Sizing up Tuesday’s ballot

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When Covington County residents go to the polls next week, we’ll find only five contested races on our ballot. On the top of the minds of most local residents is Obama vs. Romney, but we’ll also be asked to make choices for our U.S. representative, Alabama chief justice, Public Service Commission president, and the state board of education.

On the back of the ballot are decisions that require more thought. There are 11 statewide and one local amendment to be considered. Here’s a primer:

Amendment 1 would reauthorize the Forever Wild Land Trust. The 20-year-old program has allowed the state to use a portion of its oil lease revenues to buy 220,000 acres of public land to be used for hunting, fishing, birding and other activities. Environmental groups and hunters support it. Critics wonder if the state should be buying land during tough economic times. We believe there are far worse things the state could choose to fund. Vote yes to continue the practice; no if you oppose.

Amendment 2 allows the refinancing of state bonds used in industrial recruitment efforts. It does not raise the debt limit for those bonds. Gov. Robert Bentley is a strong proponent of the measure. We recommend a yes vote.

Amendment 3 affects only the residents of Stockton in Baldwin County, allowing a historic district. There is no reason for locals to vote on this amendment.

Amendment 4 is a tough one. It would remove racist language regarding school segregation and poll taxes from the Constitution, which seems to be a good thing that would improve our state’s image. However, some question whether it might impact the state’s obligation to maintain a system of public education. AEA and some African-American leaders oppose it. Vote yes to remove the language, no to keep it. It seems to us there are dangers either way.

Amendment 5 affects only Prichard in Mobile County. There is no reason for locals to vote.

Amendment 6 was designed as a protest to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). However, federal law supersedes state law and the federal courts have upheld it.

Therefore, the amendment is meaningless. Vote yes only if it will make you feel extra good to protest better health care; it won’t change a thing.

Amendment 7 establishes the right to vote by secret ballot in any political election or union representation election in Alabama. It is the wording about unions that makes this one important. Vote yes if you think workers should be able to unionize by secret ballot; vote no if you are anit-union.

Amendment 8 also is tricky. This would repeal the controversial pay raise approved by the legislature in 2007. However, it ties legislative pay to the median pay in Alabama and frees legislators from ever having to vote on pay again. Most of the current Republican-majority legislature spoke loudly against the 2007 pay increase when they campaigned. However, they have failed to repeal it. Vote yes if you want to cut legislative pay; vote no if you think the legislature should make tough decisions without punting to voters.

Amendment 9, like Amendment 4, is designed to clean up language in the constitution, this one relating to canals and railroads. No opposition here. Vote yes.

Amendment 10 also removes outdated language, this time on banking. Vote yes.

Amendment 11 applies only to Lawrence County. There is no reason for Covington Countians to vote on this issue.

Local Amendment 1 would increase fees on all civil and criminal cases filed in the county by $9 each with proceeds going to the law library. At present, the law library fee is $3 per case.

Remember that voting is a right for which many fought. We encourage you to exercise that right next week.