CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

November 5, 2012

Heavy on Amendments

Staff Reports
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Voters face another round of amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot, an often frustrating experience because of the wording and the complexity of these issues.

The most important of the amendments is the Cullman County amendment, the only local issue on the ballot. The amendment proposes to give control of hundreds of acres of local land to the Cullman County school system. By law the land was originally intended to benefit local schools. But for years it has been under the control of the state, which does a poor job of managing the property and has let some of its slip away.

Gov. Robert Bentley agrees that the land should be under local control for education. The Legislature agrees, too. All that is left to make the transfer of control complete is a favorable local vote. The land presents a long-term opportunity to provide major funding for cash-strapped county schools. The city school system would also receive a small portion of money from a trust.

Voting yes for this amendment brings this land back to its rightful owners and opens up a much-needed revenue source for local schools.

The remaining amendments will be voted on statewide. Several of t he amendments are important to everyone, while a few are related to local issues in other areas of the state.

Statewide Amendment 1 is aimed at reauthorizing the Forever Wild program for another 20 years. This program has been managed well through the years and provides Alabamians with access to hunting and fishing and other outdoor recreation. Vote yes for this amendment, because all residents stand to benefit from Forever Wild’s efforts.

Statewide Amendment 2 is highly important for the state to continue its successful economic development efforts. The amendment would provide greater flexibility to the state in issuing bonds for important new industries and expansions among existing industries. Areas such as Cullman already rely on this program with the state. Making the bond issues more effective will only improve the opportunities for job growth across the state. A yes vote is highly recommended because approval would not impact the budget negatively or allow the state to access any new revenues; it’s simply an improvement of an existing program.

Many lawmakers recommend ignoring amendments that deal specifically with another community in the state. Amendment 3 only impacts an area of Baldwin County and has no connection to the Cullman area or any other part of Alabama.

Amendment 4 has unfortunately become controversial because of the Alabama Education Association’s assertion that approval could open the door to the state dropping its obligation to fund or support public education. The AEA is far off base on this issue. The intent of the amendment is to eliminate racist language in the state constitution, which would improve Alabama’s chances of recruiting businesses from other countries. As it stands, the language in this portion of the constitution is disgraceful and should be removed. And to clear up a misconception, state lawmakers are not going to drop their obligation to fund and support public education. Vote for the amendment and you will be doing your state and community a great service.

Amendment 5 pertains to Mobile and Prichard. It has no meaning here and can be ignored on the ballot.

Amendment  6 is a classic state versus federal government issue. Approval of the amendment gives Alabamians, employers and health care providers the opportunity to essentially refuse participation in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The key language in the amendment is that no Alabama citizens, employer, etc., can be “compelled” to participate in any healthcare system. A yes vote is what many lawmakers are suggesting, but Obamacare will be available to people anyway.

Amendment 7 generally is pointed to union issues. The amendment says that ballots should be secret, particularly if employees are faced with choosing or rejecting unions. A yes vote is worthwhile. No one should be subject to intimidation because of how they vote on an issue.

Amendment 8 changes how lawmakers are compensated in the future. The days of legislators giving themselves pay raises will end with approval of this amendment. The law would make the issue subject to greater public oversight and end decades of arrogant behavior in the Legislature. Vote for this amendment; it’s a great step forward for Alabama.

Amendments 9 and 10 are additional changes to the state constitution because of outdated language involving business practices. There are no hidden traps in these amendments. Vote yes.

Amendment 11 was originally intended to just impact Lawrence County. But the idea that any municipality in a neighboring county could step over the line and possible tax people in another county becomes a statewide concern. Vote yes.