1 month ago

A guide to the statewide constitutional amendments on the ballot in November 2020

In this November’s general election, voters will get to decide the fate of six statewide amendments to the Constitution of Alabama.

Yellowhammer News has prepared a guide to each statewide amendment and its impact on Alabama if enacted.

The six amendments mentioned will be on every ballot handed to an Alabamian on Election Day. Other local amendments may appear on the ballot in certain counties.

Statewide Amendment 1

How the first amendment will appear on the ballot:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to amend Article VIII of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 177 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, to provide that only a citizen of the United States has the right to vote.

More directly, the Alabama constitution would be changed to say “only a” citizen of the United States who meets certain qualifications has the right to vote

It currently says “every” citizen of the United States who meets certain qualifications has the right to vote.

The change that would occur if Amendment 1 passes is primarily technical; legal scholars agree current Alabama law permits only citizens to vote. Proponents of the amendment say the change is a needed clarification.

Alabama Senate Pro Tem. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) sponsored Amendment 1, and it passed the upper chamber unanimously. Marsh told Yellowhammer News at the time that his goal was to “affirm” that only citizens can vote in Alabama’s elections.

Statewide Amendment 2

How the second amendment will appear on the ballot:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to increase the membership of the Judicial Inquiry Commission and further provide for the appointment of the additional members; further provide for the membership of the Court of the Judiciary and further provide for the appointment of the additional members; further provide for the process of disqualifying an active judge; repeal provisions providing for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justices and appellate judges and the removal for cause of the judges of the district and circuit courts, judges of the probate courts, and judges of certain other courts by the Supreme Court; delete the authority of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to appoint an Administrative Director Courts; provide the Supreme Court of Alabama with authority to appoint an Administrative Director of Courts; require the Legislature to establish procedures for the appointment of the Administrative Director of Courts; delete the requirement that a district court hold court in each incorporated municipality with a population of 1,000 or more where there is no municipal court; provide that the procedure for the filling of vacancies in the office of a judge may be changed by local constitutional amendment; delete certain language relating to the position of constable holding more than one state office; delete a provision providing for the temporary maintenance of the prior judicial system; repeal the office of circuit solicitor; and make certain nonsubstantive stylistic changes.

The Fair Ballot Commission summarized in plain language the six primary changes that would be made by Amendment 2:

1. It provides that county district courts do not have to hold city court in a city with a population of less than 1,000.

2. It allows the Alabama Supreme Court, rather than the chief justice, to appoint the administrative director of courts.

3. It increases from nine to 11 the total membership of the Judicial Inquiry Commission and determines who appoints each member (the Judicial Inquiry Commission evaluates ethics complaints filed against judges).

4. It allows the governor, rather than the lieutenant governor, to appoint a member of the Court of the Judiciary (the Court of the Judiciary hears complaints filed by the Judicial Inquiry Commission).

5. It prevents a judge from being automatically disqualified from holding office simply because a complaint was filed with the Judiciary Inquiry Commission.

6. It provides that a judge can be removed from office only by the Court of the Judiciary.

Amendment 2 also changes the statutes governing Alabama’s constables; these changes are opposed by the Alabama Constables Association.

The amendment was sponsored by State Senators Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Cam Ward (R-Alabaster).

Amendment 2 is the result of work done by a task force comprised of legislators and members of the judicial branch of government.

Advocates for the amendment say it simplifies several administrative procedures that govern Alabama’s judicial system, which they argue is needed since many of the current procedures were written several decades ago and are no longer relevant.

Opponents of the measure argue that removing municipal courts from small towns with less than 1,000 residents will inconvenience the people who live there.

They also say that removing the legislature’s ability to impeach judges — the amendment makes the Judicial Inquiry Commission the only institution that can do so — takes away the ability of the people’s representatives to get rid of bad judges.

More information on what the Judicial Inquiry Commission is and what it does can be found here.

Statewide Amendment 3

How the third amendment will appear on the ballot:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that a judge, other than a judge of probate, appointed to fill a vacancy would serve an initial term until the first Monday after the second Tuesday in January following the next general election after the judge has completed two years in office.

Most simply, the amendment would extend the time that judges who are appointed to fill an empty seat may serve.

If Amendment 3 is approved, appointed judges would run for reelection in the first general election after they have served two years in their appointed job.

Currently, appointed judges run in the first general election to occur after they have served for one year.

Tom Spencer of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) authored a report on the proposed amendments.

He noted with regards to Amendment 3, “This change might make it more attractive for nominees to accept a judicial appointment. At the same time, this change gives the appointee longer to build up the advantage of incumbency before running for a full term.”

Judgeships come open when a sitting judge dies, resigns, retires or is removed. The amendment would not apply to probate judges.

Amendment 3 was sponsored by State Representative David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook) and co-sponsored by State Representative Matt Fridy (R-Montevallo).

Statewide Amendment 4

How the fourth amendment will appear on the ballot:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to authorize the Legislature to recompile the Alabama Constitution and submit it during the 2022 Regular Session, and provide a process for its ratification by the voters of this state.

If Amendment 4 is passed, state legislators would have permission to rearrange the state constitution to do four things, per the Fair Ballot Commission:

1. Remove racist language.
2. Remove language that is repeated or no longer applies.
3. Combine language related to economic development.
4. Combine language that relates to the same county.

Only changes in those four categories could be made.

The proposed changes would be submitted during the 2022 legislative session for approval by both chambers of the legislature.

If the updated constitution is approved by the legislature, it would then be voted on by the people of Alabama in the 2022 general election.

Only if the legislature and the people of Alabama give the updated constitution their approval in 2022 would the changes become permanent. Amendment 4 could be thought of as permission for lawmakers and legislative staff to get started on the process.

As such, Amendment 4 will not affect how the state is governed; it only permits cosmetic changes and even those have to be approved by the public in two years.

Proponents say removing racist and redundant language is a worthy change to the state’s primary governing document.

Amendment 4 comes from a bipartisan place; it was sponsored by State Representative Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) and co-sponsored by State House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), among others.

Statewide Amendments Five and Six

How the fifth and sixth amendments will appear on the ballot:

Relating to Franklin County, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that a person is not liable for using deadly physical force in self-defense or in the defense of another person on the premises of a church under certain conditions.

Statewide Amendment 6 reads in full:

Relating to Lauderdale County, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that a person is not liable for using deadly physical force in self-defense or in the defense of another person on the premises of a church under certain conditions.

Both amendments would create special “stand your ground” laws for the churches in their respective counties.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall already interprets Alabama’s statewide “stand your ground” law as applicable to churches.

Local legislators in both Franklin and Lauderdale counties believe an additional measure stating the “stand your ground” law applies to churches in their counties is needed as a form of clarification.

The passage of Amendment 5 and Amendment 6 requires a majority of Alabama voters and a majority of the voters in the relevant counties.

Wrap-up

The Fair Ballot Commission’s breakdown, in plain language, of all six amendments is available here, and the full analysis from PARCA is available here.

The Fair Ballot Commission is an independent state entity that receives technical assistance from several agencies, but primarily the secretary of state’s office.

Sample ballots for each of Alabama’s 67 counties can be found here.

Yellowhammer received guidance from Jason Isbell, a lawyer in Montgomery and a member of the Fair Ballot Commission, in putting this guide together.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

12 mins ago

Zeigler: If ALDOT can build an $800M I-20/59-65 interchange in Birmingham with no toll, they can build an I-10 Mobile Bay bridge with no toll

As talk about construction for a new I-10 Mobile Bay bridge heats up, opponents of the infamous 2019 public-private partnership plan developed by the Alabama Department of Transportation are restating their opposition to any proposal that includes tolling.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who led an online campaign against the 2019 plan, is among those still insisting on no tolls.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” in Mobile, Zeigler urged policymakers to look for other funding mechanisms and said if ALDOT could find a way to complete the $800 million upgrades to I-20/59 in downtown Birmingham, it could do so with the I-10 Mobile Bay project, as well.

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“Ever since we were able to block the toll plan, and I might say the very ridiculous toll plan, in August 2019, we knew there was a probability that somebody would come back with another plan for an I-10 bridge over Mobile Bay,” he said. “It’s just inevitable. Since then, actually, one loose group of leaders in Baldwin County came back with a proposal, but it didn’t get very far,  seven or eight months ago. Now we’ve been informed that there are people taking another look at it. Now, if they can put in a new bridge using the existing funds — the gas tax, the increase in the gas tax, the GOMESA money, the leftover BP funds, federal money, infrastructure grants — then let’s see the plan and let’s go forward without a toll.”

“You know, in Birmingham, they just built a new I-59, I-20, I-65 interchange costing about $800 million with no tolls,” Zeigler added. “They can build the I-10 bridge with no tolls, and we’re sticking to that.”

Zeigler acknowledged ALDOT director John Cooper and Gov. Kay Ivey’s handling of the 2019 project had resulted in an erosion of the public’s trust but said he was still open to a proposal, assuming it was a toll-free plan.

“ALDOT and its director, John Cooper, and Governor Ivey lost a lot of credibility on the Gulf Coast with the ridiculous plan,” Zeigler said. “The more we learned about that 2019 toll plan, the worse it got. The more facts we learned, the more we had to block the thing, and we did. I have a loss of trust in ALDOT and John Cooper, and many, many other people do, too. But preliminary work for a new bridge with existing funds can be done without their involvement, and the leadership needs to come locally, not from Montgomery. This idea that Montgomery knows what’s best for the Gulf Coast — that is not a good idea.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

27 mins ago

Delta Dental donates $100,000 to Alabama food banks on Giving Tuesday

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation on Tuesday announced that it is giving a total of $100,000 to two food banks in Alabama.

The announcement comes on this year’s Giving Tuesday, a global campaign that encourages people and organizations to do good and pay it forward. The 2020 version of this annual day takes on increased significance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a release from the foundation noted.

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation partners with local communities to increase access to care, support dental education and fund research that advances the oral health field. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California and its affiliated companies — including Delta Dental Insurance Company, which operates in the Yellowhammer State.

“As a result of the pandemic, food insecurity rates and reliance on food banks are skyrocketing like never before,” stated Kenzie Ferguson, vice president for foundation and corporate social responsibility for Delta Dental of California and its affiliates. “Fighting food insecurity is not only the right thing to do for our communities during these trying times, but it also aligns with our mission to promote oral health.”

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The foundation’s release explained that dental caries, or the disease that causes tooth decay, has been linked to food insecurity – a disruption in food intake or eating patterns due to a lack of resources – in numerous studies.

Alabama food banks receiving grants are as follows:

Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Birmingham – $75,000
Montgomery Area Food Bank – $25,000

Overall foundation support in 2020 totals nearly $15 million nationwide, including nearly $350,000 to nonprofits in Alabama.

RELATED: Alabama Power employees raise money to help people in need

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

57 mins ago

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing to launch second wave of production hiring

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, the joint-venture automotive plant between Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., plans to resume the hiring of production positions at its Huntsville assembly facility on Monday.

The company will make its public announcement during a Facebook event on at 3:30pm Thursday.

“When you join the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing team you become a part of something bigger. Our production team member positions are career opportunities on a world-class team of highly-skilled, high-trained coworkers supported by leadership committed to the individual success of each employee on our team,” said Janette Hostettler, vice president of production at MTM.

“We looked forward to launching this next phase of hiring and encourage all interested in joining our team to tune into the Facebook Live event to learn more,” she said.

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MTM’s assembly facility, now under construction, is expected to open next year. Ultimately, the plant will employ up to 4,000 workers.

AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, is assisting MTM with the hiring process. The Thursday Facebook event will take place on AIDT’s page.

In August, when MTM announced an additional $830 million investment in the Alabama facility, the company said its employment had reached 600. Initial hiring of the production team began in January 2020.

“The partnership between the State of Alabama and Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has been great not only for our state but also our citizens,” said Ed Castile, head of AIDT and deputy secretary of Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We’re proud to support their hiring and training needs as they move into the next phase of their process and give more Alabamians an opportunity to jump start their manufacturing careers,” Castile added.

The new jobs are direct hire, full-time positions on the MTM production team. Starting wage for production team members is $17 an hour, with a top wage of $23 an hour plus shift premium.

MTM production team members are provided benefits on their first day of employment including paid time off, vehicle discount program, and medical, dental and vision coverage. Employees are also eligible to participate in MTM’s 401(k) with 6% employer match after 60 days.

Interested candidates may submit their application beginning Monday at the company’s website.

(Courtesy of Made In Alabama)

1 hour ago

UAB infectious disease expert says Alabama coronavirus situation at ‘scary inflection point’

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) infectious disease expert Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo held a virtual briefing on Tuesday during which she provided context for Alabama’s troublingly high rate of coronavirus spread and concerning number of hospitalized patients.

As Yellowhammer News reported on Monday, Alabama is experiencing a record number of COVID-19 patients in its hospitals, including at Marrazzo’s own UAB Hospital. New cases, meanwhile, are very near the highest average the state has experienced.

“This is not a surge… but a spike,” Marrazzo said of Alabama’s current increase in coronavirus numbers, repeatedly warning that the next few weeks could bring a “tidal wave” of new COVID-19 patients.

Marrazzo further relayed that Alabama is doing less testing than earlier in the pandemic, and she believes the current case numbers are an “underestimate” of reality.

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“We are not even in the post-Thanksgiving surge yet,” cautioned Marrazzo with regards to the even further increase in cases she and others expect to come about after many citizens traveled last week.

“This is a really, really scary inflection point,” Marrazzo said of Alabama’s current COVID-19 numbers, adding that hospitals may need to set up “ancillary care places” if the number of patients requiring hospitalization continues to go up.

“A lot depends on what happened over Thanksgiving weekend,” she said.

The doctor said one hypothetical situation keeping her up at night is a potential shortage of health care workers leading to some patients who urgently need care not being able to receive it in a timely manner.

“Are we going to have enough people to take care of what I thank may be a tidal wave of patients in the next month?” Marrazzo asked rhetorically.

She described that Mobile has currently exhausted its supply of ICU beds and said the statewide ICU bed situation is “not particularly optimistic.”

Marrazzo said Monday that she has gone to great lengths over the course of the pandemic to avoid being alarmist and offered some more positive news amid the rising cases.

“We have managed to improve the way we take care of people in the hospital,” she noted, further explaining that far fewer patients require being placed on ventilators now that doctors have more experience treating the virus.

“I think the vaccine news is very, very encouraging,” Marrazzo highlighted, mentioning specifically the medical company Moderna’s submission of its vaccine candidate to the FDA.

The expert also explained a complicating factor in the upcoming vaccine dispersal, for which the consensus is that health care workers will get the first doses, but the next round of people to get vaccinated is not wholly agreed upon.

Marrazzo described how priority could be made to give it to older citizens who are most at risk for serious complications if coming down with COVID-19. Another priority might be giving it to those in the community most likely to transmit the virus even if they are younger or less vulnerable.

With regards to the Pfizer vaccine, which was similar in its effectiveness to Moderna’s vaccine but must be stored and transported at much lower temperatures, Marrazzo said she was “very encouraged” by the company’s recent efforts to see if its vaccine was stable enough to be transported and stored more easily.

Near the end of her briefing, Marrazzo said “a huge amount of fatigue” is likely to blame for the numbers increasing even as the public is aware of the proper precautions – like mask wearing and social distancing – that must be taken.

The doctor said that going forward, “shaming is not the answer,” and those interested in stopping the virus must “appeal to people’s better nature.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 hours ago

Alabama Power employees raise money to help people in need

Employees at Alabama Power raised more than $49,000 in November to support nonprofit agencies and community partners who are helping people in need this holiday season.

The virtual fundraiser was organized by the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) as an alternative to traditional supporting activities. APSO State Board President Kodi Belford said the pandemic changed the way APSO volunteers would normally assist these organizations.

“What has been especially hard this year is knowing that organizations in the community need our support, and due to the pandemic, we have shifted how we engage,” Belford said. “While the pandemic has changed things, it hasn’t completely prevented us from being there for our communities. We are continuously finding new ways to provide support, and I am extremely proud of our members and how they are overcoming these hurdles.”

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The money will support several nonprofit agencies and community partners, many of which either purchase clothing and toys for foster children or provide food for families in need. Employees from Southern Company Services, Southern Power and Southern Nuclear also participated in the fundraiser.

“The pandemic has changed the way in which APSO is able to serve, but our long-standing commitment to serving the community has not wavered,” said Tequila Smith, vice president of Charitable Giving. “I’m proud of the way APSO volunteers have remained engaged and continue to give back. This fundraiser is just one example of how our APSO volunteers have found a way to still make a difference and ensure those in need have a bright holiday season.”

APSO shared highlights of its partnerships during a live-streamed event Nov. 17. During the event, APCO Employees Credit Union President Derrick Ragland presented a $15,000 donation to APSO.

“We have a long history of supporting APSO, Renew Our Rivers, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels and other events and we are so proud to be part of this partnership with Alabama Power,” Ragland said. “Just because COVID has stopped traditional events, doesn’t mean the need is not still there. We are proud to be part of the Alabama Power family and will continue our support of the charitable initiatives of Alabama Power.”

Some of the organizations benefiting from the fundraiser include Home of Grace, Ronald McDonald House of Mobile, Lifting Spirits of Senior Citizens, Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, Boys Club of Sylacauga, Shelby County Department of Human Resources (DHR), St. Clair County DHR, Talladega County DHR, Vincent Elementary School Backpack Buddies, Walker County DHR, Walker County Salvation Army Angel Tree, AIDS Alabama, Vineyard Family Services, YWCA of Central Alabama, Jefferson County Salvation Army Angel Tree, Mulherin Home, Montgomery Area Food Bank, Girls Inc. of Dothan, Miracle League of Dothan, Wiregrass Area Food Bank, Bigbee Humane Society, Boys & Girls Club of West Alabama and City of Lights Dream Center.

For more information about APSO, visit PowerOfGood.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)