Today’s guest columnist is L. Brunson White.
You might be asking yourself if your vote will make any difference in November.
No one doubts that Trump will win in Alabama–so whether you are a Democrat or Republican why bother to vote?
But this election creates an opportunity to begin to change the perception of our state.
If you want economic growth for Birmingham and all of Alabama, a good place to start is removing barriers that could dissuade businesses from locating here. Our state’s more than 500 -page constitution is one such obstruction, but voters will have the opportunity to whittle it down by voting yes to Amendment 4 which will be on the ballot on November 3rd.
At present, our constitution is like a thicket that’s had decades to grow. It’s sprawling, hard to navigate and thorny. This “thick book*” is packed with more than 900 amendments and there are redundancies throughout it that make it challenging even to legal scholars.
It is also riddled with illegal racist language, a red flag to potential companies looking to build or expand business in the state. For instance, most people would be surprised to learn that Alabama’s Constitution still contains language such as “separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.”
While many Alabamians would like to see a complete overhaul and rewrite of the Constitution, that’s highly unlikely in today’s political climate. Instead, Amendment 4 would allow for a cleanup of the document, without making any other changes.
The recompilation will clarify for economic developers, what the Constitution allows and would ease concerns of potential businesses by removing racist language that could discourage them from doing business in the state.
Amendment 4 is a non-partisan issue that brings support from many sectors of Alabama including educators, religious leaders, business leaders and members of all political parties. In fact, in 2019 every member of the Alabama Legislature, without a single dissenting vote on either side of the aisle, agreed to give the people of Alabama the chance to vote on this amendment for constitutional reform.
If approved, Amendment 4 would allow the Legislative Services Agency, with assistance from Alabama Reference Services, to propose a draft to clean up and consolidate the document, putting it in a logical structure that is far more easily understood by all citizens of the state. While not making any substantive changes to any laws, it would also remove antiquated language and duplicative provisions from the document.
The Legislative Services Agency is a non-partisan agency that exists to provide assistance to the Alabama Legislature. In addition to streamlining the document, the work will include provisions for its ultimate presentation to Alabama voters for ratification or rejection in 2022.
Recompiling and removing racist language will not completely clear the thicket that is Alabama’s antiquated constitution, but it will go a long way toward providing our communities and state with a path forward for economic development. It also positions us to address any issues that remain after the recompiled document is approved by voters. In a world of political, racial and judicial strife, it seems these changes are the least we can do.
Too often, when faced with a ballot that includes proposed constitutional amendments, Alabama voters go with a “better safe than sorry” attitude. Either they skip voting on amendments entirely or, suspicious of change, they automatically vote no. I’m hoping my fellow citizens will delve more deeply into understanding the provisions of Amendment 4. This amendment to clean up the Alabama Constitution is a fundamental step toward improved economic opportunities for the state and for Birmingham.
*The reference to “It’s a Thick Book” in this article is a tribute to the political documentary of the same name created by Lewis Lehe. It can be viewed on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n8dLdAlL3Q
Brunson White is native of Birmingham. He is a graduate of Birmingham University School and the University of Alabama. He is an alumnus of Leadership Birmingham and Leadership Alabama. He worked for Energen Corporation for 33 years and served as Alabama’s first Secretary of Information Technology. Brunson is currently an IT consultant. He also designs and makes furniture, as well as working on various causes that he feels strongly about.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.