2016 General Election- Alabama Constitutional Amendments

 

By Mimi Penhale, Legislative Director

The Alabama Legislature passed out 14 Amendments during Regular and Special Session that will be on the November ballot. These Amendments cover a variety of issues including, local legislation, regulations for the Auburn Board of Trustees, state parks’ revenue, removing words and phrases in the Alabama Constitution that are no longer commonly used, a measure that would change the current impeachment process for State Officials in Alabama, and several other topics. One of the most common questions that I get as Legislative Director about Elections is regarding Constitutional Amendments. Often the language used to describe the Amendments leave constituents with more questions than answers. The summary below might be helpful in explaining what each Amendment is about.

 

One of the most important Amendments that will come up during the November Election is Amendment 14. Amendment 14 was passed to combat a judge’s ruling that jeopardizes over 600 local laws in Alabama. According to the Alabama State Code, Amendment 448 requires legislators to pass the state budgets before other bills. Amendment 448 was passed in 1984 and since that point, legislators have often taken up local legislation, that is non-controversial, to make sure these local bills don't slip through the cracks, prior to the budget passing during Session. A Court ruling from December 2015 on a Jefferson Sales Tax issue, brought to light that unless the state passed an Amendment to counteract the 1984 Amendment, many local laws, including ones that provided a tax for funding of Hospitals in certain areas, would be over turned. 

I found the summary below to be extremely helpful in explaining the purpose of the Amendments. The summary below describes the intention of the proposed amendments, so make sure you read the Amendments as they are actually worded, as they might provide more insight than this brief summary. For more information on Amendment 14 and the other 13 Amendments you will see on the November 8th Ballot, please see the brief explanation below.

Summary of Proposed Constitutional Amendments on the 

November 8, 2016 General Election Ballot

Amendment 1 – Auburn University Board of Trustees

- Ensures no more than three members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees shall have terms that expire in the same calendar year.

Amendment 2 – Protects State Parks’ Self-Generated Revenue 

- Forbids the Legislature from spending revenue generated by state parks for any purpose other than maintenance of the state parks, unless those revenues exceed $50 million annually.

- Allows certain state parks and facilities to be operated by entities other than the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Amendment 3 – Ballot Process for Constitutional Amendments

- Changes the process for deciding whether local matters will appear on statewide ballots or only on the ballots of an affected county.

- Currently, if a single legislator votes against a proposed constitutional amendment concerning a county-specific matter, then the amendment goes on the statewide ballot. Further, even if there are no dissenting votes against a “local” constitutional amendment, the Local Constitutional Amendment Commission can require such a constitutional amendment (CA) to go on statewide ballots.

- Amendment 3 abolishes the Commission and implements a two-step voting process for “local” CAs: legislators would vote to approve or reject an amendment and then hold a second vote on whether it should go on the statewide ballot. It would still take the vote of just a single legislator for the CA to go on the statewide ballot.

Amendment 4 – County Commissions

- Allows counties to adopt programs and policies relating to personnel, litter-free roadways and public property, public transportation, safety on public roads and emergency assistance without having to go through Legislative process.

- Prevents a county from imposing a tax or fee, or establishing any program that would infringe on a citizen’s rights to the use of his or her private property.  

- Would not change any of the compensation, terms of office, powers or duties of elected officials of the county.

Amendment 5 – Removes Outdated Language in State Constitution

- Removes words and phrases from the Constitution that are no longer commonly used: e.g., outdated phrases such as “body of magistracy” and “to wit” are deleted.  

- Because all other changes are technical – for instance, where the current law says that one branch “shall never” exercise the powers of the other two branches, the new law would say that one branch “may not” exercise the powers of the other two branches – Amendment 5 really does nothing more than combine and restate current law.

Amendment 6 – Defines Impeachment Process for Elected Officials

- Changes the impeachment process for the Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Board of Education, Superintendent of Education, Commissioner of Agriculture, and members of the Alabama Supreme Court. Currently, the State Constitution does not set the number of votes required to remove one of these officials from office.  

-Would require a two-thirds majority vote of the Alabama Senate for removal from office.  

- Also, under current law, the appointed Superintendent of Education is subject to impeachment but the elected State Board of Education is not.  Amendment 6 adds the entire State Board of Education and removes the Superintendent of Education, who is appointed by and can only be removed by the Board, from the impeachment process.  

- Amendment 6 will not change the reasons an official can be impeached.

Amendment 7 – Etowah County Legislation

- Would require all Etowah County Sheriff’s employees, except the chief deputy, chief of detention, chief of administration, chief of investigation, director of communications, and food service manager to be under the authority of the Personnel Board of the Office of Sheriff of Etowah County. 

Amendment 8 – Right-to-Work

- Establish that a person’s membership or non-membership in a union may not be used as a condition of employment.

Amendment 9 – Pickens County Legislation

- Related to Pickens County only; allows for the election of Probate Judge of persons not over 75 years old.

Amendment 10 – Calhoun County Legislation

- Related to Calhoun County only; defines which cities and towns have police and planning jurisdictions in Calhoun County.

Amendment 11 – Economic Development for Cities and Counties

- Strengthens ability of Alabama’s cities to compete for large-scale economic development projects. If an industry will invest at least $100 million on a site larger than 250 contiguous acres, communities will have authority to designate the site as 21st Century Manufacturing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) zones.

- Incentives used to recruit the industry will be repaid via revenues from increased property values within the TIF zone – that is, the industry will pay for the incentives over time. Allows cities to have another financing option besides the bond market for industrial recruitment. 

Amendment 12 – Baldwin County Legislation

- Would allow the Legislature to pass laws authorizing toll roads in Baldwin Co.

Amendment 13 – Repeals Maximum Age Restrictions for Public Officials

- Under current law, people who have reached a certain age are not allowed to run for or be appointed to certain public offices.

- Amendment 13 does two things: first, except for judicial offices, it eliminates any law that imposes a maximum age restriction on the election or appointment of a public official. Second, it prevents the Legislature from passing a future law that includes a maximum age restriction on the election or appointment of a public official.

Amendment 14 – Preserves Local Laws Passed with Budget Isolation Resolution

- Preserves 600+ local laws, including laws authorizing court fees and local funding for many municipal/county services, which were in jeopardy because of a judge’s ruling.

 

Note: descriptions of the amendments are based on information from the Secretary of State’s Office and the Alabama Fair Ballot Commission: https://www.alabamavotes.gov/statewideballotmeasures.aspx?sm=voters 

 

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