My good friend, Michael Calvert, likes to remind me the Alabama Constitution is the only one in the world that contains the words “pick up truck.”
And it has a lot more words—340,136 to be exact—12 times longer than the average state constitution, 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution.
About 90 percent of the document’s length, as of 2011, comes from its 854 amendments. About 70 percent of the amendments cover only a single county or city, and some deal with salaries of specific officials.*
The extreme length of the current constitution is both because of and the cause of heavy centralization of power in the state government, leaving very little authority to local units. Counties cannot even legislate on local issues, requiring the state legislature to make those decisions.
And lack of local authority has been deadly for us in Jefferson County.
In March, 2011, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Jefferson County’s occupational tax law was passed unconstitutionally–a decision that dealt us a devastating financial blow.
On November 9, 2011, we declared the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
This ruling was caused by the State Legislature and the State Legislature has been unwilling to fix the problem.
Why do we in Jefferson County have to depend on our legislature?
Almost every problem we have in the Birmingham region is the result of convoluted government structure.
Until we fix those problems, we will remain dysfunctional.
*Statistics from Wikipedia
David Sher’s goal is to create a conversation on how to fix our fragmented and dysfunctional local government.
David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Content Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).