“We didn’t make drastic changes to the Constitution,” he said. “We didn’t feel drastic changes were necessary.”
It’s not that no “drastic changes” were made; few really expected that outcome. But rather, it’s that Brewer, an outspoken critic of many of the state Constitution’s unwieldy and regressive features, would feel that “drastic changes were not necessary.”
The problem may be what is meant by “drastic.” The Constitutional Revision Commission was created in 2011 to rewrite the much-amended 1901 document article-by-article. Back then reformers hoped it would come up with more than getting rid of obsolete articles on corporations and banking.
High on the wishlist of many Alabamians was that the commission would recommend ways counties could enjoy some degree of home rule. What the group produced was the recommendation that “specific administrative powers” be granted to Alabama’s counties. The details aren’t yet clear, but it’s clear they won’t be “drastic” enough to allow truly local government democracies to flourish.
There is, however, one bright spot. The commission’s proposal was the result of a joint effort by the Association of County Commissioners and ALFA, two groups that have considerable clout in Montgomery. If they can continue to work together to get the “specific administrative powers” defined and granted, Alabama counties might be a bit closer to enjoying home rule.
However, if the “specific administrative powers” that are eventually granted to the counties do little to secure home rule in a meaningful way, Gov. Brewer’s observation that the commission “did not feel drastic changes were necessary” might be looked back on not as a realistic assessment of the situation, but rather as waving the flag of surrender.
If that proves to be the case, we can expect little real revision from this Constitutional Revision Commission.