Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Bentley has a campaign ad that ends with this phrase: “Alabama needs a doctor.”
Our government needs to be cured of its ills, but it doesn’t need a doctor.
The medication to cure many, if not most, of the ills of our government is called “Initiative and Referendum.”
If Alabama became the next state to have a constitutional I&R provision, we would have a process voters could use to introduce real reform and accountability legislation that could bypass the state Legislature and the governor and appear on a ballot for voters to accept or reject.
A bill to allow this has been introduced in the Legislature for several years. In 2006, it got out of committee and was debated on the floor of the House.
According to the Birmingham News, Bentley spoke against the bill saying, “We have a representative republic and not a direct democracy.”
That’s correct, but as Teddy Roosevelt said in 1912, “The initiative and referendum should be used, not as substitutes for representative government, but as methods of making such government really representative. Action by the initiative or referendum ought not to be the normal way of legislation; but the power to take it should be provided in the constitution, so that if the representatives fail truly to represent the people on some matter of sufficient importance to rouse popular interest, then the people shall have in their hands the facilities to make good the failure.”
Alabama needs I&R. It doesn’t need Bentley.