NEWS RELEASE from the original author of Amendment 2
For Immediate Release: October 12 , 2004
Removal of Racist Language Was the Sole Intent of Amendment Two (not opened ended education tax).
Alabama Policy Institute Vice President Michael Ciamarra issued the following statement Tuesday on the addition of equity funding to schools as part of Amendment Two, a change he described as "problematic." Ciamarra, the author of Amendment Two, called for rejection of the measure following an addition he characterized as "sleight of hand maneuvers and downright dishonesty."
Birmingham-As co-chair of the recompilation subcommittee of the Alabama Citizens' Constitution Commission, I have been asked for my opinion as to the original intent of the Constitutional Amendment, which I authored, was approved by our subcommittee and then unanimously approved by the full Commission.
Our subcommittee was charged by Gov. Riley with recompiling and streamlining the state's constitution. Moreover, we were charged not to make substantive change to any existing operative constitutional provision. In addition to recompilation our committee looked at ways to remove segregation-era language. As the so-called "Jim Crow" provisions still were in the state's constitution, we drafted a very simple amendment that would remove this language by referendum vote. Our bill specifically and clearly would only remove language related to separation of school facilities by race and the poll tax. This particular archaic and inoperative language can be found in Section 256, as amended by Amendment 111 and Article XIV, Section 259.
Having written and reviewed the bill when it was introduced in the House by Rep. James Buskey (D-Mobile) and in the Senate by Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne) during the regular session of 2003, I, amongst many others, concurred that all was in order, and that the bill served its stated, narrow purpose. Gov. Riley's legislative floor leaders knew this bill was originated by the Governor's Commission. Our bill was more of a "housecleaning" measure and we believed that the legislative enactment of this bill would be routine and perfunctory. Sen. Mitchell did not push the Senate version as he deferred to his colleague Rep. Buskey in the House. Again, I cannot overstate that this legislation, as conceived and drafted by my subcommittee, was intended only to clean up Alabama's Constitution, not to further complicate the terms of debate over our state's tax code and education system.
The bill as passed added a third measure which make "substantive changes" that are problematic in nature and not, as I see it, germane to the intent of our constitutional amendment as originally written. The issue of whether the state can create a right to public education and all questions of equity funding, separation of powers and philosophy of governance is a debate beyond and apart from the original intent of what we had drafted.
As I recall, the constitutional amendment (HB587) passed very quickly in both chambers. Constitutional amendments do not go to the governor's office for review by his legal staff and signature by the governor. The "surprise" was found only a few weeks ago. It appears Rep. Ken Guin (D-Carbon Hill) took it upon himself to make "changes." As Rep. Guin saw fit not to consult with nor notify members of the Governor's staff, members of the Citizens' Constitution Commission or even with a majority of members in the House, I can only conclude that changes he made in the committee substitute were intended to serve someone else's agenda rather than to enhance the bill's effectiveness in honoring its purpose - to eliminate inoperative and archaic language from the Constitution. It is regretful that legislators did not catch this before it quickly passed in the House. But neither did members of the Constitution Commission or members of the governor's staff. However, all those parties involved were acting in good faith and presumed all was in order.
There are standards of acceptable legislative conduct, accountability and transparency in the system which builds confidence. When sleight of hand maneuvers and downright dishonesty is discovered, as in this case, it can only erode further confidence in state government. What had been a "no-brainer" for ratification has now become controversial and opens up needlessly complex legal questions.
This legislation, as originally written, would have served a valuable purpose - to eliminate language that had long been invalidated as incompatible with the United States Constitution. The members of my committee devoted many hours to perfecting this bill, so that our state could move on from its past. That said, for the foregoing reasons, I have come to the conclusion that the only reasonable course of action is for the people of Alabama to reject this "Trojan Horse," and go back to the drawing board, where we can pass the original version of my committee's bill.
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The Alabama Policy Institute is an independent, non-profit research and education organization. As a resource to federal, state and local government, the media, and citizens, we research the issues being debated in Montgomery and Washington and provide our analysis and ideas through our publications and reports.
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