LWVAL's Position Supporting Constitution Reform
Adopted 1967 and 1973. Updated 2002 and 2009.
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.
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.
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.
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.
V. If the Alabama Constitution authorizes initiative and referendum, the Constitution should either contain safeguards in the initiative and referendum process to protect representative and deliberative democracy, guarantee basic rights found in the U.S. and Alabama Constitutions, maintain essential state services, and reduce the influence of special interests or require that the legislature include such safeguards in any enabling or other initiative and referendum legislation. (See Legislature - Initiative and Referendum position.)Read all issue positions of the LWVAL.