More current artcicle, but much more general (covers all statewide amendments proposed):
Alabama voters to decide on 8 amendments
Friday, October 29, 2004
By JEFF AMY
Voters statewide will get their say Tuesday on eight more amendments to the Alabama Constitution, while voters in individual counties will decide on 27 more changes. That includes three amendments in Mobile County, two in Conecuh County, and one each in Clarke and Monroe counties.
Among the statewide amendments are measures that would allow all counties, cities and towns to promote economic development by financially aiding private businesses, rewrite the constitution to remove language mandating racially separate schools, and to allow the state's seafood industry to tax itself to promote Alabama shrimp, oysters and fish.
If voters approve all the measures, Alabama's 1901 Constitution will have a total of 788 amendments, according to the secretary of state's office.
The measure to remove segregationist language, sponsored by Rep. James Buskey, R-Mobile, passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously in 2003. The changes originated with a commission set up by Gov. Bob Riley. However, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and some other conservatives have said in recent weeks that they oppose Amendment 2 because it could provide grounds for a new lawsuit over school funding.
Amendment 2 strikes out a section of the original constitution mandating poll taxes, which often kept blacks and poor whites from voting. It also cuts out language mandating separate schools for white and black children, and strikes out two sections of Amendment 111, a 1956 measure designed to maintain segregation in the face of federal court decisions outlawing it.
Court decisions rendered much of the language inoperable. Where the dispute comes in is whether it's a good idea to strike out a section that includes the words "...but nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense..."
Those words were a point of contention in a 1993 state court case where poorer school districts claimed the state's funding system was biased against them. A state judge in the case said the Amendment 111 language was illegal and struck it down. But in 2002, the state Supreme Court threw out a spending plan meant to implement the 1993 decision.
In a separate opinion in that case, Moore said the judge in the 1993 decision lacked authority to strike down part of the state constitution.
Amendment 2 was changed in the state House to get rid of the disputed passage, and in recent weeks, Moore and others have become aware of the change. They say it's an attempt to create grounds for a new lawsuit, which could lead to big tax increases.
Supporters, though, say it's important for Alabama to show that it's escaped its racist past, and that the change isn't about taxes.
Amendment 3 would allow all the county commissions, cities and towns in the state that don't already have industrial development powers to spend money to buy or build industrial parks, factories and equipment, and to sell, lease or give any such property to companies or industrial development boards. Governments could also issue bonds to pay for such improvements. There are few limits on what sorts of businesses could be aided, although public notice would have to be given and a public vote taken in advance of any aid.
At least 50 amendments to the state constitution granting some economic development powers have been ratified since 1950, including in Mobile, Baldwin, Washington, Clarke, Marengo and Covington counties, among others. Some combination of city and county governments in at least 45 of Alabama's 67 counties have at least some of the powers proposed in Amendment 3.
Amendment 1 on the statewide ballot would give similar powers to Baldwin County. However, Baldwin voters already adopted a local amendment largely identical to the statewide amendment in June. State. Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, said the two amend ments ended up on the ballot through technical errors, and that the statewide amendment would have no effect on the powers approved in June.
Amendment 4 would allow fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen to levy a fee on themselves to promote Alabama seafood. The fee could include a surtax on boat fuel. Most ag ricultural industries in Alabama have long had such powers.
The Organized Seafood Association of Alabama is backing the move. Ernie Anderson, a Bayou La Batre dock owner and president of the group, said an election among industry members approving a specif ic levy could follow if the statewide measure is approved. Money could go for advertising or research.
Amendment 8 would change how commercial trucks and truck trailers are taxed in the state. Right now, commercial trucks are subject to property tax in the same way cars and trucks owned by individuals are. However, trucks registered outside the state pay no property tax, even if they use Alabama roads. Amendment 8, supported by the Alabama Trucking Association, is supposed to change that, imposing a fee system where both in-state and out-of-state truckers would be taxed based on the percentage of miles that the vehicle travels in Alabama.
Some other states use this system. Alabama truckers say it's unfair for in-state businesses to pay property taxes here and fees in other states, while non-Alabama truckers pay nothing to Alabama. The change is supposed to raise an equal amount of money as property taxes. It also allows for a one-time $60 fee for a permanent trailer license plate, instead of the yearly renewals required now.
Trucks and trailers used by farmers and the forestry industry would be exempt from the change, and continue to pay property tax.
Other statewide amendments include:
Amendment 5, which would allow the city of Trussville, near Birmingham, to annex certain property and increase property taxes to support the city school system.
Amendment 6, which would repeal a previous constitutional amendment that mandates that the Crenshaw County Probate judge receive the same salary as the Crenshaw County District judge.
Amendment 7, which would allow the Legislature to empower the Macon County Commission to tax tobacco products, liquor and wine.
In Mobile County, local amendments include a measure that would allow the County Commission to buy land and build buildings with money traditionally reserved for the Pay As You Go road program. County commissioners have already put forward a list of projects they would seek if granted the new powers
Also, Mobile County voters will decide whether to allow Sheriff Jack Tillman and future sheriffs to join the state employee retirement program. Many county elected officials already participate in the state retirement system.
Finally, Mobile County voters will either approve or turn down plans to create a foreign trade zone in Prichard.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)