Rally for reform coming to Judson

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 22, 2005

This Thursday, February 24, Judson College will play host to the Black Belt Rally for Constitutional Reform, an educational conference and exchange of ideas organized by several of Alabama’s most vocal advocates for constitutional reform.

“This is an important opportunity for high school students from the Black Belt,” said Lawrence Wilford, President of the Democracy Project. “They need to learn how and why the constitution was framed. They need to understand that the constitution impacts their daily lives. We’re getting government and civics classes together, having some workshops, and hopefully we can help create a way for change.”

For critics of the constitution, that daily impact comes in the form of poor education and fragile health care triggered by the constitution’s many roadblocks to fair taxation. Those barriers are especially strong in the area of property taxes, which provide the bulk of the nation’s education funding.

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“This will be a part-educational, part-informational event,” said Wilford. “We want to give students a deeper appreciation of what’s happening.”

Scheduled to speak at the rally are Jeff McLaughlin, a member of the state House of Representatives from Marshall County, and Susan Pace Hamill, an attorney and professor at the University of Alabama Law School. Hamill has written a thesis on the problems of the constitution and taxation.

Wilford also indicated that Johnnie Green, a high-ranking official with Auburn University, had been invited and was expected to speak.

The workshops will be run by the many groups sponsoring the Rally, which include Judson College, Wilford’s Democracy Project, Alabama Arise, Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, and the Leading Edge Institute.

Alabama’s constitution, with more than 700 amendments, 310,000 words, and counting, is the longest in the world. The Rally comes directly on the heels of November’s controversy over the failed amendment to remove segregationist language from the document.