Overview of amendments on Nov. 6 ballot (sample ballot)

When Alabamians go to the polls Tuesday, they will be asked to make decisions regarding 11 proposed amendments to the state’s constitution. Below is a rundown of each amendment provided primarily by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. Voters in Marengo County will also be asked to make a decision regarding one local amendment, details of which are also below.

Local Amendment 1: This proposal is for Marengo County only and will change the method of paying the probate judge. Current Probate Judge Cindy Neilson, who did not seek re-election, is paid 90 percent of the district judge’s salary. The new method of probate judge compensation would be based on population.

Amendment 1: Would extend the state’s Forever Wild land preservation program for 20 years. Originally created in 1992 by Constitutional Amendment 553, Forever Wild receives 10 percent of the earnings of the state’s oil and gas trust fund, up to a cap of $15 million annually. It uses the proceeds to preserve land with ecological or recreational value.

Amendment 2: Would allow the state to sell more bonds in an effort to procure funds to provide to industries willing to build or expand plants in Alabama. This proposal would amend the Alabama Constitution to restate the terms of the existing $750- million cap on general obligation bonds for economic development that can be issued under the authority of Constitutional Amendments 666 and 796. The limit currently applies to the “aggregate principal amount” of bonds issued and not to the aggregate principal amount of bonds outstanding at any time. The proposal has two parts: (1) it permits the state to refinance existing debt, which should have been permitted by the original authorizing amendments, and more importantly (2) it permits the state to issue new debt as old debt is retired, not to exceed an aggregate principal amount of $750 million at any time. The effect of the proposal is both to correct an error in the original amendments and to expand the state’s ability to issue debt for economic development.

Amendment 3: Would make the Baldwin County community of Stockton a landmark district to protect it against annexation by a neighboring town.

Amendment 4: Seeks to remove racist language and references to segregation of schools in the state constitution. The proposed Statewide Amendment 4 would remove certain obsolete and discriminatory language currently found in Sections 256 and 259 of the Alabama Constitution, and related amendments. The original Section 256 required a “liberal system of public schools”; however, it also required separate schools for white and black students. Amendment 111, adopted in 1956, contained three paragraphs amending Section 256. The first called for promoting education but removed any right to education at public expense. The second authorized the Legislature to provide for schools as it saw fit. The third allowed the Legislature to authorize parents or guardians to choose segregated schools for their children. The proposal in Statewide Amendment 4 would eliminate the third paragraph of the Amendment 111 version of Section 256, which explicitly authorized segregated schools. The proposal also would repeal Section 259 and associated amendments, which once authorized poll taxes to be levied on the privilege of voting. The provisions to be eliminated have been held by federal courts to violate the U. S. Constitution and are no longer in effect. Proponents of these changes claim that removing language related to school segregation and poll taxes is the right thing to do and will improve the state’s image. Some opponents of the proposal object to its failure to address the first two paragraphs of the Amendment 111 version of section 256, which eliminated the requirement to support public schools.

Amendment 5: Would approve the transfer of assets and liabilities from the Prichard Water Works to the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System.

Amendment 6: Seeks to override the federal Affordable Care Act by allowing Alabama citizens an opt-out from any mandated healthcare plan. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), 20 states have adopted laws that oppose some of the provisions in the ACA. At least three states have adopted constitutional amendments like the current Alabama proposal, and similar amendments are on the November ballot in two other states. Seven states have passed legislation to join an interstate health care compact that, if approved by Congress, would give responsibility and authority for health care matters to the member states rather than the federal government.

Amendment 7: Would allow unions to be organized by secret ballot rather than by employees signing a card. This proposal would add a new paragraph to Section 177 of the Alabama Constitution, which governs elections and voting. The new paragraph would guarantee individuals the right to vote by secret ballot whenever state or federal law requires voting to elect public officials, approve ballot issues, or designate employee representation by unions in the workplace.

Amendment 8: Would revise the legislative pay plan, repealing last year’s pay raise, and allowing the compensation of state legislators to be based on the median household income in Alabama. Bill would also carry amendment that lawmakers would forfeit their pay any time the state’s unemployment rate crept above 5.2 percent. This proposal would repeal from Alabama law existing provisions for legislative compensation and expenses. It would replace these with a standard for legislative compensation based on the median annual household income in Alabama, and a standard for legislative expense reimbursement based on allowances for state employees generally. The proposal would apply to the Lt. Governor, who serves as President of the Senate, as well as members of the Legislature.

Amendment 9: Would update the Constitution’s 1901 article on corporations to reflect the many types of corporations that exist today. Could allow legislature to implement business privilege tax on corporations and churches. Opponents of the amendment believe it would remove old verbiage including the phrasing, “Strictly benevolent, educational, or religious corporations shall not be required to pay such a tax.” In 2011, the Legislature created a Constitutional Revision Commission to review selected Articles of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 according to a set schedule and make recommendations for revision where considered necessary. The Commission is chaired by former Governor Albert Brewer. In February 2012 it presented recommendations to the Legislature including a revision of those Sections in Article XII that pertain to Private Corporations. The proposed Statewide Amendment 9 contains the Commission’s recommendations related to Article XII. The existing Article XII includes eighteen Sections on Private Corporations. The revised version would eliminate ten Sections that have become obsolete, such as antitrust provisions that predate federal antitrust laws, and details now covered in Alabama statutes that largely follow the Model Business Corporation Act. Four Sections would remain unchanged; these Sections preserve the Constitution’s existing language related to eminent domain, the definition of a corporation, the state’s power to revoke corporate charters, and railroads. The remaining four Sections would be amended or consolidated. They would: Continue the Legislature’s authority to pass general laws pertaining to business entities, and recognize the authority to legislate concerning non-corporate business entities. Continue the Legislature’s authority to levy a business privilege tax.
Preserve existing language giving corporations the right to sue, and subjecting them to being sued, in court.
Preserve the basic principle of limited shareholder liability.

Amendment 10: Rewrites the Constitution’s 1901 article on banks to modernize the language, including removing the gold standard. Amendment would do away with state’s ability to establish a state bank. The proposed Statewide Amendment 10 contains the recommendations of the Constitutional Revision Commission related to Article XIII. This Article currently consists of nine Sections. In the revision, four of these Sections would be repealed due to subject matter that is covered by statutory law or no longer necessary. Of the remaining five Sections, one specifies the types of banks covered by the Banking Article; it is unchanged in the proposal. The other four contain grants of power to the Legislature over banks and banking, and limitations on that power. These Sections are consolidated but remain unchanged except for the elimination of obsolete language.

Amendment 11: Would prohibit any town located entirely outside Lawrence County from imposing any municipal ordinance on its police jurisdiction.

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