After years of having majorities sufficient to pass authentic constitutional reform in Alabama, but failing to address the issue at all, Alabama Democrats are to blame thank for whatever emerges as our new constitution. According to this article, the Alabama Republicans, seeing the strategic importance of constitutional reform, are quickly moving to seize control this issue:

The Senate passed a resolution on Tuesday that, if passed by the House of Representatives, would create a commission to begin overhauling large sections of the state’s constitution. The work would not include the section on taxes.

As critically important as this document will be, Democrats have lost for the people of Alabama any real involvement in the process of its creation and drafting.  Bipartisanship could have been an element of reform. If the Democrats had acted, while in power, the creative process could have been truly inclusive. For instance, even if Democrats had chosen a commission similar to Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission, Democrats and Republicans could have been involved in the drafting process.  (In Florida’s process, the selection of members on the commission arise from a host of all branches and elected officials across government: 37 various members are appointed by the Florida Governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate President.)

Instead, our process will now be pursued with no input from any elected Democrat.

The members of the commission would include the governor and three people he appoints, speaker of the House and three of his appointees, and the Senate president pro tem and three of his appointees. The chairs of the House and Senate committees on the judiciary, and on the constitution and elections would serve as ex-officio members of the commission.

Note: all Republicans. In addition, the proposed Commission not only excludes Democrats but also excludes an entire branch of government from participation: the judiciary. (Could it be because the Chief Justice, the representative of the judiciary, is a Democrat?)

We know this Commission will consist of the following officials:

The commission members will include Gov. Robert Bentley and three of his appointees; Marsh and three appointees; House Speaker Mike Hubbard and three appointees; Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, co-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, chairman of the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee; Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood; and Rep. Randy Davis, R-Daphne, chairman of the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee

Whereas before, a broad spectrum of viewpoints and philosophies could have influenced the content of our new constitution; now, only one narrow worldview will be considered even if what the this article reports is true,

The Senate added a provision to the resolution to say that the commission shall be inclusive and reflect the racial, gender, economic and geographic diversity of Alabama.

Representatives and Senators from Prattville, Mobile, Auburn, Daphne, Homewood, and St.Clair County: now that is diversity of Alabama for you? Where is the black belt’s voice? Where is urban Alabama’s representative? For that matter: where is rural Alabama’s influence? These representatives will produce a constitution ideal for their respective constituents: affluent, white suburbia.

We can only hope that the internal backbiting, purity-tests, and power-jockeying within the Republican Party will cause some opening for reason.  Maybe Gov. Bentley, his puny three appointees, and Rep. DeMarco can, at least, be a temporary roadblock against he juggernaut of the super-majority, 11 appointees from the Riley/Hubbard/Marsh/ Bradley Byrne faction of the Party

As you might tell: I have no confidence in where this all leads. We will get a new constitution, but it will not be reform. As the saying goes: “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater;” well, I am afraid they will throw out the baby but keep the bathwater. They will want to continue to hoard power in Montgomery. They will not even address the disabling tax provisions built into our constitution. (“Marsh said keeping tax reform off the table was the only way to get things moving.”) Where will they begin “reforming”? Corporations and Banks:

Once established, the commission will start work this year on reviewing proposed changes on Article 12 – Private Corporations, and Article 13 – Banking.

Does the Business Council of Alabama already have model language prepared?  Will their millions in investment in 2010 Republican candidates pay off this soon, and so permanently? Has the banking industry’s lobbyist already been promised passage of their wish-lists.

So thank you to the Democratic legislators, governors, constitutional officeholders, consultants, strategists and leadership that failed to see the importance of this issue and provide leadership over this difficult process.

(Please note: I do not advocate particularly for a Commission form. As I suggested here, I believe we should further empower our locally-elected officials like our county commissions from across the state by including them within the nominating process.)

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