Re-write will have to wait

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2003

MONTGOMERY &045; Faced with a terrible financial crisis in the funding of schools and General Fund agencies, it is a safe bet to make that all the chatter about constitutional reform this year may be just that &045; chatter.

As desperately needed as it may be, re-writing the state’s 102-year-old Constitution may be put on the back burner until the more pressing money needs are met.

Gov. Bob Riley has made it clear he is opposed to calling a constitutional convention to re-write the entire document.

Rather he prefers a piece-meal re-write of the document.

Some small steps may be taken this year to amend the document &045; a proposal to give limited home rule to counties is likely to be brought up for consideration, and some relatively harmless amendments which would remove racially offensive provisions seems likely to pass.

But a sweeping re-write of the Constitution this year doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

I have some doubts that it merited the press attention that it got, but a Tuscaloosa businessman and political curmudgeon is back where he likes to be … in the headlines.

He has confirmed that he was responsible the erection of a number of signs which have popped up across the state linking Gov. Riley with higher taxes.

The signs read: &uot;Don’t be fooled. Gov. Riley=Higher Taxes. A message from Elvis.&uot;

Pate, a successful businessman (dubbed by some of his critics as a &uot;rich Shorty Price&uot;), made headlines a year ago when he announced his intention to run for governor as a Republican.

However, late last year, as the Riley-Siegelman race heated up, he donated $100,000 to the Libertarian Party to pay for a TV ad campaign which accused Riley of making back-room deals to get black support.

Riley press secretary David Azbell, before learning of Pate’s involvement, said the signs must have been erected by &uot;somebody with too much time and too much money and and not enough things to do.&uot;

Not that there was any doubt as to where he stood, but Gov. Riley has made clear his views on capital punishment.

Gary Leon Brown, who was sentenced to death for the 1986 slaying of a gay man, died by lethal injection at Holman Prison near Atmore last week.

In a brief statement, Riley said he saw no reason to intervene in the case. Brown was the second man to die since Riley took office.

His execution had been delayed a year ago because he claimed in court that death by electrocution was cruel and unusual punishment.

The state now offers inmates a choice &045;- death by electrocution or lethal injection.

When I re-read my column last week in one of the papers that publishes it, I knew instantly I had goofed … and be sure my error was caught by several readers.

In a short blurb on the proposal to change the name of the George C. Wallace Community College in Hanceville to the James C. Bailey State College, I mentioned that even if the name were changed, there would still be two other two-year colleges named for the former governor &045;one in Selma and the other at Napier Field near Dothan.

Not so … the institution at Napier Field is named for Gov. Wallace’s father.

And for the couple of readers who asked … there was indeed a time when no state building could be named for anyone still living.

That law was changed decades ago.

State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, a man never at a loss for words, had to dine on his own words last week.

Gov. Riley invited members of the Legislature to bring their children to an Easter egg hunt at the mansion, but Holmes’ RSVP was not what was anticipated &045; he sent a telegram to Riley saying he and his children would boycott the event because the governor should be holding the program for less fortunate children.

After the fact, Holmes learned there were two other Easter egg hunts scheduled that day at the Mansion &045; one for children who had parents in Iraq and another for children from the Family Sunshine Center and the Family Guidance Center