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November 5, 2012

Statewide amendments roundup

What you need to know about amendments

CULLMAN — Voters face a variety of topics in statewide amendments, some strictly local in nature and others with far-reaching implications.

Amendment 3 pertains to Baldwin County, particularly the Stockton community. The amendment proposes to prohibit annexation by local law of any property within the Stockton Landmark District into any municipality. The amendment ended up on a statwide ballot because of a few votes in the House opposed to the idea.

State Rep. Mac Buttram, R-Cullman, in a presentation last week about the amendments, said his advice concerning local matters in other areas is simply to skip voting on that particular amendment if you live in another part of the state.

“It really doesn’t matter here, but it ended up on a statewide ballot. I’m going to skip it and stay out of their local issue,” Buttram said.

Amendment 4

Of greater concern is Statewide Amendment 4. The amendment proposes to amend a portion of the state Constitution of Alabama of 1901, which contains racist language relating to separation of schools by race.

The Alabama Education Association and a few other groups have raised concerns that amending this portion of the constitution could open the door to the state dropping its obligation to fund public education.

Many state lawmakers say that fear is unfounded and are advising voters to approve the amendment as a means of cleaning up the language in the constitution.

“I don’t think there should be any concern about the state abandoning its obligation to public education,” said Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Vinemont. “The whole ideology of the United States is to support public education. The benefit in this amendment is to remove the racist language. If a foreign entity  is looking at Alabama to open or expand an industry and they see this language in the state constitution, that’s not good for our recruiting efforts.”

State Sen. Paul Bussman agrees.

“The amendment would help us with our recruiting. We don’t need to have this kind of language showing, and I’m tired of hearing that we’re not going to support education. I strongly in favor of supporting our schools at the state level and I don’t think you’re going to find a different opinion among the leadership,” Bussman said.

Bussman, Oden and Buttram said efforts are under way to amend the constitution a few articles at a time.

“The feeling is that a constitutional convention would go nowhere because someone always finds a reason to object, like in this case,” Bussman said. “If we can put this before the voters a few articles at a time, allowing people to look closely at the amendments, the feeling is we can make some progress.”

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