Constitutional amendments to be on ballot

Published 10:39 pm Monday, August 20, 2018

On Tuesday, November 6, Pike County residents will go to the polls to vote for their local and statewide representatives, including governor and District 89 representative.

But the races aren’t the only items voters will have to decide on the ballot – there are four proposed amendments to the state constitution set for the public’s consideration.

The first amendment for consideration would add language to the constitution to allow for the display of the Ten Commandments on public property.

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“The Alabama Supreme Court had ruled on a previous law that we had enacted that was unconstitutional,” said Rep. Alan Booth, R-Pike, who voted in favor of placing the proposed amendment on the ballot. “This was written to hopefully comply with the edict of the Supreme Court … There are a lot of civic organizations that put displays up that have the Ten Commandments on them. This is not to infringe on any rights, we’re just trying to comply based on some requests the legislature had.”

The amendment provides that the biblical statutes may only be displayed if the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed with historical or educational items.

Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Pike, said the law would also allow for displays of similar items from other religions in likewise circumstances.

“This is a different approach than has been taken before; it includes a broader context for other religions also,” Holley said.

The second amendment up for consideration would enshrine the importance of unborn life and the rights of unborn children within the state constitution, although the amendment does not identify any specific actions or activities as being unlawful.

Boothe said this is another amendment that was ruled unconstitutional by the Alabama Supreme Court in its prior form and the language has been changed in an attempt to comply with the Constitution.

“When the Supreme Court rejects something, they give you the reasoning; this is an attempt to comply with that ruling,” Boothe said. “We’ll see if these are ruled in compliance; I’m sure both of these laws would be litigated before the Supreme Court.”

Boothe said it is also an attempt to provide support for the rights of unborn children and could limit late-term abortions.

Holley said it is his understanding that the policy would instantly identify Alabama as a state that enshrines the right to life for unborn children if the Supreme Court ever decides abortion should be left up to the states.

“If the Supreme Court ever decides they are no longer going to have a federal mandate and they are going to allow states to define what is proper and what is not proper, we would be a state that would recognize in our constitution that we would be a pro-life state.”

Boothe said that transition is hard to predict ahead of time. “At such a time that they issue a ruling, they will put down parameters and at that point the states would get involved in drafting legislation,” he said.

The third amendment allows for a representative from each of the congressional districts in Alabama, as they are set in 2018, to have a seat on the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. The amendment would also allow for board members to serve past their 70th birthdays and would no longer give the State Superintendent of Education an automatic seat on the board.

The fourth amendment would eliminate special elections to fill certain vacancies in either the House or the Senate. If a vacancy occurs after October 1 of the third year of a representative’s or senator’s four-year term, the seat would remain vacant until the next general election.

Holley said this is a measure to save money.

“There’s been vacancies to occur in certain offices and we turn around 30, 60, or 90 days later and are required to have another election for the same office,” Holley said. “It’s very time-consuming and expensive for the state to have a special election. We’re trying to be reasonable with the filling of vacancies that occur in short time-spans before the regular election.”

The election will be held Tuesday, November 6. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Republican Wes Allen and Democrat Joel Williams are the nominees to represent District 89 in the House of Representatives. Other races on the ballot include the offices of governor and Alabama’s 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.