- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Legislature’s effort to rewrite the lengthy Alabama Constitution article by article has stalled

A Senate committee delayed action Wednesday on four proposed constitutional amendments that would rewrite four articles of the constitution. Committee members said the issue is over for now, with only seven meeting days remaining in the 2014 legislative session.

The chairman of the Senate Constitution and Elections Committee, Republican Sen. Bryan Taylor of Prattville, said the process of rewriting the constitution lost momentum after state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and Justice Tom Parker issued advisory opinions earlier this month saying the article-by-article approach was unconstitutional.

Nancy Ekberg of Birmingham, communications chairman for Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, agreed that the advisory opinions took the energy out of constitutional revision, but she said the group can try again next year with the new Legislature chosen in the November general election.

“No one should give up hope,” she said.

The Alabama Constitution was written in 1901 and is the longest of any state, with more than 800 amendments. It can be changed in two ways. The Legislature can approve a change to one part and submit it to the voters for approval in a statewide referendum, or the whole document can be rewritten in a constitutional convention if the Legislature and Alabama voters approve that process.

When Republicans won control of the Legislature in 2010, the new GOP leadership made revision of the Constitution a priority. They wanted to delete portions that were outdated or negated by court rulings. They created a commission that includes public officials and others to recommend revisions to a few articles each year, with the goal of addressing 11 of the 18 articles in the constitution.

So far, the Legislature has rewritten the articles on banking and corporations, and voters have approved those changes.

In the 2014 session, the Republican leadership was trying to address a few more articles before the advisory opinion caused some legislators to have doubts.

Moore said putting out a few new provisions each year for voters to approve does not change the reality that the Legislature has undertaken a near total revision of the constitution through an in-house constitutional convention.

“By wresting the convention process from the people, the Legislature has unconstitutionally made itself the paramount mechanism of constitutional revisions,” the chief justice wrote.

None of the other seven justices on the Supreme Court joined in Moore’s or Parker’s advisory opinions. Instead, they chose to remain silent.

Republican Sen. Paul Bussman of Cullman was among the committee members voting to delay consideration Wednesday. He said too many questions remained. “We’ve heard a lot about constitution reform and whether it’s constitutional,” he said.

The proposed constitutional amendments delayed by the committee would have affected the constitution’s articles on impeachment of public officials, the legislative branch, the executive branch and homestead exemptions for property taxes. Some had minor technical revisions, but others, like the proposal for the legislative branch, would have made major changes from current practices.

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