The Alabama House did not vote yesterday on HB98, the bill that would let voters call for a Citizen’s Convention to rewrite the state constitution. Doc had the scoop from Rep. Cam Ward over at The Political Parlor. The bill was discussed for about an hour, then sponsor Rep. Demetrius Newton (D, Birmingham) moved to delay HB98 because he could see there were not enough votes to pass a budget isolation resolution or BIR. A three-fifths majority must vote to adopt the BIR if a bill is to be considered before the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets have been dispensed with. This requirement is in the Alabama Constitution, apparently to make sure the Legislators take care of important business like the budget first. Of course, if they leave the budgets until the end of the session, they can avoid sticky issues (like Letting the People Vote on Constitutional Reform) altogether.
HB98 could come up again this session, but insiders say it is unlikely. “I would say it would be very difficult to have the time to spend on this issue this session. I think today was the best shot,” said Rep. Marcel Black (D, Tuscumbia) who supports rewriting the Constitution.
In case you are wondering, Constitutional Reform is not a party line issue, either in the populace or in the legislature. While I know many Democrats who support this issue, one of the most ardent Republicans I know is adamant that Alabama needs a new constitution. Yesterday, Rep. James Buskey (D, Mobile) opposed the bill, saying “You will have consequences that will take 125 years to unravel if you do this.” On the other side, Rep. Mac Gipson (R, Prattville) supported HB98 because he doesn’t want his grandchildren to have to leave Alabama in search of good jobs. For me, a new Alabama Constitution boils down to an issue of quality of life and quality of government. I don’t say that to imply that Alabama is a bad place to live, but because we have the potential to be so much better, and it’s a crying shame to waste that potential.
By the way, since there was no vote yesterday, individual representatives did not have to go on the record as either supporting or opposing HB98. Do you know where represenative stands? In addition to politely urging him or her to support something you care about, it is also perfectly acceptable to ask “What is your position?” That should earn you a reply. Contact information for representatives is included in the previous post on this issue.