Jul 5, 2016

Home Rule Vote in November, except for Jefco.

    If you have lived in Alabama for more than a year, chances are you have wondered about constitutional amendments that are frequently listed on the November election ballots. 

     Why in the world are you being asked to decide whether some tiny county can start a fire district, The Anniston Star editorialized on Sunday about the reason. A power grab by the state a century ago:

"The rich and powerful in 1901 Alabama decided the best way to stay rich and powerful was to tip the scales in their favor. Translation: It’s easier to influence laws and policies if they are made in only one location — Montgomery — rather than in dozens of counties and scores of cities.
When you multiply all this Montgomery meddling over more than a century, you end up with a constitution that’s been amended more than 900 times. By most measures, it’s the world’s largest constitution."

        Alabama voters will have an opportunity to change part of that insane political unbalance when they vote in November.
     Here's the text of the amendment (or course) needed to give
county commissions the power to make some of their own decision. (Note that Jefferson County is excluded in the very last line!!!)

(a) Except where otherwise provided for or specifically prohibited by the constitution or by general or local law and subject to the limitations set forth herein, the county commission of each county in this state may exercise those powers necessary to provide for the administration of the affairs of the county through the programs, policies, and procedures described in subsection
(b), subject to the limitations set forth in subsection (c). (b)Subject to the limitations of subsections (a) and (c), each county commission in the state may establish:
(1)Programs, policies, and procedures relating to county personnel, including, but not limited to: Establishment of a county personnel system; the provision of employee benefits; allowing a deputy to be given his or her badge and a pistol upon retirement; creating employee incentive programs related to matters such as attendance, performance, and safety; creating incentive programs related to the retirement of county employees; and creating employee recognition and appreciation programs.
(2) Community programs to provide for clean litter-free roadways and public facilities and public property and to protect citizens from dangerous animals running loose or otherwise creating an imminent threat to persons other than the owner thereof, provided no such programs shall relate to and subject to any limitations in general law, programs related to control of animals and animal nuisances, provided no programs shall: a. result in the destruction of an animal unless required by the public health laws of the state; or b. relate to or restrict the use of animals for hunting purposes or the use of animals being raised for sale or kept for breeding, food or fiber production purposes, or otherwise used in connection with farming, poultry and egg, dairy, livestock, and other agricultural and or farming operations.
(3) Programs related to local transportation, including, but not limited to, public transportation programs and programs to encourage safety on public roads and rights of way.
(3) Programs related to public transportation and programs to promote and encourage safety when using public roads and rights-of-way, provided the programs do not in any way conflict with general law.
(4) Programs related to county offices, including, but not limited to, one-stop tag programs; commissaries for inmates at the county jail; disposal of unclaimed personal property in the custody of the county; management of the county highway department; automation of county activities; and establishment of unit or district systems for the maintenance of county roads and bridges. Programs involving the operation of the office of an elected county official may only be established pursuant to this subdivision with the written consent and cooperation of the elected official charged by law with the responsibility for the administration of the office.
(5) Emergency assistance programs, including, but not limited to, programs related to ambulance service and programs to improve county emergency management services.
(c) Nothing in this amendment may be construed to provide a county commission any authority to levy or assess a tax or fee or to increase the rate of any tax or fee previously established, or to establish any program that would infringe on a citizen's rights with respect to the use of his or her private property or infringe on a right of a business entity with respect to its private property. Except as authorized in subdivision (4} of subsection (b), nothing in this amendment shall authorize the county commission to limit, alter, or otherwise impact the constitutional, statutory, or administrative duties, powers, or responsibilities of any other elected officials or to establish, increase, or decrease any compensation, term of office, or expense allowance for any elected officials of the county.
(d) Any programs, policies, or procedures proposed for adoption by the county commission pursuant to the authority granted under subsection (a) shall only be voted on at a regular meeting of the county commission. Prior to the adoption of the programs, policies, and procedures, the county commission shall provide notice of its intention to consider the matter by announcing at a regular county commission meeting that the matter will be on the agenda at the next regular meeting of the county commission and that any members of the public desiring to be heard on the matter will be granted that opportunity at the meeting where the matter will be considered. Notice of the meeting at which the matter will be considered by the county commission shall be given in compliance with the notice requirements for county commissions provided in the general law. Nothing herein shall authorize a county commission to supersede, amend, or repel an existing local law.
(e) The provisions of this amendment shall not apply to Jefferson County. [2]

     I'll leave it to the reporters up in Jefferson County to decide who inserted paragraph "e" and grill those legislators about it. 

     Perhaps they wanted poison the well and make the entire amendment so distasteful it will be rejected when voters are asked about it in November.

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