- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2003

MONTGOMERY, Ala., April 16 (UPI) — Alabama has begun a campaign to rid its constitution of segregation provisions that have been struck down in the federal courts.

The provisions include one requiring segregated schools and another involving poll taxes, which prevented many poor people — including blacks — from voting.

"It's something we should have done a long time ago, to remove all those vestiges of racial reference in our constitution. It's something we need to clean up," said Democratic Sen. Wendell Mitchell, a sponsor of the measure.

If the bills filed in the House and Senate clear the Legislature, they would require a majority of voters statewide.

Mitchell said he expected the Legislature and the voters to pass the amendments.

"I think Alabama as a whole is accepting of the racial situation," he said.

Court rulings, mostly by federal judges, struck down most of the offending provisions as long ago as the 1960s and they now have no force of law.

The provisions were the product of a 35-member citizens' commission appointed by Gov. Bob Riley. The commission made five recommendations last month, and the segregation issue was viewed as one of the least controversial.

The other four are undergoing review.

One of the more controversial proposals would lift restrictions on certain funding, requiring that it must be spent only on education.

The Alabama Education Association and other educational organizations oppose the plan.

Another proposal would give counties greater home rule power to address more issues locally instead of requiring legislative approval.

It also recommended a super majority of three-fifths vote of the Legislature to raise taxes.

The commission also recommended strengthening the governor's line-item veto powers. Currently, the Senate can overrule such a veto with a simple majority.

The Alabama constitution was adopted in 1901 and is as one of the longest and most amended in the nation.

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