General election ballot filled with state amendmentsPublished 6:04am Saturday, October 27, 2012
When Alabama voters go to the polls in less than two weeks, there will be more on the ballot than just the candidates who are vying for office.
As is oftentimes the case, there will be amendments placed on the ballots for Alabama voters to consider.
This time around, there will be 11 amendments ranging from topics of interest to all residents to topics that only affect certain counties.
Tricky wording or a general lack of knowledge about what most of the amendments will do has led many voters in the past to simply choose an opinion arbitrarily, but those who are in support of or against these amendments feel the need for the general public to be more informed.
The following are summaries of each amendment prepared with the assistance of Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay).
Amendment 1: This amendment reauthorizes the Forever Wild Land Trust for another 20 years.
Forever Wild protects Alabama’s natural beauty by purchasing land for public use and recreation, including hiking trails, wildlife preserves and ten state parks.
The program has been supported by people from all sorts of backgrounds most recently in a TV ad featuring former Alabama and Auburn football coaches Gene Stallings and Pat Dye. Taxpayer money purchases the land, but the land is maintained and protected without relying on taxpayer money.
Amendment 2: Under current law, the state is allowed to become indebted and to issue interest-bearing General Obligation bonds as long as the bonds do not exceed $350 million (according to Amendment 666, Section VIII of the state constitution).
This amendment would increase the limit on the bonds from $350 million to $750 million.
Supporters have argued that this amendment is necessary to help pay for economic incentives such as corporate tax breaks. However, others have argued that it would not be wise for the state to borrow more money after voters’ recent decision to pass the amendment that allows the state to borrow $437 million from the state’s trust fund.
Amendment 3: This amendment is specific to Baldwin County and involves a local annexation issue. Most officials would advise that those who aren’t a part of the county in question or who would not be directly affected by the amendment skip voting for local amendments to avoid confusion.
Amendment 4: This amendment removes references to segregation in schools and the poll tax from the state constitution. The amendment also states that: “nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense….”
There are many who support the amendment on the basis that it would remove racist language from the constitution, but there are others who fear that the qualification at the end would have a negative effect on Alabama children’s right to education.
Amendment 5: This amendment is specific to Mobile County and involves transferring assets from one local municipality to another. As with Amendment 3, those who aren’t a part of the county in question or who would not be directly affected by the amendment are advised to skip voting for this amendment.
Amendment 6: This amendment would prohibit any person from being compelled to participate in any health care system, meaning the government can’t make you buy health insurance.
This amendment is meant to oppose the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. However, officials have pointed out the U.S. Supreme Court already upheld the mandatory insurance requirement so even if this amendment passes, it won’t make much of a difference because federal law supersedes state law.
Amendment 7: This amendment guarantees the right to vote by private ballot in elections for public office, referendum, or employee representation is “fundamental.”
This amendment has also been called the “card-check” amendment. Alabamians already have the right to vote by secret ballot in political elections but officials say the main point of this amendment is to take away a tool that unions have to organize in the workplace. Some believe this is a good thing while others believe it could be detrimental to begin telling private organizations how they can and cannot organize and that the effect could spiral out of control.
Amendment 8: This amendment sets legislators pay at the median household income and increases the reimbursement rate for travel.
This amendment has been described by some as a “backdoor pay raise” since it does not repeal the pay raise of 2007 and, if the average household income increases, so will legislators’ pay. Also, legislators who live further away will actually make more because of the increase in travel reimbursements. But conversely, since the amendment would make the legislators’ pay tied to the median household income, if that average income began to drop, so would legislators’ pay.
Amendment 9: This amendment updates the language in the constitution regarding the regulation of business.
Morrow said the amendment would ensure the continued authority of the Legislature to pass laws pertaining to corporations and other entities, and to regulate and pass privilege taxes on corporations and other entities. It also regulates various provisions concerning private corporations, railroads, and canals.
Amendment 10: This amendment updates some of the constitution’s language regarding banks. It also eliminates any time limits on the charters of banks, it eliminates the need for a bank to renew its charter and it requires banks to report to the legislature and for the legislature to exam banks’ resources and liabilities.
Amendment 11: This amendment is a local issue relating to Lawrence County and its neighboring counties. It prohibits any town located entirely outside of Lawrence County from imposing any municipal ordinance on its police jurisdiction that extends into Lawrence County, which has basically been described as a “taxation without representation” issue. As with amendments 3 and 5, voters who aren’t directly affected are urged to skip this amendment.