|2648 Pine Acres
Pike Road, AL 36064
Licensed to Practice Law
In Iowa and Minnesota
Professor of Law
Jones School of Law
EIGHT MYTHS OF THE ALABAMA CONSTITUTION
1. Alabama Constitution oldest in USA.
New Hampshire 1784; Vermont 1793; Delaware 1897; Idaho 1890; Ohio 1851; Oregon 1859; Pennsylvania 1874; Iowa 1857;Wyoming 1889; Mississippi 1890; Tennessee 1870
2. Alabama Constitution drafted by reactionaries.
Thomas Goode Jones, others: forward-looking on education, development
3. Alabama Constitution drafted by segregationists.
True in part; so was U.S. Constitution.
Those parts repealed or invalidated by U.S. Constitution and decisions.
4. Alabama Constitution long & cumbersome with amendments.
Long, but not major problem
Most amendments relate to 1 city or county, don't affect others.
In other states, new constitutions haven't slowed amendment process.
5. Alabama Constitution makes it difficult to raise property taxes.
Partly true -- and that's bad???
50th in property tax = 1st in tax relief!
Alabama tax structure not unfair. Mix of property, sales, income tax.
Over-reliance on property tax unfair:
Doesn't tax how much you earn, but what you do with it.
Person who makes high income but spends it all, doesn't pay property tax.
Person who invests in stocks, bonds, metals, etc., doesn't pay property tax.
Higher property tax may prevent low-income people from buying homes.
Reason for limit: Feared local populist movements would violate property rights by excessive property tax, zoning, and other regulation.
6. Alabama Constitution should be replaced to provide home rule.
Home rule is a mixed issue.
Many advocates of new constitution want centralization everywhere else.
Conservatives generally favor decentralized government.
But counties/state relationship different from state/federal.
Home rule could allow local govts to ride roughshod over property rights.
If we want home rule, can draft general or limited amendment, incorp. others.
7. Alabama Constitution retards economic development.
When is the last time a business refused to locate in Alabama because taxes are too low, or because there is too little state & local regulation?
8. Alabama Constitution can be replaced in a safe manner.
Convention: who attends, how selected, procedures, ratification?
Positive features of Alabama Constitution could be eliminated:
Acknowledgment of God, popular sovereignty, separation of powers, protection of property rights, free exercise of religion, right to bear arms.
Perfect?--no. Work? yes, pretty well. Could we improve it? possibly.
Make worse? definitely. Amend? perhaps. Convention? Definitely not.