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The 1901 Alabama Constitution

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Title: The 1901 Alabama Constitution


1
The 1901 Alabama Constitution
The Case for Reform
Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform
2
State Constitutions
  • State constitutions preceded the U.S.
    Constitution.
  • Most states have had three or more constitutions.
  • Altogether, states have adopted 146
    constitutions.

3
Early Alabama Constitutions
  • 1819 document reflected new democratic spirit.
  • 1861 constitution took Alabama out of the union.
  • 1865 document attempted to rejoin the union.
  • 1868 constitution was product of Reconstruction.
  • 1875 constitution was a reaction to negative
    impact of 1868 document

4
Populist Revolt
  • But by late 1880s, farmers were caught between
    falling prices and rising costs.
  • Many joined a protest movement to wrest power
    from ruling Democrats.
  • Part of the greatest grassroots movement in
    Americas history.

Chilton County family, 1900
5
Democracy Prior to 1901
  • Nearly 80 percent of eligible Alabamians, white
    and black, voted.
  • At one point in 1890s, three parties competed for
    votes Democrats, Populists and Republicans.
  • Reuben F. Kolb denied governorship on fraudulent
    vote counts in 1892 and 1894.

Kolb
6
1901 Convention
  • 155 delegates all white and all male.
  • Controlled by a coalition of big planters and
    industrialists.
  • Elected John B. Knox of Anniston as president.

7
Ratification Fight
  • Vote results 108,613 yes 81,734 no.
  • Supporters amassed fraudulent majorities in
    plantation counties.
  • Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington
    pleaded for fair treatment.

Washington
8
Effects
Mobile Register
  • Gutted democracy through disfranchisement.
  • Prohibited economic development
  • Did not provide for home rule by counties.
  • Left Alabama poorly equipped for the 20th
    century.

9
Gov. ONeal for Reform
The first and most important step to improve the
educational conditions in Alabama would be the
convening of a Constitutional Convention to
revise our present antiquated fundamental law.
ONeal
Emmet ONeal, Speech to UA Alumni, 1914.
10
Kilby Wants Convention
  • In 1923, Gov. Thomas E. Kilby called for a
    constitutional convention.
  • He advocated having a commission do preparatory
    work.
  • He wanted to involve a diverse group of citizens.

Kilby
11
Gov. Jim Folsoms Crusade
  • During his terms, 1947-51 and 1957-61, he pushed
    Legislature to call a constitutional convention.
  • He met fierce resistance from the old alliance of
    planters and industrialists.
  • Legislature was more concerned with opposing
    civil rights.

Folsom
12
Brewers Commission
  • Gov. Albert Brewer, 1969-71, persuaded the
    Legislature to appoint a commission.
  • It proposed a new constitution in 1973.
  • Gov. George Wallace, however, showed no interest
    in reform.

Brewer
13
James and Baxleys Efforts
  • Gov. Fob James in 1979 proposed a new
    constitution. It won the Senates approval but
    failed in the House.
  • Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley in 1983 persuaded the
    Legislature to clean up the 1901 Constitution.
  • The Alabama Supreme Court, however, struck down
    Baxleys plan before people could vote on it.

James
Baxley
14
Grassroots Movement
  • Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform was
    founded April 7, 2000.
  • Members use rallies, forums and speakers to
    mobilize support for a modern document.

15
Major Issues
  • Ineffective Government
  • Lack of Local Democracy
  • Recurring Revenue Crises

16
1. Ineffective Government
  • Governing magazines 2001 study of state
    performance gave Alabama its lowest average
    grade.
  • Such weaknesses reduce accountability to
    taxpayers.
  • Result? Inefficiency.

17
Judicial Success
  • Voters approved new judicial article in 1973,
    modernizing court system.
  • Used as a model for other states.
  • Alabama is capable of meaningful reform.

Heflin
18
2. Lack of Local Democracy
  • Alabama only Southeastern state that denies
    counties local planning authority.
  • Yet most state population growth occurring in 21
    metro counties.
  • Most states have granted governing power to
    localities.

19
Typical Home Rule Issues
Grand Bay Elementary Principal Pam Adams
  • Land use. (Example counties cant provide
    orderly growth.)
  • Local control. (Counties must ask Legislature for
    permission to deal with local issues.)
  • Flexibility. (Urban counties cant streamline
    services such as law enforcement.)

20
Local Legislation
  • Legislature now spends much of its time debating
    local issues.
  • About 40 percent of bills considered by the
    Alabama Legislature have only local impact.
  • About 70 percent of Alabama's amendments apply to
    a single county or city.

21
Examples of Amendments
  • No. 520 allows Madison County to exhume remains.
  • No. 546 authorizes Limestone County to tax pool
    halls and bowling alleys.
  • No. 351 permits tax for Mobile County to spray
    for mosquitoes and kill rats.

Mobile worker prepares to spray.
22
3. Revenue Crises
  • Growth taxes all earmarked for education,
    causing a perpetual funding crisis in Medicaid,
    Public Safety and other General Fund agencies.
  • Sales tax only major source not shielded by
    Constitution. Thus, it continues to climb.
  • Inflexibility often forces the state to prorate
    its budgets when economy weakens and tax
    collections fall.

23
Burden on Poor
  • In Alabama, family of four begins paying income
    taxes at just 4,600. (In Mississippi, the
    threshold is 19,600.)
  • Alabama allows exemption of only 300 per child,
    compared with federal tax exemption of 2,900.
  • Families pay sales taxes even on milk, diapers
    and baby aspirin.

24
How can the Alabama Constitution be Amended?
  • Constitutional Convention
  • Article by article

25
Convention
  • Legislature has to call the convention and voters
    must agree to the call.
  • Legislature also decides how delegates will be
    elected and when. But the Legislature may not
    limit the conventions actions.
  • Any new constitution must be submitted to voters
    for ratification.
  • Louisiana had last successful state convention,
    1973-74.

26
Article by Article
  • Legislature may amend the constitution one
    article at a time, with voters permission.
  • The Legislature may not submit an entire document
    to the voters.
  • But it may submit more than one article at a
    time.
  • Gov. Bob Riley has chosen this method for reform.

27
How You Can Help
  • Join ACCR
  • Call or write your legislator.
  • Write letters to your local newspaper.
  • Join in educating our fellow citizens.
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