Monday, October 11, 2004
On this day:

No On Amendment 2

In the Nov. 2 election, Alabama voters will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment largely devoted to removing obsolete segregation-era language from the State's constitution. The purpose of this amendment, which will appear as "Amendment 2" on the Nov. 2 ballot, is to remove language that 1) requires separate schools for "white and colored" children, 2) provides for a poll tax, and 3) requires that "nothing in the constitution shall be construed ... recognizing any right to education or training at public expense."

The first two parts of this amendment should have been enacted long ago. They refer to provisions in the Alabama constitution that established legal segregation of the public schools and were used to deny blacks the full benefits of citizenship. They repeal measures that are unenforceable due to U.S. Supreme Court decisions outlawing segregation and due to the U.S. Constitution's 24th Amendment, which eliminated poll taxes.

The third provision, however, is very much a "living" part of the Alabama Constitution. Its repeal would give license to the judiciary to find a "right" to public education in the Constitution. Judges could then claim the authority to order tax and spending increases that properly lie within the exclusive purview of the Legislature. Judge Roy Moore has pointed out that its enactment would effectively bypass a 2002 state Supreme Court ruling striking down a lower court order requiring the Legislature to pass $1.7 million in new taxes for schools.

I'm afraid that Amendment 2 will get caught up in racial politics and that the true impact of its approval will be ignored. It can't be a good omen that Roy Moore is the most prominent politician who has come out in opposition. Nonetheless, Amendment 2 should be rejected by Alabama's voters on Nov. 2.