What you should know before you vote on Alabama Amendment 14

What you should know before you vote on Alabama Amendment 14


So when you go to the polls on November
you’re going to be asked to vote on
candidates and a lot of amendments. That
includes Amendment 14. Amendment 14 is
worded in such a way that without a
backstory it’s impossible to know what
you were voting on. So basically way back in
1984 an amendment was
passed to get lawmakers to prioritize
passing a state budget over anything
else.
Basically they couldn’t vote on other
issues until the budget was approved. But
the negotiations to pass a state budget
can take a long time and not every
lawmaker works on the budget at once. So a
loophole was included to allow lawmakers
to pass little things before the budget
was passed. They would pass it as a
Budget Isolation Resolution. In the
decades that followed Budget Isolation
Resolutions were used to pass hundreds
of local statutes. This was everything
from tax laws in individual counties
and cities to whether certain counties
could sell alcohol on Sunday. Because
these were local decisions a common
practice was for lawmakers who don’t
represent areas that wouldn’t be
affected by the laws to just not vote on
them. This was called home rule. That way
the bills passed or failed based on the
will of the people in the affected
counties and honestly what does the state
representative from Mobile County care
whether or not you can buy alcohol on
Sunday in Jefferson County. The amdendment
required a three-fifths vote to pass a
Budget Isolation Resolution. So if
three-fifths of lawmakers who actually
voted agreed then the resolution was
passed. But recently there was a hiccup.
A judge ruled that because of the way the
old amendment was worded for those
resolutions to pass they actually needed
three-fifths of the vote of all the
lawmakers who were present not just
three fifths of those who voted. Since
most lawmakers didn’t vote on those
resolutions a lot of them weren’t passed
correctly. So now hundreds of local
laws across the state could be
vulnerable to legal challenge because
they weren’t actually passed in the
right way.
That’s the backstory. What you’re being
asked to vote for with amendment 14 is
whether to uphold those Budget Isolation
Resolutions that were passed by
lawmakers with only three-fifths majority
of those voting and not everyone present.
If you vote yes the laws all stay on the
books and nothing changes. If you vote no
it’s not like those laws are going to
disappear but they will be vulnerable to
lawsuits. Proponents of amendment 14 say
voting no could put funding that’s been
used to pay for things like schools and
hospitals and fire departments in
jeopardy. But there are opponents who say
that killing amendment 14 could open the
door to revisit some laws that were
unfairly passed. So now you know at least
what it is you’re voting on when you go
to the polls on November Eighth. I’m
Jonathan Sobolewski for AL.com.

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