Siegelman#039;s proposal cuts out lobbyists from convention

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 2, 2002

Gov. Don Siegelman

proposed a new idea Thursday in the ongoing matter of rewriting the constitution, and this time, he proposes putting the power of the pen into the hands of the people.

At a luncheon for editors of newspapers around the state, Siegelman discussed his new proposal concerning constitutional reform, which would exclude both public officials and lobbyists from having the opportunity to serve as delegates.

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"The Alabama Legislature has had its chance (to make a decision on constitutional reform) and they have shown how they stifle reform. It's time for the people of Alabama to have their chance," said Siegelman.

"In the last special session, I proposed a bill that would close the loophole on corporations not paying their fair share of taxes. I gave the example of a company which had $1.2 billion in sales with $430 – 490 million of those in Alabama, and they did not pay one cent to the Alabama Education Trust Fund. But, the legislature vetoed that bill that would provide more money to education, signed with the big guys, and sent back a tax on Alabama residents' telephone (services). I do not believe that without rewriting the Constitution, we will be able to get the funding for education we need," he said.

The governor's resolution follows many of the resolutions of the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, such as holding a constitutional convention and electing delegates to serve.

However, Siegelman said that he believes a special election should not be called for a constitutional convention, but that it should be held during a general election, because it will give lobbyists and special interests groups time to focus on the issue specifically.

"Many of the issues that the people of Alabama are dissatisfied with are the ones that are force-fed by the legislators. People don't put stock in what's coming out of Montgomery these days," the governor said. "The big guys are scared the people will come together

they want to run restrictions on delegates."

However, both the Senate and the House must approve the governor's plan, which states

that delegates to the proposed constitutional convention can not be public officials, elected officials or lobbyists within the last five years of the election date. "I think the people should decide if they want the legislators or the people of Alabama to rewrite the constitutionand although Montgomery is an appropriate and historic place to hold this convention, my concern is that the halls will be packed with lobbyists trying to get in their special interests. We don't need these people around when we are writing the fundamental laws of Alabama."

"You either trust the people of Alabama to come together to work these things out or you don't," Siegelman stated.

If voters call for a convention, delegates would be elected in June 2003, and the convention would begin in August 2003. The governor has allocated 120 days for the writing of the document, and would go up for a vote at the earliest of 90 days after the conclusion of the convention.

"The ACCR proposal this week gave us a lot of momentum," Siegelman said. "We don't need to miss this opportunity. We are coming to a close, but we need to find out how the Senate and the House members are going to vote."