The Star’s recommendations
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Nov 02, 2012 | 4292 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama voters Tuesday will face a deep roster of proposed constitutional amendments. They range from important statewide issues, including a start on the process of modernizing the state’s amendment-laden Constitution, to purely local matters that are of no business of an entire state.

Below are The Star’s recommendations:

AMENDMENT 1: This proposes to renew the successful wilderness protection program Forever Wild for another 20 years. Yes.

AMENDMENT 2: Proponents say this measure will allow the state to refinance general obligation bonds in order to get a better rate, something supporters say will ultimately aid in recruiting new industry to the state. Yes.

AMENDMENT 4: Is there nothing the state Legislature can’t complicate? This measure has a noble aim — removing segregationist language from the state’s 1901 Constitution. Yet, getting that before the voters required lawmakers to cave to extremists fearing an amendment that also guarantees public education as a right. It’s a shame we can’t do both — erase the racist language and send a message to the world that Alabama promises education to its residents. We’ll take one and urge the Legislature to follow up on the right to education next session. Yes.

AMENDMENT 6: We could call it the anti-Obamacare/nullification amendment. It wishes to remove the state out from under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, a law certified as constitutional by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and four other justices earlier this year. It’s nothing but an empty gesture allowing Alabamians to shake their fists at the promise of universal health care. No.

AMENDMENT 7: Under ballot-integrity language, this amendment seeks to make it harder for unions to organize in Alabama, a measure that seems a lot like meddling into the affairs of labor unions in a state that is already a so-called right-to-work state. No.

AMENDMENT 8: This measure would reduce the compensation of state lawmakers to Alabama’s income. In today’s terms, that would mean a pay cut of approximately $8,000 annually. Yes.

AMENDMENTS 9 AND 10: Both proposals seek to update archaic constitutional language, Amendment 9 on corporation articles and Amendment 10 on banking regulations. Yes on both.

AMENDMENTS 3, 5 AND 11: All three are one more reason why Alabama needs greater home rule. These measures on a statewide ballot deal exclusively with matters in Baldwin County, Pritchard and Lawrence County. They are the best evidence for why Amendments 9 and 10, while a good idea, are a mere half-measure. The state’s operating manual should not allow an entire voting population to have a say on something so purely local as whether a piece of property in Baldwin County should be exempt from annexation, for example. Unless theses amendments pertain to your home, our recommendation is to not vote on these issues.

LOCAL AMENDMENT 1: This measure proposes to strip the Calhoun County circuit clerk of responsibility for processing absentee ballots. If passed, the chore would fall to the Calhoun County Commission.

At the heart of this issue is money. Under current law, the county circuit clerk is entitled to collect $175 for each day he or she handles absentee ballot applications. That works out to an extra $8,000 paid to the clerk during each election. Ken Joiner, the Calhoun County government’s administrator and a proponent of this measure, has estimated these fees add up to $300,000 the state must pay during each election.

It’s a reminder of how much state government operates on the antiquated fee-for-service basis. Sheriffs in most Alabama counties — though not in Calhoun County — are allowed to pocket the unspent portion of meal money intended for their prisoners. It dates back to a time when the state couldn’t pay its officials enough, and so it found other ways to increase compensation, like prisoner meal money, allowing judges to pocket money for each name placed on the voter rolls, and extra fees for chores like processing absentee ballots.

Our preference would be to keep the absentee-ballots duty within the office of the circuit clerk. However, we’d like to see the state end the practice of paying officials a la carte.

Two candidates are running Tuesday to replace Ted Hooks, the incumbent circuit clerk. Both have spoken in favor of passing this amendment. One, Eli Henderson, told The Star if elected he would not collect the extra money for handling absentee ballots. Missy Hall, the other candidate, said she’ll accept the money only if she can use it to hire workers to do the job, taking the workload off the clerk’s staff. In effect, Hall says she would take the money, but only to pass it along.

Our preference would be for both of them to reject pocketing any or even some of this extra money.

Further, we’d like to see the state Legislature come back next session with a statewide amendment to keep this chore within the office of each county’s circuit clerk and also remove the fee-for-service portion of it.

The Star recommends a no vote and also suggests the state offer a statewide amendment removing the fee-for-service portion of processing absentee ballots.

PRESIDENT OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION: Incumbent Lucy Baxley has a long record of public service, including time as state treasurer and lieutenant governor. She is now seeking another term as PSC president. The Star’s editorial board recommends Lucy Baxley.
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