With 985 constitutional amendments, it’s a wonder this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often.
When voters statewide narrowly passed Amendment 12 on Nov. 8, people in Baldwin County thought that meant municipalities could create their own authorities to pay for roads and bridges using bonds and/or tolls to pay for them. People in Baldwin County were wrong.
Voters in Baldwin County defeated the amendment. It was duly, and incorrectly, reported that because the measure passed statewide, it would become part of the state constitution.
But go back 430 amendments, and you will discover Amendment 555. According to Amendment 555, not only does a local constitutional amendment that ends up on the statewide ballot have to pass statewide, it also must pass in the county it affects.
Because Baldwin County voters defeated Amendment 12 by a margin of 52 to 48 percent, it doesn’t matter how the rest of the state voted.
Who didn’t know about Amendment 555? State Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores, who initially thought Amendment 12 passed. Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, who has been seeking options to finance a new bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell, who ran the election.
“I don’t remember ever being aware of it, but I certainly am now,” McMillan said.
Kennon said that as far as he knows, nobody in Baldwin County knew about it. Russell didn’t know until hearing the news from Lagniappe. “Are you sure?” Russell asked.
“Yes”, said Ed Packard, state director of elections. At least, yes pending statewide canvassing and certification of the vote, which takes place Nov. 29. Baldwin County has already certified its vote totals and sent them in, he said.
“I’ve been working with the constitutional amendments for about 15 years now, or more. I can’t remember another situation right offhand where it passed statewide and failed locally and people didn’t understand the implications of that,” Packard said.
A similar requirement applied to another local Baldwin County amendment, which allowed additional appointments to the Bay Minette Planning Commission, Packard said. That amendment had to pass in both Bay Minette and the rest of the county, which it did.
The defeat of Amendment 12 leaves Orange Beach and other municipalities without the option of creating an authority for a bridge or a road. “The rules are the rules. They apply to everybody,” Kennon said.
Kennon said he doesn’t think the idea needs to go back to voters again. “They have spoken. We’ll look for another plan.”
He is convinced that for public safety and business reasons, another bridge is needed off of Pleasure Island. Another hurricane evacuation route is important, he said. He also supports not just the widening of State Highway 180 but the extension of the Beach Express from Interstate 10 to Interstate 65, as well as other major highway projects in the county.
McMillan said the extension would have also benefited Baldwin County’s unused industrial megasite north of Bay Minette. He thinks voters didn’t understand that the amendment didn’t actually create a toll road or mandate that anyone use it.
“That’s the only way we’re ever going to get the Beach Express extended,” McMillan said.
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