LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF ALABAMA PROGRAM
LWVUS SUPPORT POSITIONS
Impact on Issues contains the history and details of each of these items.
LWVAL SUPPORT POSITIONS
The League of Women Voters of Alabama has also developed a series of program positions through the years. They are the result of study and consensus/concurrence on the part of the members of the League of Women Voters of Alabama. They have been adopted at different times and have different forms.
Budget Process 1987 (Updated 1995)
The League of Women Voters believes that the state budgeting process should
be an open process that includes public input in the setting of budgeting priorities, reflects programs needed and wanted by the people of Alabama, and finances state programs realistically.
The League, therefore, supports action to
Campaign Finance Reform 1995
The League of Women Voters of Alabama believes that the methods of financing campaigns should ensure the public's right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office, and allow maximum citizen participation in the political process.
Constitution Reform 1967 and 1973 (Updated 2002)
The Alabama Constitution should protect the people in the exercise of their civil liberties and provide a framework for government, broadly defining authorities, responsibilities, and relationships between branches of state government and between state and local governments. It should contain neither statutory law nor restrictive details that necessitate continual amendment.
I. A broad grant of authority should be delegated to those local governments that choose to adopt a plan for home rule to enable them to address local problems independently of the state legislature and/or the state electorate.
II. The three branches of state government should have authority sufficient to perform their distinct responsibilities independently, and they should function as co-equals within the traditional framework of checks and balances.
*Adopted in Amendment 339 in 1975
*Adopted in Amendment 328 in 1973.
III. The taxation and finance provisions in the constitution should provide for the flexibility to address changing conditions, an equitable distribution of the tax burden, and the economical use of the state’s financial resources.
A. In its provisions for public indebtedness,
1. The constitution should permit the state and properly constituted local governments to engage in works of public improvement.
2. With reasonable safeguards, the state should be allowed to finance capital improvements by issuing general obligation bonds that pledge its full faith and credit, in order to secure more advantageous rates than those for indirect borrowing through agencies.
3. Debt limitations in the constitution should be expressed as a percentage of some reasonable measure of the state’s wealth, not in monetary terms.
B. The state’s system of taxation should be broad, equitable and efficient for the taxpayers of the state. It should balance regressive and non- regressive taxes.
1. The constitution should contain no fixed tax rates.
2. The constitution should place no limitations on ad valorem and income taxes.
3. The constitution should neither mandate nor prohibit earmarking of taxes.
With the prerequisite of an open accountable legislature, responsive to all the people, the legislature should be allowed flexibility in tax decisions to meet changing needs through statutory law rather than constitutional amendment.
C. To enable local governments to address local issues independently of the state legislature, local governmental entities should be granted taxing authority in their duly adopted plans or charters.
IV. The League of Women Voters of Alabama supports a convention of citizens for the purpose of rewriting the state constitution.
Election Law Reform 1972 and June 1988 (Updated 1995 and 2003)
The League of Women Voters supports uniform election laws and procedures throughout the state to ensure the integrity of the election system.
At minimum these elections laws should include the following:
A. Simple and easy to understand procedures for registration and voting.
B. Uniform residency requirements.
C. A statewide computerized voter registration system.
D. Uniform application of election laws.
E. Consistent use of terminology by election law and election officials.
F. Uniform polling hours statewide from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.*
* Accomplished in 2003
G. Designation of the Secretary of State as the Election Official for the State of Alabama. The Secretary should have the authority to
1. Prepare a specific, required course of instruction for all election officials
2. Inform candidates of fair campaign practices.
Ethics in Government May, 1991 (Updated 1995, 2003)
Ethics law should provide clear and enforceable state law regarding ethical conduct for
elected and appointed officials, public employees and lobbyists. The law should establish
that public office will be used for the public good and not private gain and should provide
a legal basis for public confidence in the integrity of government.
I. The Alabama Ethics Code should
1. It should have sufficient authority to perform its responsibilities. The Commission should have subpoena powers and be able to levy fines against those late in filing statements of economic interests.
2. The Commission should have guaranteed and adequate funding.
II. Statements of economic interest must be submitted to the Commission by the following:
A. All elected public officials and candidates for offices.
B. Appointed officials and public employees who are paid $50,000 or more a year (the amount to be adjusted periodically).
C. Appointed or elected officials at any level of compensation and holding any title who have the authority to make purchases in excess of $1,000 or to collect or disburse funds.
III. Public meetings should be open to all citizens except during discussion of a person’s character or good name. Public officials should be diligent in following the Open Meetings Law (Sunshine Law). The Open Meetings Law (Sunshine Law) should be maintained and applied to the state legislature and its committees; state boards, commissions and committees; and regional, city and county commissions, councils and boards. Timely public notification of these meetings should be required. The state Open Meetings Law (Sunshine Law) should include a provision to nullify decisions made in illegally conducted meetings.
IV. Candidates for elective office should be required to disclose all contributions and names of contributors to their campaigns before the election. They should be provided with timely individual notices of their reporting obligations.
V. All governmental entities in Alabama should be required to take sealed bids on their major purchases and expenditures. These purchases should be widely advertised to allow any qualified parties to bid and all bids on a contract should be available for public scrutiny.
Finance and Taxation January 1989 (Updated 1995)
The League of Women Voters of Alabama supports action to reform the state system of finance and taxation. Alabama's present regressive tax structure places the heaviest tax burden on low income people, who pay a larger percentage of their income in state taxes than any other income group. In addition, the present system of earmarking tax revenues causes inequities in funding the responsibilities of state government. The state revenue system should be broad and equitable.
The League, therefore, supports the following as part of total tax reform:
A. Any new taxes which become necessary should be based on ability to pay, in order to lessen reliance on regressive taxes.
B. The present mix of Alabama's taxes should be changed so that there is more reliance on property tax and income tax and less reliance (dependence) on general and selective sales taxes.
C. The sales tax on food should be eliminated, as it was for prescription drugs, but sales tax exemptions that are designed to benefit specific groups should be reduced.
D. Local government entities should be given more power to tax themselves.
E. Any new taxes and any increased revenues resulting from reform should not be earmarked. The LWVAL continues to support a revised constitution that neither provides for nor prohibits earmarked taxes.
F. The constitutional restriction limiting the income tax, Alabama's most progressive revenue source, should be removed.
G. There should be no constitutionally-fixed tax rates.
H. No specific monetary debt ceiling should be stated in the constitution. However, the constitution should mandate a specific debt limit that is a percentage of a reasonable measure of a state's wealth.
The League of Women Voters of Alabama reaffirms its previous position that the Legislature should be independent of the Executive Branch. The League supports the strengthening of the Legislature that it may effectively function within the traditional framework of checks and balances among the co-equal branches of government. The League also reaffirms its support in previous positions for constitutional guarantees of adequate representation for all citizens and annual meetings of the legislature for which legislators receive an adequate salary.
I. Leadership Selection
The internal leadership of the House and Senate should be elected by the membership of each chamber. As part of this position, the League reaffirms its support for the independent election of the Speaker by the members of the House as an essential aspect of its support for the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.
II. Assignment of Members to Committees
Assignment of members to committee should be based on several criteria, the most important of which is member expertise in the subject matter handled by the committee Additional factors that should be considered include party ratios within the chamber, race and gender.
III. Standing Committees
The committee system, which is the core of the legislative process, should receive continuing attention with the aim of preserving existing strengths and eliminating the weaknesses.
A. Jurisdictions and Numbers
1. The legislature should clearly define committee jurisdictions and consistently assign bills based on jurisdictions, in order to strengthen the committee system and enhance the ability of committees to evaluate bills based on committee expertise.
2. The Legislature should use clearly stated efficiency and effectiveness criteria for determining the appropriate number of standing committees.
B. Duties and Operation
Each chamber should maintain and adhere to written rules related to the duties and operations of all standing committees. At minimum these rules should provide for the following.
1. Clear jurisdictional lines for each committee.
2. A requirement that all legislation be sent to and handled by committees based on jurisdiction.
3. Selection of all committee chairs by a vote of the membership of the committee regardless of party affiliation.
4. Mechanisms for the members to call committee meetings should the chair fail to do so.
5. Open committee meetings to ensure public access to deliberations.
6. Provisions for roll call votes.
7. Timely Internet posting of committee meetings including time, place and agendas.
IV. Legislative Staff Support
The staff for all legislative support offices should be nonpartisan and professional.
1. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO) should be maintained.
2. Objective legal advice should be available to all committees.
3. A nonpartisan policy analysis office should be established by the legislature. Priority in the office’s research assignments should be given to requests for research from committee chairs and chamber leadership.
4. Adequate clerical staff for members should be provided in their Montgomery offices. Clerical staff for state legislators in their districts should not receive state funding.
5. Funding for the policy office and any expansion of clerical support should come
in part from thorough reexamination of current legislative funding and possible
reallocation of these funds.
V. Public Access to Information
The Legislature should place the following on the internet to ensure that the media, citizens, and others have access to the information needed for informed participation in the political process.
A. Legislative budgets including the specific amounts budgeted to and spent by:
1. funds for each chamber, the leadership, and the various standing committees.
2. discretionary fund monies disbursed by the House and Senate leadership; and
3. discretionary funds under members’ control.
B. Information about all legislative meetings (chamber and committee) specifying time,
exact location, and agendas prior to their occurrence, with such posting allowing
sufficient time for interested parties to attend the meetings.
C. Roll call votes on bills and amendments.
VI. Lobbyists and Lobbying.
Lobbyists play an important role in the transmittal of information to legislators, but regulation of lobbying is necessary in order to prevent corruption and instill public trust. The League therefore supports the following:
A. Because campaign funding and the threat of its withdrawal is a major lobbying tool
that may result in undue influence, the League supports a law to ban PAC-to-PAC
B. The current $249 limit on the amount a lobbyist is allowed to spend on each legislator and his/her family per day without disclosure should be substantially reduced.
C. Registration Process Changes
1. Once registered, lobbyists are required to register new clients within 10 days.
The 10 day period should be reduced.
2. Internet postings should be used to allow lobbyists to register and to update their
registrations, including registration of new client information and to pay filing
3. To ensure enforcement of the regulations, the League reaffirms its support for
adequate funding of the Ethics Commission.
See related issues under The Budget Process and Ethics
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION January, 1999
The League of Women Voters believes that the state of Alabama, like most other states, should share in the fiscal responsibility for providing public transportation as it does for highway construction. Public transportation is defined as those forms of surface transportation which serve the public as a whole as opposed to the private automobile. These include, for example, fixed pools, park-and-ride lots, light and intercity rail, but not highway construction. In order to provide a stable funding source without further earmarking, this function should be included in the existing constitutional mandate earmarking gasoline and some other vehicle taxes for construction and maintenance of highways and bridges only. It believes further that local governments should be given the freedom to tax themselves for transportation needs without prior legislative approval.
Criminal Justice 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1979 (Updated 1995 and 2003)
The League of Women Voters favors an adequate budget to support criminal justice needs throughout the state.
In order to deal with the problems of reintegration of offenders into the community and to minimize the use of traditional incarceration, the League of Women Voters supports maximum efforts to expedite trial and to ensure swift and consistent justice. It also supports the concept of rehabilitation as a major goal of the criminal justice system.
The League recognizes the need to deal with the special problems of the juvenile offender by the development of programs and policies designed to aid in rehabilitation and prevention of further delinquency.
I. The League supports the following actions in relation to bail and pre-trial confinement:
A. Reform of bail and pre-trial release practices with use of release on recognizance when possible. Cash bail should not discriminate against the poor, should be administered through the courts, and should be publicly accountable.
B. Revocation of release for noncompliance with the terms of release, should occur only if the accused has had adequate notification of appearance, place and time.
C. According persons held pending trial the presumption of innocence and the privileges consistent with this assumption.
D. Granting the right to appeal a decision to detain pending trial.
E. Crediting to a sentence all time spent in custody pending trial.
F. Use of citation or summons by appropriate officials rather than arrest procedures where appropriate.
G. Use of counseling programs as alternatives to pretrial detention.
H. Provision of medical treatment in a medical environment when needed for those held in custody.
II. The League supports the following actions with regard to the Alabama prison system:
A. Use of a classification system run by adequately trained personnel.
B. Rehabilitation opportunities offered for all inmates regardless of the length of their sentence or the offense committed. We support programs focusing on substance abuse as well as assistance to inmates in overcoming a lack of education. Emphasis should be placed on basic skills with a high school equivalency diploma as the minimum goal.
C. Priority given to prison industries that provide inmates with vocational training that they can use after release.
D. Minimizing the use of traditional incarceration. Should more prisons be built, smaller minimum security facilities should be located in areas where work release opportunities exist.
III. The League supports the following actions in the area of juvenile justice:
A. Creation and maintenance of a family court system.
B. A standard maximum legal age for juveniles set at 18.
C. Creation and maintenance of community facilities to treat status offenders under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
D. Coordination by the Department of Youth Services (DYS) of services for delinquent youth and status offenders, including services provided by private agencies regulated and subsidized by DYS.
E. Establishment of uniform standards and procedures for the screening and diversion of juvenile offenders to non institutional programs and agencies.
F. Uniform probation services supported by state funding.
G. Appropriate time limits on periods of institutionalization rather than indeterminate periods.
H. Use of parole for juveniles held in state juvenile institutions.
I. Community aftercare programs and local case worker supervision for those released from juvenile institutions.
Day Care 1984 (Updated 1995 and 1977)
The LWVAL believes quality day care, defined in its broadest sense to include child care,
elder care, and care for those disabled, should be available to those who need it.
To accomplish this goal, we support the following:
A. The development of a variety of resources to meet the need for quality day care, both full-time and part-time, including before and after school child care. Employers, private day care providers and government should be encouraged, with the aid of such devices as tax incentives, to help make quality day care affordable for all families.
B. Licensing should ensure that acceptable standards are maintained. The licensing standards should be enforceable and allow variety in programs. Exemptions from the standards should not be permitted. Enforcement of licensing standards should be conducted by qualified staff with manageable case loads, and sufficient power to close unsafe day care facilities.
C. Consultation services and training should be offered for providers to improve quality.
D. Zoning regulations for day care should be consistent with zoning for elementary schools and churchs.
Department of Human Resources 1987 (Updated 1995, 1997 and 2003)
The LWVAL advocates taxes sufficient to support social welfare programs. The Department of Human Resources (DHR) must have adequate funding in order to administer those programs designed to deliver services to the needy. The federal government should be responsible for the bulk of financial assistance; however, state and local governments should share in the costs of their programs. DHR services should not be reduced. When needed, additional funding for DHR should be provided from the General Fund Budget.
The state should appropriate adequate money to:
A. Fund any federal government shortfall in the food stamp and welfare cash benefit programs from the General Fund, if necessary, rather than reducing services.
B. Increase welfare cash benefit payments.
C. Maintain and expand, when possible, existing programs such as the statewide work program, assistance to two-parent families in need, protective services for abuse prevention and early intervention, and in-home care services to the elderly, blind and disabled.
D. Work toward a General Assistance Program to help those in need who are not eligible under existing programs.
Education 1964, 1966, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1999 (Updated 1995, 1997,1999, 2003)
The League of Women Voters of Alabama supports maintaining and improving a system of free public schools in Alabama based on the belief that a free public education which provides equal opportunity for all its citizens is an investment in the future.
Improvement may be achieved through action in support of the following:
I. Legislation that will assure adequate financing for the total needs of Alabama public schools. Such legislation should create a long term program for quality education.
II. Provision of free textbooks for public schools as part of a total needs approach.
III. Creation and maintenance of a process for selecting and distributing free textbooks. That system should meet the following criteria:
A. Selection and final adoption of textbooks by a committee composed of outstanding members of the teaching profession chosen by methods free of political influence.
B. Selection of the best textbooks nationally available based on valid educational objectives.
C. Ordering and distributing textbooks on a nonprofit basis by the State Department of Education and the local Boards of Education.
IV. Continued federal funding of the following current K-12 programs, which schools with a low level of local support could not afford without federal funds. These federal programs, which contain no requirement for a national curriculum, include the following: child nutrition, special education, Title I (supplementary instruction in reading and mathematics), professional development for science and mathematics teachers, equipment and teachers for vocational education, and programs aimed at helping children at risk and providing a safe, drug-free environment.
V. Extension of pubic kindergartens, including support of permissive legislation enabling counties to conduct such programs.
VI. The League of Women Voters believes that an excellent higher education requires improved cooperative planning, coordination, and equitable support for the public institutions of higher learning in Alabama. Granting appropriate authority to the Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) and improved teacher training are two means of achieving excellence.
A. In regard to ACHE the League of Women Voter supports the following:
1. Sufficient authority for ACHE to carry out its mandate.
2. Mutual efforts by ACHE and the institutions of higher learning to eliminate unnecessary duplication of programs.
3. A study by outside consultants of the state’s needs in medical education emphasizing the possibilities of consolidation of existing facilities.
4. Identification of the strengths and future needs of engineering education within the state.
5. Implementation of ACHE’s study based on long term planning recommendations that support League positions.
B. In regard to teacher education, the League supports the following:
1. Maintenance of high admission standards for entry into the institutions of higher education with greater emphasis on standardized test scores and preparation in mathematics, computer skills, and foreign language.
2. Programs of teacher education which
a. Include preadmission and interim evaluation of all degree candidates.
b. Emphasize subject matter expertise.
c. Provide additional training for teachers already in the classroom.
Health Care 1986 (Updated 1995 and 1997 and 2003)
The LWVAL supports the availability of adequate health care for all Alabama citizens. This object should be accomplished through an equitable planning regulatory system that is subject to checks and balances and representative of both consumers and providers, and through the development of delivery systems that take into account the specific needs of children, the elderly, rural and disadvantaged persons. Access to minimal health care is a
basic human right that should be met by an expanded network of providers and coordination among providers.
The League of Women Voters, therefore, supports action on the following:
A. State public health planning should be organized to ensure that the deliberations and recommendation of the decision-making boards and committees are ultimately accountable to the people of Alabama. Their placement in the organizational structure of the executive branch and their interacting authorities should promote independence from political considerations.
B. The main criteria for processing Medicaid contracts should be quality of service and qualified reviewers.
C. Admissions for treatment should be based only on medical considerations.
D. Conformity with federal regulations on the use of new techniques or advanced technology should be maintained.
E. Decisions of the Certificate of Need Board relating to relocation of hospitals and placement of new technology should be based on strict adherence to regulations accurately reflecting the needs of the population to be served.
F. An aggressive campaign to reduce infant mortality should include mobile clinics, utilization of nurse practitioners and midwives, and a variety of educational strategies about family planning and prenatal care.
G. The indigent care load should be shared by all health care providers, both public and private.
H. Counties should be required to pay for their indigent population, but they should be billed through the state in order to speed up the collection of moneys and to provide records reflecting the magnitude of the problems.
I. Emphasis on health maintenance and disease prevention should be encouraged through establishment of wellness clinics or programs and through public education.
Natural Resources 2003
LWV of Alabama supports measures to promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection of natural resources in the public interest. In agreement with the position of the LWVUS, the LWVAL believes that natural resources should be managed as interrelated parts of healthy ecosystems. Resources should be conserved and protected to assure their future availability. Pollution of these resources, especially air and water, should be controlled in order to preserve the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the environment and to protect public health.
Coastal Zone Management 1980 (Updated 2003)
The LWVAL supports regulations and enforcement by the controlling state and national agencies and local land use plans to protect the dunes, to reduce loss of wetlands, to limit sediment accumulation in Mobile Bay, to protect the right of public access to the shore, and to mitigate the effects of damage by construction. LWVAL supports comprehensive land use planning in these geographical areas of particular concern to promote the long-term welfare of the land, water, and people.
STUDY OF THE ALABAMA LEGISLATURE
Revision adopted by LWVAL Board on July 12, 2003.
Renewed at LWVAL Convention 2005.
Renewed at LWVAL Convention 2007.
A study of the Alabama Legislature to examine its effectiveness in dealing with statewide issues and its openness and responsiveness to all Alabamians.
Phase II Initiative and Referendum. (Continuing)
Consider the appropriateness of various forms of Initiative and Referendum as
possible additions to Alabama’s legislature process.
Note Phase I was completed and the Legislative Position adopted at LWVAL Convention 2005. FYI, Phase I examined the following:
a. The Legislature's management of the budget process.
b. How the structure and functioning of the two houses affect the Legislature's
ability to address the needs of the state.
c. Legislative practices that affect the Legislature's openness and responsiveness to all Alabamians.