By Fred Woods
Frequently, Alabama voters go to the polls for a general or state-wide election, pick up their ballots and discover a bewildering array of amendments that they have heard nothing about.
In 2014, the Alabama legislature established a Fair Ballot Commission whose primary purpose is to provide voters with a fair and accurate statement of what a vote for and against a statewide ballot measure means.
The Nov. 8 general election ballot contains 14 statewide amendments. The following brief summary of the 14 amendments is taken from the FBC website www.alabamavotes.gov/statewideballotmeasures which contains a much more comprehensive discussion of these measures. We hope our readers will find this summary helpful.
Amendment 1: This amendment provides that no more than three of the members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees will have terms expiring in the same calendar year. It would also add two more at-large members to the board.
Amendment 2: Two provisions: First, requires that monies generated at state parks funds be used for support, upkeep, and maintenance of Alabama state parks unless those funds exceed $50 million annually. Second, it would permit some state park lands and facilities to be run by an entity other than Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. At present state park revenues go into the state general fund.
Amendment 3: Would change the method for deciding if a proposed amendment should be voted on (a) by voters of the affected local community only, or (b) by voters of the entire state. The determination would be made by the Legislature. At present the decision is made by Local Constitutional Amendment Commission.
Amendment 4: This would give counties basically the same authority granted through the Alabama Limited Self Governance Act without need for approval from a majority of voters in the affected area. County commissioners could adopt programs and policies relating to county personnel, litter-free roadways and public property, public transportation, safety on public roads and emergency assistance without having to go to the state legislature.
Amendment 5: This amendment would combine the parts of the state constitution dealing with separation of powers into one place. It would also remove outdated language in the law. It really does nothing more than combine and restate current law.
Amendment 6: Would modify the process by which certain elected state officials could be removed from office by requiring a two-thirds majority vote by the Alabama Senate. The amendment also adds the State Board of Education, which is elected , and removes the State Superintendent of Education, who is appointed by the board, to/from the list of impeachable officials.
Amendment 7: Applies only to Etowah County. Certain employees of the Sheriff of Etowah County would come under the authority of the Personnel Board of the Office of Sheriff of Etowah County.
Amendment 8: Would put identical right-to-work provisions in both Code of Alabama and the state constitution. Presently they appear only in the Code of Alabama.
Amendment 9: Applies only to Pickens County. Would raise age limit for Probate Judge from current 70 years of age to 75 years of age.
Amendment 10: Applies only to Calhoun County. Would prevent any city or town that is not located completely or partially in Calhoun County from exercising any police or planning jurisdiction over any territory in Calhoun County.
Amendment 11: Would permit cities and counties to sell certain property for less than its fair market value if the property were located in areas specifically designated as suitable for certain major manufacturing facilities.
Amendment 12: This would authorize the Alabama Legislature to enact a future law establishing a toll road and bridge authority for a city or town in Baldwin County.
Amendment 13: Would do two things: First, except for judicial offices , it would eliminate any law that imposes a maximum age restriction on the election or appointment of public officials, and, second, would prohibit the legislature from passing any future legislation with any such age restriction.
Amendment 14: This would correct for possible errors in passage of up 500-600 pieces of local legislation passed since 1984. In that year a constitutional amendment required approval from 60 percent of those present to pass any legislation before the budget passed. Some time after that the House of Representatives adopted a rule that said passage required approval from at least 60 percent of those present and voting. With local legislation only those from the local area affected may vote, so although the bill may have been approved by 60 percent of those present and voting, it may not have been approved by 60 percent of those present. The amendment says the local laws are considered approved as long as they were passed in accordance with legislative rules in place at the time.