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2 years ago

An Alabama voters’ quick guide to state amendments on the Nov. ballot

A woman prepares to vote in 2006. (Photo: Nathaniel Shepard)
A woman prepares to vote in 2006. (Photo: Nathaniel Shepard)

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.

Amendment 1

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.

Amendment 2

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.

Amendment 3

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.

Amendment 4

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.

Amendment 5

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.

Amendment 6

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.

Amendment 8

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.

Amendment 11

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.

Amendment 13

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.

Amendment 14

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.

44 mins ago

Exceptional Foundation carolers bring holiday spirit to Alabama businesses

What the Exceptional Foundation carolers may lack in perfect pitch and rhythm they more than make up for with enthusiasm and sheer joy.

The result is exactly what is intended: delivering the Christmas spirit to businesses around Birmingham.

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That delivery is clear by the smiles produced among the audiences.

This is the fifth year the Exceptional Foundation carolers have visited corporations to thank them for their support. CEO Tricia Kirk said the number of performances has grown from less than a handful of businesses in the first season to five or six a day this year.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

Alabama Power works to save threatened snails on Coosa River

While many property owners used this fall’s Coosa River drawdown to make repairs to boathouses, piers and other structures along the water’s edge, Alabama Power biologists were on another mission.

APC Environmental Affairs employees worked with members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) to protect rare snails on Lay and Mitchell lakes.

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The first step involved surveying threatened species — literally by counting the number of snails in a given area.

Two species of freshwater aquatic snails listed under the Endangered Species Act, the rough hornsnail and Tulotoma snail, call the Coosa River home. Both are native to Alabama and are found nowhere else in the world.

“We do a manual count, which gives you an estimate of the number of that species within a certain area,” said Jason Carlee, APC Environmental Affairs supervisor. “You can then multiply that number by the area of the lake bottom affected by the drawdown to estimate how much of the population is affected.”

The work wasn’t limited to surveying. The biologists were also charged with saving snails affected by the drawdown. Snails that might have had trouble navigating to the lower lake levels were picked up along the riverbank and returned to the water.

“The primary objectives at Lay Lake and Lake Mitchell were surveying known populations of Tulotoma and rough hornsnail, searching for new populations of the species and relocating species to suitable habitat in deeper water,” said Chad Fitch, a biologist with Alabama Power.

The snails live anywhere from one to 30 feet below the shoreline but prefer to live just below the water’s edge, according to Carlee.

“The lowering of the water forces the snails to follow the water and, as they move, they can get trapped by vegetation or stuck behind a log or rock,” Carlee said. “Our priority is to identify new populations and to salvage as many snails as we can.”

The teams focused on areas with known populations and salvaged snails when the water was at its lowest level to make the most significant positive impact. A previous survey and salvage effort was conducted during the 2013 drawdown, and additional snail surveys were done in 2009 and 2012.

“Part of our week was spent searching for new populations of rough hornsnails, and we found them,” said Fitch. “Before this week, the species was only known to occur in four different locations on Mitchell Reservoir, but we found them in three other creeks this week as well as along the shorelines in the main channel.”

Several other steps have been taken to protect the snails. For example, the timing and frequency of the fall drawdowns have been adjusted to benefit the species.

“Historically for Lay and Mitchell, there were drawdowns every year. Then they went to every other year. Since the discovery of rough hornsnails at Lake Mitchell and at Yellowleaf Creek on Lay Reservoir, drawdowns are conducted every five years to decrease impacts to the snails,” Fitch said.

Tracks left by the snails leading from the riverbank to the water indicate that the species can adjust to water level fluctuations. Lake levels are now lowered very slowly over a three-day period, to give snails more time to follow the dropping water.

Alabama Power works with USFWS and ADCNR to find ways to protect and improve habitat conditions for snails and other aquatic species as part of its license to operate dams issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. All the hard work is paying off. The Tulotoma snail was downlisted from endangered to threatened in 2011 as populations below Coosa River dams increased. It was the first time a freshwater species of mollusks, which includes clams, mussels and slugs, was downlisted. New populations of rough hornsnail provide hope for its recovery.

Results from this year’s snail survey will help regulators determine the impact of water level fluctuations on species like these snails and help provide guidance concerning future drawdowns.

This story originally appeared in Shorelines magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Alexander Shunnarah gives back to the community with the first annual ‘Shunnarah Seasons of Giving’ initiative

Most people know Alexander Shunnarah for his infamous “Call me Alabama” slogan and the massive trail of billboards commonly spotted by travelers along I-65. However, what many aren’t aware of is Shunnarrah’s heart for giving back to the city he calls home.

To show his love and appreciation for Birmingham, the Alabama lawyer just launched the first ever “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” initiative and is surprising locals in the community with various acts of service throughout the month of December.

Shunnurah described this initiative as a, “…small part in giving back to the community and paying it forward.”

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To begin the month-long program, Shunnarrah stopped by Etheridge Brother and Sister Barber and Beauty Shop in downtown Birmingham last week where he gave locals an opportunity to receive a complimentary haircut.

“It’s been a great initial kickoff in the seasons of giving,” Shunarrah said.

In addition to these pop-up visits, Shunnarah’s law firm is partnering with The Shoe Clinic LLC for the clinic’s third annual ‘Saving One Sole at a Time” Sneaker, Sock and Coat Drive. The drive will take place at The Shoe Clinic LLC on Saturday, December 15th from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Donations are accepted now through December 15th. Both organizations hope to collect 500 sneakers and coats, and 1000 pairs of socks by December 15th.

To donate to the sneaker, sock and coat drive, visit one of the two drop-off locations listed here:

The Shoe Clinic
1801 11th Ave S. Birmingham, AL,

Alexander Shunnarah Law Firm
2900 1st Ave. S. Birmingham, AL.

To see where Alexander Shunurrah visits for the next “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” pop-up, visit his Instagram page at @alexander_shunnarah.

5 hours ago

Artur Davis: What the next Montgomery mayor needs

The coming mayoral race in Montgomery matters whether you live in city limits, or whether it is simply important to you or your business that Alabama’s capital thrives. The conversation on the ground is that the outcome could be the next historic milestone for the city that launched civil rights.

Former U.S. Magistrate Judge Vanzetta McPherson caused a stir with a recent Montgomery Advertiser column that argues “it is time for the occupant of the mayor’s office to reflect the predominant (African-American) citizenry.” She further suggests that there is a burden on black voters and leader to “filter black candidates early,” so that the ranks be purged of those who by some test fail, in her words, to “serve the best interests of the African-American community.”

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I know the judge’s sentiments are well-intentioned but as one of the seven or eight folks who will be running for Mayor, as the only contender who has officially registered a campaign committee, I view this election through a different lens. Montgomery has challenges at every turn. The test is not the mayor’s color or gender but whether the city’s next leader is visionary and substantial enough to unlock those opportunities disguised as challenges.

Mayor is not an entry-level job, as the judge correctly observed. The mayor-to-be will have to learn and master the details of making urban policy work for ordinary people. The job demands persistence and a clear eye about the questions that threaten Montgomery’s future.

Can our schools be rescued? For a while now, the leadership of our school system has resembled its population demographically: that by itself has meant nothing to the children in our eleven failing schools, or the 37 percent of children who graduate high school without core reading and math skills. The next mayor must join forces with the new school board to extricate the schools from the state takeover, a mismanaged event that creates the kind of uncertain chain of command that makes it impossible to attract a national caliber superintendent. The next mayor will have to sell the neighborhoods whose children are in magnets or private schools on the imperative of financing traditional schools adequately. He or she will also need to overcome forces who resist innovative reforms or stricter accountability.

Can we make a real dent in Montgomery’s poverty problem? West and North Montgomery are statistically identical to the chronically poor Black Belt. The southern boulevard is one long patch of neglect and collapsed businesses. Too many of our working people are still poor and trapped in dead-end jobs. For decades, the struggling parts of our city have had representation that “looks like them.” That fact has not yet stopped the decline.

Can we roll back crime and the root causes of crime? An overwhelming majority of criminal defendants are drop-outs. Our city has yet to fashion a comprehensive plan to identify and engage students who have encounters with the law or are chronic disciplinary problems. At the same time, if a city as complex as New York can reduce its rates of gun violence and murder, the next mayor of Montgomery should be expected to devise an anti-crime plan more robust than empathy and short-term anger management courses.

I could go on. We have reached new heights in corporate investment in the city but more of that newly infused wealth must be targeted toward creating jobs that pay high wages. Promoting minority investment is an urgent, consistently unmet need that takes more than conferences at the Renaissance to solve. Our municipal government structure has not been reorganized since the time when smartphones had not been invented and the internet in this city was limited to government offices.

The record of the mayor who is leaving, Todd Strange, will loom over this election. I ran against him but will grant him this: in an era when national politics has degenerated into all or nothing partisanship and what the experts call tribalism, Mayor Strange has kept the volume temperate and moderate in Montgomery. The next mayor should emulate that decency. He or she must match it with a boldness and a capacity to challenge old assumptions and challenge 21st Century problems.

I do agree that this city is on the edge of making history. But the test for candidates is not how well we represent one community or satisfy that community’s insiders and gatekeepers. It is whether any of us has what it takes to make Montgomery a trendsetter in repairing failing schools and blighted neighborhoods and in forging a more prosperous, more equitable future.

If you live in Montgomery, vote for the guy or lady you think just might know how to get us there.

Artur Davis is a former four-term congressman from Montgomery running for mayor.

5 hours ago

Roby: The 2018 Farm Bill includes key wins for farmers and our communities

Agriculture is the largest revenue-producing industry in the State of Alabama, responsible for more than $70 billion in economic impact annually. Our state is a national leader in food production and a global competitor in the livestock, peanut, cotton, poultry, timber and catfish industries. In Alabama’s Second District, agriculture is the largest employer, responsible for more than 93,000 jobs.

Agriculture is at the core of countless issues that impact the Second District and our state as a whole. Throughout my time in Congress, I have been proud to serve as a strong voice for our farmers of all commodities and to ensure that we craft smart agriculture policy that they can rely on in their important work. It is imperative that Congress honor our commitments to the hardworking farmers and producers across the country.

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That’s why I am glad to report that both the House and Senate have approved the 2018 farm bill. This legislation now heads to the White House where it awaits President Trump’s signature. The 2018 farm bill provides certainty to the American families who work every day to provide the food and fiber we all depend on. I was proud to support it on behalf of our Second District farmers.

The 2018 farm bill includes key wins for farmers and our rural communities. It improves farm policy by providing a nationwide yield update for the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) commodity program, beginning with the 2020 crop year and allowing PLC to better respond to market conditions; making several key improvements to the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) commodity program, including increased yield plugs and yield trend adjustments; protecting and improving crop insurance; investing in research, extension and education projects, and protecting farmers from additional costly, burdensome red tape.

The bill also lays the groundwork for an improved Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by preserving the Trump Administration’s flexibility to rein in SNAP work requirement waivers for able bodied adults without dependents. We are focused on improving welfare integrity by encouraging able-bodied Americans to work rather than enabling dependency on the federal government.

Additionally, the 2018 farm bill dedicates funding to rural health projects to help Americans battling opioid addiction and other substance abuse disorders. It’s no secret that the opioid epidemic is gripping our state and the entire country, so it is imperative that we utilize every tool available to combat it. I’m especially proud this legislation allocates increased resources to that end.

Importantly for Alabama’s Second District, the farm bill also makes significant improvements to rural broadband delivery. This includes the implementation of forward-looking standards to ensure we are meeting the next generation’s rural broadband needs.

This farm bill makes good on our commitment to farmers, producers, and all of rural America by providing certainty moving forward. My goal with agriculture policy is always to create a responsible framework of laws and programs that promote a sustainable and profitable agriculture industry in Alabama while allowing our farmers to do what they do best: provide the sustenance that feeds our state, our country and the world. I am proud of Congress’ action to make this happen, and I’m eager to see President Trump push the farm bill over the finish line.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.