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SATURDAY, MAY 12, 2007
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James L. Evans

Legislators let fear, ignorance take over when it comes to state constitution

There is a wonderful scene in the movie “Bull Durham” in which a seasoned catcher is trying to mature an impetuous though talented young pitcher. The catcher says, “You’ve got to play this game with fear and arrogance.” Trying to deliberately yank the chain of his mentor the pitcher replies, “Right, fear and ignorance.”

Unfortunately what makes for good cinematic comedy does not work as well in real life. Our state representatives seemed to be poised yet again to let an opportunity to revise our outdated constitution pass them by. Legislators, wallowing in a sea of fear, arrogance and ignorance appear to be ready to let the matter die.

The fear is silly and reeks of paternalism. Critics say they worry a convention would be dominated by special interests and we would end up with a governing document worse than the one we have now. That’s not possible, by the way, that we could end up with something worse.

Besides all that, special interests are already in the room. Rumors are circulating that it was ALFA’s efforts that influenced several legislators toward voting no on the convention bill.

The solution here is easy. Assign a place in the convention process for the special interests. They are going to be there anyway, so why not create rules of engagement that will allow their activities and influence to be open for all to see? Why not do this in the light of day rather than in the shadows of backroom political maneuvering?

The arrogance with which special interests and certain legislators ignore this issue is shameful. We deserve more from our elected officials than being treated as if we are too stupid to know how to take care of our own business.

It may be all right to play baseball with fear, arrogance and ignorance, but out here in the real world of state government, people suffer. Our state limps along with a woefully underfunded public school system. Our children and elderly are at risk because we don’t have enough money to provide adequate health care for them. Local economies are stymied because all business matters have to go through Montgomery where the special interests can make sure their nests are feathered whether it’s good for the rest of the state or not.

The ignorance at work here is palpable. Polls indicate that if given the chance Alabamians would vote to hold a constitutional convention. Legislators admit knowing this but insist there is no great clamoring for a new constitution, so why should they worry about it?

But if the people of Alabama knew just how much our present constitution affects the quality of life in our state, they would clamor. From public education funding to health care, from local autonomy to grossly inefficient forms of taxation — on nearly every page of this albatross are reasons to abandon it.

Not to mention the racist language in the present constitution that we seem to want to cling to like some sort of magic talisman. Segregation is not coming back, thankfully, so why not take it out of our official constitution?

It is time for this outdated, bloated, immoral, foolhardy and completely inefficient document to go away. It’s time for Alabama to join with the rest of the old Confederacy in trying to live in the 21st century. It’s not too late. Let’s raise a clamor. Call your representative today and let him know we can decide for ourselves our future.

James L. Evans, a syndicated columnist, also serves as pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church. He can be reached at faithmatters@mindspring.com.

James L. Evans James L. Evans

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