I was no easy convert to constitutional reform. If comprehensive tax reform is complex, constitutional reform is even more daunting. But Bailey persisted. He helped build a coalition that ranged from business leaders to activists, from students to seniors, from North Alabama to South Alabama.
For many of us, the obstacle is a fear that our generation is not up to the task of writing a constitution. We magnify our forebears to heroic status; we doubt our own capacity to craft a governing document. The 2009 mock convention process was intended to overcome such hesitation, but few showed up to learn the lesson.
In the current quadrennium, Sen. Del Marsh responded to reformers’ pressure by creating a commission with a limited mandate that pointedly excluded tax reform. The commission has achieved only modest success. It’s hard to predict whether its proposals will survive the legislative process, and how much Sen. Marsh will push them.
Earlier this year, we helped assemble education stakeholders to help revise the education article. After failed attempts to remove segregationist language in recent years, we hoped the commission would restore the original 1901 commitment to provide public schools for all our children. Unfortunately, the commission watered down that commitment, voting 9-7 to prohibit the courts from enforcing the right to an education.
That close vote must not be the end of the story. If legislators put the question on the ballot, I believe Bailey Thomson will be proven right: We can trust the people to make the right decision.
Kimble Forrister is state coordinator of Alabama Arise.
• Bob Davis: Fix your state!
• Reflection of a leader from classmate
• He led with his heart
• A teacher’s voice lingers
• A prophet in our midst