Legislators keep whistling same old tune

By Staff
Scot Beard
Columnist
Earlier this year during the current legislative session, members of the Alabama House of Representatives discussed changing the state song.
Though the discussion did not get far, I could have saved them some time — the song never changes in Montgomery.
Instead of taking the time to fix the serious problems facing the state, legislators waste time dealing with local matters.
It isn’t their fault — the state constitution dictates this is the way business must be conducted in the statehouse.
The document, which was adopted in 1901, is a subject of ridicule throughout the world.
The cumbersome tome contains 357,157 words.
It is the longest constitution in use in the world. It is 12 times longer than the average state constitution and 40 times longer than the United States Constitution.
It is three times as long as India’s constitution — the longest national constitution in the world.
Why is Alabama’s constitution so long?
It has 798 amendments — there is an amendment No. 799, but amendment No. 693 does not exist.
Those amendments represent roughly 90 percent of the document’s length as of 2008.
True some of these amendments deal with important state issues such as taxation and education, but about 70 percent of the amendments cover a single city or county.
This is the state legislature — why is it dealing with local issues?
The answer is simple. When the document was originally written 109 years ago it was used to keep the power in the state located in Montgomery.
The good-old-boy network felt the best way to maintain the status quo was to make sure virtually every law enacted throughout the state had to go through the capitol building.
The plan worked. As a result, our state legislators have had to deal with issues such as how to dispose of dead farm animals in Limestone County, prostitution laws in Jefferson County, how to promote Huntsville and the Jackson City Port Authority.
Think of all the time wasted that could have been spent dealing with funding education and job creation.
Section 97 of the state constitution prohibits deceased officials from receiving a salary.
Common sense would tell you dead people do not need to get paid, but the great state of Alabama felt the issue was important enough to be included in the state constitution.
No wonder the rest of the nation thinks we are a bunch of backwoods idiots.
Let city governments and county commissions handle local issues — this would allow the people in Montgomery to fix the big problems and make Alabama a better place for everybody.
The time for constitutional reform is now.
Schools cannot wait any longer. People looking for jobs in a state with an unemployment rate of 11.1 percent cannot wait any longer.
The House of Representatives, however, feels that it can wait.
In February the House decided to table a resolution to allow voters to decide whether to allow a constitutional convention to write a new constitution.
Of the 90 members to vote on the issue, 58 supported delaying the much-needed resolution.
One thing is certain — the House of Representatives still love being involved in everybody’s business.
The calendar might change, but the song always remains the same.

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