Withdrawn candidate critical to election

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2006

MONTGOMERY &8212; State Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb, was not going to be a major factor in the Republican gubernatorial primary, but her announcement a few days ago that she would not run could have a critical impact on that election.

The significance of her withdrawal is it all but guarantees that there will be no run-off in the GOP primary. If the Riley-Moore contest is as close as some think it may be, even a handful of votes attracted by Smith could have forced a run-off election in that contest.

For the record, after withdrawing from the race, she endorsed Gov. Riley.

At this juncture a prediction on Sen. Smith is in order: She will be heard from again on the state political scene.

It is a fight that has gone on about as long as I can remember: Constitutional Reform.

And it is back on the agenda in the 2006 regular session of the Legislature.

Leading the fight for a new constitution … as it has for years … is the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform … and leading the opposition … as they have for years … is the Alabama Christian Coalition and the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA).

The opponents fear a new constitution would give local governments greater authority to raise taxes.

Alabama&8217;s Constitution was adopted in 1901 … it has been amended more than 700 times. And yes, it is the longest constitution known to man.

But every effort to draft a new document has been rebuffed, and it appears most unlikely that supporters of a new constitution will have any more success this year than they have had in the past.

They are fighting a tough fight for a couple of reasons … first, most Alabamians don&8217;t lie awake at night worrying about how old, or outmoded the constitution is, and secondly, opponents of a new constitution (most notably

ALFA and the Christian Coalition) always portray the effort as a means to raise taxes.

Speaking of the State Constitution, there is a proposed amendment to that document on the June 6 ballot which if ratified would ban same-sex marriages in Alabama.

When the enabling act passed the Legislture the GOP legislators wanted the amendment to be on the General Election ballot, thinking it would attract more conservative voters to the polls. The Democrats said &8220;no way&8221; and put it on the primary ballot.

The proposition is expected to pass by a huge margin.

Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, would like to see a law passed in the current session which would ban drivers under 18 from using cell phones.

He thinks they are too much of a distraction for inexperienced drivers.

But early indications are that despite his good intentions, the chance of the legislation passing is in the slim-and-none category.

It is the sort of measure which rarely passes in an election year legislative session.

The measure was scheduled to be considered at a committee meeting last week, but when it was brought up three Democratic members suddenly had somewhere else to be. They departed, leaving the committee without a quorum.

How many times, in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes, did you hear homeowners on the coast … when asked why they continued to rebuild their homes in harms way … would reply: &8220;That&8217;s the price we pay to live in paradise…&8221;

The fact is a more correct answer would be &8220;that&8217;s the price we and the taxpayers pay for us to live in paradise.&8221;

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said last week there was a $23 billion shortfall in the National Flood Insurance Program as a result of Katrina and Rita and this debt would most probably be paid by the U.S. Treasury … which is to say by the U. S. taxpayers.

Sen. Shelby said one of the questions that must be asked by the Senate Banking Committee, which he chairs, is a tough one: &8220;Should we continue to subsidize building in hurricane and flood prone areas? Should the taxpayers pay for that?&8221;

That&8217;s a question more and more taxpayers who don&8217;t live in paradise are asking