State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) will air his first TV ad in his campaign for governor next week. An advance look at the commercial, which focuses on term limits, a flat tax and cutting spending, can be seen here:
An Alabama voters’ quick guide to state amendments on the Nov. ballot
When Alabama voters head to the polls on November 8th, they won’t just be electing a president; they will approve or reject 14 Constitutional amendments. If you need help navigating issues on the ballot, check out our guide below.
What it says: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to establish procedures to ensure that no more than three of the members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees shall have terms that expire in the same calendar year and to add two additional at-large members to the board to enhance diversity on the board.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 1 adds two new board members to the Auburn University Board of Trustees, and also ensures that the terms of no more than three members’ terms will expire at the same time.
What it says: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to prohibit any monies from the State Parks Fund, the Parks Revolving Fund, or any fund receiving revenues currently deposited in the State Parks Fund or the Parks Revolving Fund, and any monies currently designated pursuant to statute for the use of the state parks system from being transferred for another purpose other than the support, upkeep, and maintenance of the state parks system.”
“Notwithstanding, in the event that guest revenues to the State Parks Revolving Fund exceed the threshold of $50 million (as annually adjusted based on increases in the consumer price index) in a fiscal year, the sales and use and cigarette tax revenue distributed to benefit the State Parks System shall be reduced in the following fiscal year. The amount of the reduction shall correspond to the amount of guest revenue to the State Parks Revolving Fund exceeding the threshold. The amount of tax revenue not distributed to benefit the State Parks System shall be distributed to the General Fund.”
“Proposing an amendment to Amendment 617 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to allow the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources the option to provide for the operation and management, by non-state entities, of hotels, golf courses, and restaurants at any applicable state parks in Alabama.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 2 restricts the state legislature from dipping into funds generated by state parks. It would constitutionally require that monies be spent on maintaining those parks, unless revenues top $50 million annually.
What it says: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to revise the procedure for adoption of local constitutional amendments to provide that a proposed constitutional amendment the Legislature determines without a dissenting vote applies to only one county or a political subdivision within one or more counties shall be adopted as a valid part of the constitution by a favorable vote of a majority of the qualified electors of the affected county or the political subdivision and county or counties in which the political subdivision is located, who vote on the amendment.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 3 institutes a new procedure to determine whether a constitutional amendment should be voted on by the entire state or by the affected community only.
What it says: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to authorize each county commission in the state to establish, subject to certain limitations, certain programs related to the administration of the affairs of the county.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 4 would expand local power by giving counties the ability to create new policies that apply to public transportation, road safety, emergency assistance, and personnel. It does not give county officials any new power or compensation. This amendment also prohibits new taxes, fees or programs from being instituted that would hinder a landowner’s legal rights to use their property, with the exception of legislative intervention.
What it says: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to repeal and restate the provisions of Article III of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 relating to separation of powers to modernize the language without making any substantive change, effective January 1, 2017.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 5 cleans up and updates outdated terminology in Article III of the state constitution.
What it says: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to become operative January 1, 2017, to repeal and replace Article VII, Impeachments.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 6 would require a two-thirds vote of the Alabama Senate to impeach a public official, and subjects members of the Board of Education to impeachment. It does not change the reasons why an elected official can be impeached.
Amendment 7 (Local)
What it says: “Relating to Etowah County, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that the employees of the Office of Sheriff of Etowah County, except for the chief deputy, chief of detention, chief of administration, chief of investigation, director of communications, and food service manager, shall be under the authority of the Personnel Board of the Office of the Sheriff of Etowah County.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 7 would only apply to Etowah County, and make certain county employees subject to the authority of the Personnel Board of the Office of the Sheriff of Etowah County.
What it says: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to declare that it is the public policy of Alabama that the right of persons to work may not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in a labor union or labor organization; to prohibit an agreement to deny the right to work, or place conditions on prospective employment, on account of membership or nonmembership in a labor union or labor organization; to prohibit an employer from requiring its employees to abstain from union membership as a condition of employment; and to provide that an employer may not require a person, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to pay dues, fees, or other charges of any kind to any labor union or labor organization.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 8 would solidify the state’s “right-to-work” status into the constitution, making it difficult in the future for unions to force membership on Alabama workers as a condition of employment.
Amendment 9 (Local)
What it says: “Relating to Pickens County, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that a person who is not over the age of 75 at the time of qualifying for election or at the time of his or her appointment may be elected or appointed to the office of Judge of Probate of Pickens County.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 9 applies to Pickens County only. It would allow a Probate Judge to serve until the age of 75 (the current age is 70).
Amendment 10 (Local)
What it says: “Relating to Calhoun County, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that any territory located in the county would be subject only to the police jurisdiction and planning jurisdiction of a municipality located wholly or partially in the county.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 10 applies to Calhoun County only. If passed, it would prevent any city or town not in or partially in Calhoun from exercising jurisdiction over any area of the county.
What it says: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, to permit cities and counties, notwithstanding any existing constitutional restrictions, to utilize tax increment district revenues collected within a Major 21st Century Manufacturing Zone and other moneys to incentivize the establishment and improve various types of manufacturing facilities located or to be located in such Zone, and to validate and confirm the Major 21st Century Manufacturing Zone Act, Act No. 2013-51.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 11 allows cities and counties to sell government-owned land within a certain type of development zone below fair market value for the purpose of economic development.
Amendment 12 (Local)
What it says: “Relating to municipalities in Baldwin County; proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to authorize the Legislature by general or local law to provide for any municipalities in the county to incorporate a toll road and bridge authority as a public corporation in the municipality for the construction and operation of toll roads and bridges in the municipality and to authorize the authority to issue revenue bonds to finance the projects.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 12 allows the legislature to create a toll and bridge authority for a city or town in Baldwin County. The authority would have the power to finance its projects and accept funding from state or local governments.
What it says: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to repeal any existing age restriction on the appointment, election, or service of an appointed or elected official, with the exception of persons elected or appointed to a judicial office, currently imposed by a provision of the Constitution or other law; and to prohibit the Legislature from enacting any law imposing a maximum age limitation on the appointment, election, or service of an appointed or elected official.”
In a nutshell: Amendment 13 eliminates maximum age restrictions that currently apply to the election or appointment of non-judicial elected officials.
What it says: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to amend Amendment 448 to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 71.01 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, to ratify, approve, validate, and confirm the application of any budget isolation resolution relating to a bill proposing a local law adopted by the Legislature before November 8, 2016, that conformed to the rules of either body of the Legislature at the time it was adopted.”
In a nutshell: Currently, legal questions over “budget isolation resolution” votes threaten a wide array of local laws. Amendment 14 seeks to protect the validity of over 500 local laws that have passed between 1984 and 2016, as long as they were approved using proper legislative rules at the time of their passage.
Alabama citizens, representatives fight Obama’s attempt to house illegals on Alabama military bases
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment brought by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) that would prohibit the Department of Defense from using any money to construct or modify facilities to house unaccompanied alien children (UAC). The amendment comes at a time when the Obama Administration is pushing to house migrant children at Navy airfields in Baldwin County, Ala.
The Department of Defense Appropriations Act, with Byrne’s amendment included, passed the House by a vote of 282 to 138. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
“I especially hope the passage of my amendment sends a message to the Obama Administration that they should not bring these children to Navy airfields in Baldwin County. Doing so would put the children at risk while also compromising military readiness,” Byrne said in a press release.
The Alabama Congressman spoke to the House about the potential burden that could be placed on the bases in his district in a floor speech last night.
“At a time when we face so many challenges around the globe, it just makes no sense to alter the intended use of our military facilities to serve a completely different purpose,” he said.
In addition to the passage of the Amendment, Baldwin County officials and citizens soundly rejected the possibility of housing undocumented minors in a teleconference between the Baldwin County Commission and the federal government.
“I don’t want to be rude but … You’re not welcome,” Baldwin County Commissioner Chris Elliott said during the meering. “We are not interested in having these facilities here.”
Everyday citizens were also making their views known. “I’m fed up with Washington,” said Martha Phillips of Robertsdale, a town close to the Silverhill airfield. “I don’t want them in here.”
In addition to Byrne and Baldwin County officials, many other Alabama politicians have spoken out against the administration’s plan.
“These Department of Defense properties should be used for those men and women working to keep our nation safe – not to house illegal immigrants,” Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said in a press release. “President Obama’s blatant disregard for our immigration laws has led us to this point, and we must not allow his actions to burden our nation’s military and local communities. I will fight against any attempts to allow those who break our laws to be housed at Alabama’s military facilities, and I urge the Administration to humanely and expeditiously transport these individuals back to their homes.”
Gov. Robert Bentley (R-AL), who was informed of the possibility on Friday, had a similar reaction. “The federal government is once again usurping the authority of Alabama in its effort to relocate unaccompanied minors,” Bentley said. “It is actions like this that led me to file a lawsuit in January against the federal government refugee resettlement program. While I am extremely sympathetic to the needs of unaccompanied minors, as Governor of Alabama, I feel strongly that states should play an active role in the decision making process.”
This is not the first time that an Alabama military base has been considered as a potential shelter for illegal immigrants. Earlier this year, Maxwell Air force Base in Montgomery was also considered for settlement by HHS, but was ultimately not selected.
In response to that revelation, Martha Roby lashed out at HHS and spoke to Yellowhammer about her position. “The Obama administration is at it again, testing the waters for housing illegal immigrant children at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base,” Roby said. “I wanted the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to know that we are paying attention and will fight any attempt to house detainees at Maxwell-Gunter.”
Before that, HHS considered housing illegal immigrant children at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama. Fierce opposition from Roby and Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL3), among others, deterred HHS from ultimately sending any unaccompanied illegal immigrants to the state in Anniston.
For now, it looks as though Alabama will avoid the issue again. The bill with Byrne’s amendment must now pass in the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama.
Two Alabama senators discuss potential constitutional convention at Mt. Vernon Assembly
Two Alabama state senators joined roughly 100 state legislators from 32 states at Mt. Vernon, Virginia this past weekend to discuss the ground rules of a potential convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution.
The idea has gained steam in the nationwide conservative grassroots community this year after conservative talk show host Mark Levin advocated for a states-led convention in his book The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution says that a convention of the states can be convened if two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) approve an application for the convention to occur.
By design, that’s a high bar to clear. And the bar gets even higher when it comes to actually passing a constitutional amendment.
Each state would then choose delegates to represent them at the convention, but each state would only get one vote on proposed amendments. It takes an affirmative vote from three-fourths (38) of the states to actually amend the constitution.
In short, the convention of the states is widely viewed as a last-ditch effort to push back against an overreaching federal government. Potential amendments being kicked around include term limits on federal lawmakers and caps on taxation and spending.
But the main work at the Mount Vernon Assembly this past weekend focused not on actual amendments, but on what rules would be followed should such a convention ever be convened.
A Resolution of the Mount Vernon Assembly to prepare to write the rules for an Amendment Convention of the States was passed by voice vote subject to additional language.
“We discussed the reality that the biggest threat to America is an irresponsible Federal Government,” Alabama State Senator Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, told Yellowhammer. “Checks that need to be put on the Federal Government have not been accomplished and based on current activity appear not to be likely… 32 (states) participated in the Mount Vernon Assembly, to prepare rules and form committees within a strict framework… to discuss and build support for a possible amendment convention of the States.”
The Assembly’s focus on a “strict framework” stems from the fact that Article V leaves some ambiguity in the process, leading to some concerns that a convention of the states would be an unruly affair. Because of the unknowns, there is a healthy amount of skepticism when it comes to convening the states.
“In the course of our work advising state and federal lawmakers and conservative allies across the country, we have been giving this issue close attention and study,” said Dr. Matthew Spalding on the Heritage Foundation. “The lack of precedent, extensive unknowns, and considerable risks of an Article V amendments convention should bring sober pause to advocates of legitimate constitutional reform contemplating this avenue.”
Sen. Pittman said that several checks would have to be put in place to ease concerns over a “runaway” convention.
“We’re just meeting to put some rules and procedures in place, but this would be very structured,” he said. “The only way I’d support it is if it was a specific issue convention.”
Several resolutions would also have to be passed by the Alabama legislature dealing with the Alabama delegation to a convention, including a provision that voids any vote cast by an Alabama delegate that is outside the instructions of the Alabama legislature that sent them.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, also attended the Mt. Vernon Assembly, but was not immediately available for comment.
Excellent meeting today at Mount Vernon Assembly regarding US Constitution process for changes under Art V. pic.twitter.com/fGFQk5oFaV
— Senator Arthur Orr (@SenatorAOrr) December 7, 2013
Yellowhammer will have more on the Mt. Vernon Assembly and related efforts soon.
But what do you think? Is a convention of the states a good idea? Is it needed? What amendments would you like to see?
Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims
Roby Introduces Amendment to Force Congress to Balance the Budget
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) today introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that, if passed and ratified, would require Congress to annually pass a balanced budget and finally force the federal government to live within its means. Rep. Roby’s proposed amendment would also require the President to submit a balanced budget to the Congress on time each year. The White House said yesterday that they will not meet the legal deadline to submit a budget for the third time in four years.
As Members of the House of Representatives took to the floor today to read the Constitution at length, Rep. Roby said making the nation’s governing framework just one amendment longer could fundamentally change the direction of the country for the better.
“Hardworking, taxpaying Americans balance their family budgets every month,” Rep. Roby said. “But, for the past four years, they’ve watched the federal government over-spend by more than $1 trillion. We’re $16 trillion in debt. It’s past time Congress and the President were Constitutionally required to balance the budget. A Balanced Budget Amendment would restore the fiscal common sense that regular Americans employ every day. It would also provide economic clarity and confidence for a country still struggling to create jobs.”
The ongoing debate about the rate of federal spending and how to reduce the public debt underscores the need for this amendment.
“Yesterday the President spent an hour lecturing Congress about ‘paying our bills.’ Well, one great way to ensure you can always pay your bills is to never charge up more than you can afford. The spending reductions through entitlement reforms we’ve continued to seek are important and needed, but the long-term solution to our country’s debt problem is requiring Washington politicians to pass a balanced budget every year.”
The Balanced Budget Amendment would:
· prohibit federal expenditures from exceeding federal revenues within the same fiscal year and 20 percent of the gross domestic product for the preceding calendar year.
· require the President to, on time before each fiscal year, submit to Congress a proposed federal budget in which total outlays do not exceed total revenues received by the United States.
· have an exception for times of Congressionally-declared war and authorize suspension of prohibitions by concurrent resolution approved by a three-fifths vote of the Senate and a two-thirds vote of the House of Representatives.
Rep. Roby introduced a similar amendment in her first term. The House of Representatives demonstrated its ability to pass such an amendment in the last Congress as part of its efforts to reduce the debt, but the Senate failed to seriously consider the measure.
Constitutional Amendments require passage from both Houses of Congress with a two-thirds majority (290 Representatives, 67 senators) and ratification by three-fourths (38) of the states. Click HERE to see the amendment.
Business Owners Denied First Amendment Protections
On November 19th, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton ruled that Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain, and other for-profit companies must pay for the coverage of contraceptives such as birth control, the “morning-after pill” and the “week-after pill,” regardless of the religious convictions of the owners. In his ruling denying an injunction on certain provisions of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Judge Heaton said “…the court has not found [that]… for-profit companies such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.”
Hobby Lobby and Mardel, owned by the same family, have a clear conservative Christian influence. There are 18 Hobby Lobby stores in Alabama, and every one of them closes on Sundays, plays praise and worship music, and displays Bible verses and other references that uphold their core beliefs. Mardel Christian and Education sports a Bible verse at the top of their website, sells Bibles, religious literature and Vacation Bible School materials. Unlike some religious organizations, Hobby Lobby has no qualms about paying for some forms of birth control, but takes issue with the morning-after pill and abortifacients. Founder and CEO David Green said of his company, “We seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.”
There is no question of the religious basis of these two companies; yet, because they are for-profit entities, they are being denied their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. Not-for-profit organizations with religious convictions, such as Catholic churches and parochial schools, have already received waivers allowing them to exercise their religious principles. Essentially, Judge Heaton told business owners across America that their religious beliefs are not protected under the First Amendment because of the tax status of their organizations.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling found that business owners’ expenditures toward political ends, such as funding political action committees or running advertisements against candidates, are expressions of free speech. Why is this same reasoning not carried to other sections of the First Amendment? Why can business owners display their preferences and honor their convictions when it comes to their political convictions, but not religious ones?
The first section of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment was specifically designed to prevent laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion. Period. Is not the enforcement of a law that is directly in conflict with the exercise of a religion directly contrary to this most important of rights? There are at least 1,722 organizations that have already received waivers from other portions of the Affordable Care Act. Any company that does not wish to comply with a provision it finds morally and religiously objectionable should be granted the same respect, regardless of the tax status.
Elizabeth Robinson is a policy analyst for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.
Amendment 4: Choosing Right over Racism
Over the last few weeks, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) and a number of Democrat lawmakers have led the charge to preserve racist language in Alabama’s Constitution by opposing Amendment 4 on the November 6 ballot.
Amendment 4 deletes language in Section 256 of Alabama’s Constitution relating to “elective” segregated schools and repeals poll tax provisions. In short, Section 256 of the Constitution of 1901 which required the Legislature to “establish, organize, and maintain a liberal system of public schools” was clearly unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education because it also contained a provision requiring segregated schools. As a result, Alabama voters removed the offending language in 1956 with Amendment 111 and simultaneously eliminated the right to a public education in Alabama.
The AEA’s opposition is based on a 1993 decision in an equity funding lawsuit decided by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Gene Reese that they argue reinstates the original language of Section 256 and allegedly the constitutional mandate on the state to provide public education. Unfortunately for the opponents of Amendment 4, Judge Reese’s decision and the resulting remedial order were ultimately, and definitively, dismissed by the Alabama Supreme Court in 2002.
While the AEA and the Democrat lawmakers joining them in the fight against Amendment 4 might have wished that Judge Reese’s decision and remedy had been upheld, that is not the case. Simply disagreeing with a decade-old decision by the Alabama Supreme Court does not change the law and is hardly grounds for retaining offensive language in Alabama’s Constitution. The proposed amendment does nothing to either guarantee or remove the right to public education. Amendment 4 does remove racist language from Section 256 by deleting the third paragraph relating to segregated schools.
Although the discriminatory language in Alabama’s Constitution has no legal impact, the personal and social impact is profound. References to institutions and practices directly aimed at subjugating citizens because of their race and socioeconomic status have no place in the highest legal authority for the state.
Politicians and special interest groups frequently let technical arguments suspend their ability to discern between right and wrong. Regardless of the amendment opposition’s faulty reasoning or even the positive desire of many Alabamians to improve the state’s reputation, removing the racist language of Alabama’s Constitution is clearly the right thing to do. Those who endured the devastating effects of these laws when they were in force should not be forced to see even their empty shells remaining on the books.
Public education will continue in Alabama regardless of whether it is guaranteed by Alabama’s ever-changing Constitution or supported by the representatives of the people. More importantly, Alabama’s public education has tremendous room for improvement. The same ways of thinking, including racist sentiments, which created many of Alabama’s current educational problems are of little use in solving them. Alabamians should carefully consider whether those are the kind of thoughts they want to perpetuate when they cast their vote on November 6.
Cameron Smith is Policy Director and General Counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.