Amendments would aid armories, schools

2014 Election Endorsement

Amendments would aid armories, schools

Posted: Monday, October 27, 2014 12:00 am

We recommend a vote in favor of Amendments 2 and 4, and against Amendments 1 and 3 on the Nov. 4 ballot. We have no recommendation on Amendment 5.

Amendment 1 is an example of the political posturing that has become commonplace in the constitutional amendments placed on the ballot in recent years. It is the equivalent of placing a yard sign in the state constitution, which already is the longest in the nation.

Amendment 1 prohibits Alabama courts from applying foreign law if doing so would violate rights guaranteed to Alabama citizens. Alabama courts, however, do not apply foreign law. They never have. Even if a court did seek to apply foreign law, it already is prohibited from applying it — or any other law — in a way that infringes on the constitutional rights of Alabama citizens.

If the Islamic caliphate makes inroads on Alabama’s borders and Sharia law starts popping up in decisions by Alabama’s elected judges, citizens may want to revisit the issue. In the meantime, the amendment should be recognized for what it is: a political stunt.

Amendment 2 merits support. The amendment authorizes the state to borrow up to $50 million for the construction and maintenance of Alabama National Guard armories. Combined with federal funds, it could benefit Decatur directly by helping to finance the relocation of National Guard training facilities to the vacant Lurleen B. Wallace Development Center.

The downside of the amendment is that the state will have to repay any bonds from the Alabama Trust Fund, which is funded by revenues generated from oil and gas wells in the Gulf. The payments would come from an already anemic state General Fund and would reduce distributions to local governments.

Amendment 3 is a reminder that no matter how many lawsuits the state loses and how much it wastes in legal fees, legislators cannot grasp the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Federal law trumps state law, even when the state law is in the form of a constitutional amendment.

Amendment 3 reiterates the right to bear arms, a right already firmly entrenched in both the U.S. and Alabama constitutions. It then provides that any restriction on the right is subject to “strict scrutiny.” Even the most casual observer recognizes that the state Legislature has no inclination to restrict the right to bear arms; indeed, it routinely passes legislation purporting to broaden the right. The perceived threat comes not from Montgomery, but from Washington, D.C.

State constitutional amendments cannot defeat federal law. This would seem to merely make Amendment 3 irrelevant, but recent history in our state suggests otherwise. Rather than accept that the Supremacy Clause means what it says, our state Attorney General litigates everything to the bitter and inevitable end. He and the Legislature count on political points for their tenacity. The taxpayers get stuck with the bill.

Amendment 4 requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass laws that impose unfunded mandates of more than $50,000 on city or county boards of education. It does not apply to laws involving compensation, benefits or due process rights. The attack on public schools has been so relentless over the last four years that they need any protection they can get. We look forward to a time when the Legislature once again recognizes that well-funded and well-managed public schools are the solution to the state’s many ills, not the cause of them.

Amendment 5, coined the “Sportsperson’s Bill of Rights” and introduced at the recommendation of the National Rifle Association, is sufficiently vague that it is unlikely to have any effect. It states that, subject to reasonable regulations, Alabama citizens have a right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife using traditional methods. It would make hunting and fishing the preferred method of managing wildlife in the state.

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