Amendment 1 asks voters if the cotton check-off should be mandatory. Currently $1 out of the price of every bale of cotton sold in Alabama goes to the Alabama Cotton Commission for the purposes of research and promotion of cotton. This tax is known as the cotton check-off. The funds raised go to scientific research and to pay pretty young country stars to sing on TV about cotton being the fabric of their lives.Currently cotton farmers have the option to receive a refund of their cotton check-off tax. According to current estimates, only about 7 percent of farmers actually request this, so apparently most farmers are fine with the tax.
What I would like to know is this: what does this have to do with the 99 percent of us here in Alabama who don't raise cotton? And if it has nothing to do with us, why are we voting on it? Couldn't this just as easily be done by a vote of cotton farmers, the people who will actually be affected by this legislation? It probably could, but then the minority of farmers who request a refund would be voted down without being given a chance to state their case.
Most of the blame for this lies with the endless web of nonsense that is the Alabama Constitution. I'm all for popular sovereignty at the state and local level. The people should have a voice in their government when practical. But Alabama's Constitution is so broad and nitpicky at the same time that we have stuff like tomorrow's vote or 2012's statewide vote on whether or not a local water district could be annexed into the Mobile city water service. In a sane world, such things would be voted on by the people directly involved, whether it be a statewide group of farmers or the people of Mobile County. But Alabama's constitution is not known for sanity.
So why am I voting no? I'm voting no for two reasons: One, the state government should not be involved in promoting products. I am aware that the only funds are those that come from the sale of cotton. I'm not saying my taxes go to promoting cotton. But the fact that the state is involved is a problem for me. This could be done much better by a private organization, one that is not tied to state government. State governments should spin off these agricultural organizations - the cotton commission, the beef commission, etc. - and let them raise their own money promote their products on their own without even a hint of state involvement.
The second reason I'm voting no is because the Alabama Constitution needs an overhaul. It is too complicated and outdated for the efficient governance of the state. The US Constitution, ratified in 1789, is a model of efficiency. It has 7 articles and 27 amendments. The Alabama Constitution, which was ratified in 1901, has 287 sections and 772 amendments. I understand state constitutions are generally more detailed than the federal constitution, but that's ridiculous. We need to take steps toward a simpler constitution that provides safety, justice and services for the people and does little else. But those steps won't be taken if the people in power keep getting what they want by throwing bewildering amendments on the ballot that most people will vote yes on because they don't care about that particular issue.