2007 - 2009
Following is the Program of the League of Women Voters of Alabama. It includes the positions which we support (LWVAL Support Positions), the legislative items which are most important to our advocacy effort (LWVAL Items for Emphasis), and specific issues which we are studying in order to revise our positions (LWVAL Items Study). We also support the positions of the League of Women Voters of the United States.
Are there issues here which are of concern to you? Contact the LWVAL and join the League to make positive changes for a better Alabama!
LWVUS SUPPORT POSITIONS
Positions of the League of Women Voters of the United States may be used as the basis for action.
Representative Government: Promote an open governmental system that is representative, accountable and responsive. Issues addressed by the position: Voting Rights, Election Process, Citizen Rights, Congress and the Presidency.
International Relations: Promote peace in an interdependent world by working cooperatively with other nations and strengthening international organizations. Issues addressed by the position: United Nations, Trade, U.S. Relations with Developing Countries, Arms Control, Military Policy and Defense Spending.
Natural Resources: Promote an
environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise
management of natural resources in the public interest.
Social Policy: Secure equal rights and equal opportunity for all. Promote social and economic justice and the health and safety of all Americans. Issues addressed by the position: Equality of Opportunity, Fiscal Policy, Health Care, Meeting Basic Human Needs, Child Care, Early Intervention for Children at Risk, Violence Prevention, Gun Control, Urban Policy.
Impact on Issues contains history and details on each of these items.
For complete Program Positions of the LWVUS, go to http://www.lwv.org/where/ (will take you out of the LWVAL web site).
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.
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:
A. Make information about the budgetary process as well as the enacted budget easily available to the public, using such means of communication as news releases, television coverage of hearings, distribution of budget materials to libraries and courthouses, and the Internet.
1. The public should be informed about budgetary proposals as they are being developed and amended. Public comments should be solicited.
2. The public should have easy access to the enacted budgets and explanations of their contents.
B. Require that the Interim Committee on Finance and Budget, or other legislative committees created to analyze state budgetary needs and proposals or make budgetary recommendations to the legislature, hold public hearings across the state to inform the public and receive citizen input.
C. Limit funding of non-state agencies to agencies determined to be of sufficient value to the state to deserve such support. Until such an assessment of non-state agencies is done, proration should begin with cuts in appropriations to all non-state agencies before any cuts are made in state agency budgets.
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.
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.
A. The constitution should provide guarantees that the local electorate will determine the choice of local government. It should also guarantee that cities and counties have the right to construct charters to meet local conditions, as long as they adhere to a constitutional process with adequate safeguards. The constitution should require the legislature to provide optional plans of local government for cities and counties that choose not to construct their own local charters. The legislature should have the responsibility for ensuring the organizational adequacy of local government plans. The constitution should also guarantee the local electorate the right to alter the plan or charter once adopted, if the changes meet constitutional requirements.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.
B. Counties and municipalities that adopt, through proper procedures, home rule charters or local government plans provided by the legislature should then exercise all powers of government not inconsistent with their charters, the state constitution, or general state law. Cities and counties will have the option to retain their current form of government with limited powers unless the constitution mandates that local governments choose a charter government or one of the optional plans.
C. The constitution should encourage maximum intergovernmental cooperation in seeking solutions to problems that cross the boundaries of political subdivisions.
A. The Legislature should meet annually.* It should select its own leadership. Legislators should receive adequate annual salaries. The legislative apportionment process should guarantee fair representation to all citizens of the state.
(*Adopted in Amendment 339 in 1975)
B. The Executive Branch should be subject to periodic reorganization to achieve maximum efficiency and economy. The governor should prepare and recommend a yearly comprehensive budget to the legislature.
C. The Judicial Branch should be organized as a unified court system.* A compensation commission should recommend salaries of judges.* Judges should be chosen by a form of merit selection with reappointment subject to approval of the voters.
(*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.
The League of Women Voters supports uniform election
laws and procedures throughout the state to ensure the integrity of the
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 am to 7 PM.*
* 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.
We support the reorganization as necessary of the
executive branch to achieve maximum efficiency and economy.
This should include formulation of a unified budget by the executive,
subject to legislative approval.
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
A. Provide processes and procedures for ethical conduct at the state, county and city level for elected and appointed officials, public employees and candidates for elective office.
B. Require that the Ethics Commission function as an independent and impartial body.
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.
C. Designate officials to inform candidates, public employees, and public officials of the procedures and rules they must follow.
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.
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.
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.
A. 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.
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.
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 bycommittees 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.
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.
A. Legislative budgets including the specific amounts budgeted to and spent by:
1. funds for each chamber, the leadership, and the various standing
2. discretionary fund monies disbursed by the House and Senate
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.
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 transfers.
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 fees online.
3. To ensure enforcement of the regulations, the League reaffirms its support for adequate funding of the Ethics Commission.
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.
1. Revision of Constitutional Amendment 93 of 1952, as amended by Amendment 354 of 1976, to include public transportation in the permitted uses of gasoline taxes.
2. Permission for local entities to provide for local transportation needs, including taxation with voter acceptance, without specific legislative approval.
The League of Women Voters favors an adequate budget to
support criminal justice needs throughout the state.
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.II. The League supports the following actions with regard to the Alabama prison system:
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.
A. Use of a classification system run by adequately trained personnel.III. The League supports the following actions in the area of juvenile justice:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.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.
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.
V. Extension of public 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Revision adopted by LWVAL Board on July 12, 2003
A study of the Alabama Legislature to examine its effectiveness in dealing with statewide issues and its openness and responsiveness to all Alabamians.
Phase I of the study will examine the following three items:
a. The Legislature's management of the budget process.
b. How the structure and functioning of the two houses
affect the Legislature's
c. Legislative practices that affect the Legislature's openness and responsiveness to all Alabamians.
[NOTE: Phase I has been completed.]
Phase II will address the following item:
d. The appropriateness of various forms of Initiative
and Referendum as