Friday, October 29, 2004
On this day:

Alabama Constitutional Amendments

The Mobile Register has a detailed description of the 8 statewide constitutional amendments to be voted on next Tuesday here.

Here's my take:

Amendments 1 and 3 - These amendments extend industrial development powers to local governments that don't currently have them. The libertarian in me doesn't like the concept of governments buying up property to give away to private businesses. Tax incentives would be a preferable alternative. However, many counties already have this power via the constitution, and these are decisions that are appropriate to make at the local level. I plan to vote yes on both of these unless I'm in a particularly irritable mood Tuesday morning.

Amendment 2 - This amendment would remove obsolete language relating to segregation and poll taxes. It would also strike out a section of the constitution that says "nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense."

I am sympathetic to arguments that this last provision would give judges license to impose taxes and spending for education without the legislature's consent. The Alabama constitution says that the "the legislature shall establish, organize, and maintain a liberal system of public schools throughout the state for the benefit of the children thereof between the ages of seven and twenty-one years." This section was amended in the 1950's to add the qualfication that it should not be interpreted to create a "right" to public-funded education. That amendment would be superfluous if not for the tendency of some judges to make law rather than interpret it. Amendment 582, ratified by Alabama voters in 1996, attempted to address this concern by requiring legislative approval for disbursement of state funds in response to a court order. Even so, I'm voting no on Amendment 2. I kind of like a state constitution that explicitly states that education is not a right. That said, the legislature should send an amendment to voters for ratification next year ridding the Constitution of the segregation and poll tax language.

Amendment 4 - Several agricultural producers in the state have passed "voluntary checkoff" programs to be used to promote their products. The government has no business being involved in these types of programs. Industries are capable of financing their own promotion activities without interference from the state. I'm voting no.

Amendment 5 - This pertains to the city of Trussville, and allows them to annex additional property and raise property taxes. Frankly, its none of my business what the city of Trussville does, but I'm going to vote no anyway. These kinds of issues shouldn't be cluttering up the Constitution. Maybe if enough of these kinds of amendments get voted down, it will add to the momentum for constitutional reform.

Amendment 6 - Ditto. What happens in Crenshaw County is probably none of my business, but I'm voting no anyway.

Amendment 7 - Ditto for Macon County. Another no vote.

Amendment 8 - This amendment would make the tax system fairer for Alabama truckers. It converts the tax on trucks from an ad-valorem tax (property tax) to an excise tax based on the percentage of miles traveled inside the state of Alabama. The current ad-valorem tax is not levied on trucks registered outside Alabama. The proposed excise tax would be. It was designed to be revenue neutral. Yes to this one.