Monday, October 24, 2016

Our Stand: Know your amendments

  There are 14 constitutional amendments that will be appearing on the November 8 ballot. Our editorial board weighs in below with a brief description of each and where the Capital City Free Press stands on each measure.

Amendment 1: This measure would add two at-large members to the Auburn University Board of Trustees to "enhance the diversity of the board." It would also set the expiration of terms so that no more than three Trustees' terms would expire at the same time.

  We urge you to vote yes. A more diverse AU Board of Trustees would better serve the Auburn University System.

Amendment 2: This amendment would prevent the use of monies allocated to Alabama's state parks from being spent on other government functions. It would also enable the Department of Conservation to contract some services pertaining to state parks to non-state entities.

  We strongly urge our reads to vote yes. For far too long, Alabama lawmakers have raided revenues intended to fund our state parks to reallocate elsewhere. This practice has led to at least temporarily closing some parks and leaving others at near-crippling levels of low funding. As one of Alabama's greatest resources available to the public, our state parks should be equitably and fully funded, so approving this measure is a must.

Amendment 3: This measure would allow some "local" amendments to only appear on the ballot in areas affected by said amendments provided lawmakers agree on the locality of said amendments. Currently, many amendments which only affect a single county or city appear on statewide ballots.

  We strongly urge our readers to approve this amendment. Local amendments appearing on statewide ballots is wasteful and unnecessary. Also, why should voters in Mobile County, for example, be able to dictate local law in Jefferson County?

Amendment 4: This amendment would give more power to county commissions, specifically in the areas of transportation, emergency management programs, and general administrative duties. Currently, many of these basic functions are hindered unnecessarily by local regulations.

  We urge voters to approve this measure.

Amendment 5: If approved, this measure would simply clean up some verbiage that currently appears in the Alabama Constitution. The wording in question concerns the separation of powers. The proposed change would only clarify the wording and would not in any way affect the current sharing of power and duties between the state's executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

  We urge our readers to vote yes.

Amendment 6: This amendment would clarify what would be required for lawmakers to impeach a state official, specifically requiring a two-thirds vote of the Alabama Senate to remove an official.

  We urge voters to approve this measure as currently, there is no such clear standard in the law stating how many votes are required by Senators to remove a state official in an impeachment proceeding.

Amendment 7: This measure only pertains to Etowah County. It would place employees of the Etowah County Sheriff's Department under the department's own personnel board. This would empower the sheriff's department to give raises to these workers whether county employees in general receive raises or not.

  We believe local issues such as this should remain local, and voters of Etowah County should be determining the fate of this amendment rather than voters statewide. Our editorial board is not taking a position on this amendment.

Amendment 8: This proposed amendment would enshrine current "right to work" laws in the Alabama Constitution. As with most poorly-named "right to work" measures, it would only curtail the rights of workers in terms of their relationship with their employer.

  We urge our readers to vote no.

Amendment 9: This is a local amendment, only pertaining to Pickens County. It would raise the maximum age of candidates for probate judge to 75 years old. The current maximum age is 70 years old per the Alabama Constitution and would create this exemption only for Pickens County.

  Though we believe in general that local issues should be addressed on the local level, this is extraordinary in that it would grant a special exemption in only one of 67 counties. We're urging a no vote simply based on the idea of fairness and uniformity.

Amendment 10: This is another local amendment, affecting Lincoln in Talladega County as well as Calhoun County. Currently the perimeter of Lincoln's police jurisdiction extends across the county line into Calhoun County. Approving Amendment 10 would end this practice and leave the area, in terms of policing, to Calhoun County.

  We believe this matter should be left in the hands of the voters who live in this area, and we're not taking a position on this issue.

Amendment 11: The passage of this measure would allow municipalities to form "Manufacturing Zones" in which a municipality could develop areas out of its own pocket as a means to lure businesses to locate there. After landing a business through this program, the tax break offered would climb back to its normal level over time, allowing the municipality to recoup the initial tax break it offered.

  Our editorial board has mixed feelings about this measure. Allowing local governments to recruit businesses as they feel fit sounds logical and would empower these municipalities. Incurring such a level of debt is risky, though. Should a municipality spend money to develop an area only to have the deal fall through, it would place the local government in a bind. If voters trust their local government, a yes vote would be in order. If voters think the risk is too high, we suggest they vote no.

Amendment 12: Approving this amendment would allow Baldwin County to establish a toll road authority in order to develop toll roads within the county and finance construction of these through the issuance of bonds.

  Considering this is a local matter, we believe voters should leave the decision in the hands of Baldwin County voters.

Amendment 13: Approval of this measure would remove the current maximum age restrictions for elected and appointed officials in Alabama. It would also prevent future restrictions from being implemented. The primary age restriction is currently a cap of 70 years old for judges.

  We support this amendment. Age discrimination should not part of the process by which appointed or elected officials are chosen.

Amendment 14: This amendment pertains to legislative rules, specifically procedural votes concerning budget isolation resolutions. Passage of BIRs require a three-fifths vote of lawmakers. The rules of the Alabama House, however, only call for a three-fifths vote of House members who are actually present at the time. Passing this amendment would simply bring the Alabama Constitution in line with the current House rules for this type of procedural vote.

  We urge voters to approve this amendment.

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