Citizens Encouraged To Vote ‘Yes’ On Amendment 1

Published 9:25 pm Sunday, March 3, 2024

By Sonny Brasfield 

Executive Director, Association of County Commissions of Alabama

Proposed constitutional amendments are almost always confusing – and almost always very important. Such is the case with Amendment 1 on the March 5 Primary Election ballot.

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This proposed amendment deals with the process the Alabama Legislature uses for considering what are known as “local bills.” In Alabama. The Constitution allows for the passage of new laws impacting only one county or only one city. This process ensures that each community can confront its problems and opportunities by developing a local solution.

These “local bills” are advertised in the community newspaper so that the public has notice and the opportunity to provide input. Timing is often a challenge with these local bills and, sometimes, moving these bills to the chamber floor in the press of a crowded legislative session can be difficult.

Over the years, this process has served our state very well and has ensured that the voice of local taxpayers is not drowned out by the voice of those from other parts of the state. Amendment 1 preserves, and improves, our current process by removing a confusing technical step that, again, sometimes makes it difficult to get these local solutions to the chamber floor for a vote.

To explain, we must go back about four decades when a provision was added to the Constitution requiring the Alabama Legislature to enact the state’s budgets as its very first action of the annual legislative session. That constitutional provision also recognized that, oftentimes, the budgets are not ready when the session begins and, for this reason, set up a process to move legislation in the meantime. This process for moving bills to the floor before the budgets requires the adoption of a special resolution, a step that has worked well for statewide bills but not so well for the important local bills.

Amendment 1 simply makes it clear that local bills and local constitutional amendments may be voted on ahead of the state budgets. It’s as simple as that.

The ratification of this amendment would remove any questions about the ability of these “local bills” to be enacted and implemented on the local level. The amendment does not make any changes to the requirement that these “local bills” be advertised in the newspaper, so everyone will continue to be able to see these bills before they are introduced. This amendment simply removes any question on moving the bills to the chamber floor in a timely manner.

It’s unusual that there is only one statewide constitutional amendment on this year’s Primary Election ballot. Usually, voters are asked to consider several proposed amendments during an election cycle. And while it may seem a little confusing, this year’s single proposed amendment is very simple.

For some voters, Amendment 1 may be on the reverse side of the paper ballot. For others, it will be the very last thing near the bottom of the front side. It is important, however, that voters look for Amendment 1 and consider its impact on the ability to enact local solutions to local problems.

We recognize that the details may be a bit confusing. That’s not unusual with a proposed amendment. But, in this case, the simple answer is the best answer – local solutions are always the best solutions.”