that could be challenged and overturned by the Supreme Court.

Amendment 448 of the state constitution requires at least 60 percent of representatives to approve a bill that is passed before the budget, but operating rules in the House of Representatives changed the requirement to only 60 percent of representatives voting on the bill.

Because bills concerning local matters are usually only voted on by local representatives, many laws passed were not approved by 60 percent of all representatives. This puts them in danger of lawsuits.

“If it doesn’t pass, all will be null and void,” Boothe said. “I don’t have a list of the laws in front of me, but I’m sure there are some that would affect this county.”

Other amendments include simplifying constitutional language, barring money generated by state parks from being moved to the general fund, defining rules for the impeachment process and a handful of laws concerning individual counties.

The general election will be held on Tuesday, November 8.