Two of the most closely watched state constitutional amendments passed in Tuesday night's general election.
Two at-large members will be added to the Auburn University Board of Trustees as a result of Nov. 8 election increasing the number from 14 to 16.
The Alabama statewide amendment passed with a 78.63 percent “yes” vote, according to an unofficial record by the Secretary of State’s office early Wednesday morning.
The proposed amendment pushed for the expansion of the two at-large members in order to enhance diversity amongst the board. Before the 2016 election, the board held 12 white male members, one black female and one white female.
This amendment will allow for more members of the Auburn Family with different experiences and perspectives to serve on the board, according to Brian Keeter, director of public affairs for the University.
"I feel that it's something that will help provide more diverse input to the board," said Rep. Joe Lovvorn. "I think providing more slots for more people will help bring in ideas to keep our University prospering and moving forward."
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
Additionally, the amendment will adjust the terms of the board members, allowing no more than three members to expire from the board in a single year.
Auburn University’s Board of Trustees is obligated to send its appointments and term expirations through the Alabama State Legislature, unlike the University of Alabama which has a self-perpetuating board.
Previously, this process has been a problem with many of Auburn’s board members, who complain that the board can’t function when it has too many members leave at once, according to Carolyn Carr, a member of the League of Women Voters of East Alabama.
"I'm glad it passed, because the staggering of the terms will give us stability on the board," said Sen. Tom Whatley. "Staggering of the terms is what we needed, because we had nine members coming up in 2019 and that can be a total turnover of the board."
A five-person committee will be formed for the selection process, as spelled out in the Alabama Constitution. The committee is comprised of the governor or the governor's designee, two current Auburn University board members and two members of the board of directors for the Auburn Alumni Association.
Keeter said the University administration did support the passage of Amendment 1.
"Since the process is led by the governor's office, we hope the committee can meet, review the nominations and make appointments by the first part of 2017, because the State Legislature goes into session in early February," Keeter said.
The appointment will then require a majority vote of the Alabama Senate for confirmation.
One current trustee eligible for re-appointment is board member Raymond Harbert, whose term expired in 2015. When a term expires, the current member in that position can serve up to one year after the term expires, pending re-appointment or a new member replacement, according to Keeter.
Harbert's position will also be considered at the time of the appointments of the two new at-large members in early February.
Alabama Statewide Amendment 2 passed with a 78.01 percent “yes” vote, allowing State Park’s revenue to remain in the State Park’s Fund, without the concern of monies overflowing into the General Fund as seen in recent years.
In the last four years, $15 million has been taken from the State park’s fund and used for other statewide programs, resulting in the closing of state parks across Alabama, and others left “devastated,” according to Carr.
"Tonight, Alabamians made it clear they saw through confusing ballot language and widespread misinterpretations and understood that state parks need to be able to keep the money they earn," said Tammy Herrington, executive director of Conservation Alabama.
Conservation Alabama is the only full-time lobbyist for the environment in Alabama since 1999.
The State Park Fund will solely be used for the preservation of state parks. However, if the state parks generate revenue that exceeds $50 million annually, then there is a possibility the Legislature could use the surplus of funds for the General Fund, with regard to the consumer price index.
Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) proposed Amendment 2 in response to public complaints in 2015, after five state parks were closed and seven state parks reduced hours and services from lack of funding.
"I think that was the one amendment that people were more aware of, because they are passionate about the state parks and protecting the lands of the state," said Lovvorn. "Either way people feel on the amendment, we can all agree that our state lands are important, and I think that people spoke loudly that they want the state park money to stay with the state parks, and their votes reflected that."
Additionally, the amendment will allow, but not require, private vendors to operate state park facilities, such as golf courses, hotels and restaurants. In the past, the law required the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to control all state park facilities. The DCNR supported the amendment.
Amendment 2 will allow future generations to enjoy Alabama state parks, said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.
Lovvorn said he was pleased with the results of the 14 proposed amendments, but more important, he was pleased with the voter turnout.
"It just made me excited to see that number of people turning out to vote, in Lee County especially, and I’m really proud of the voters for turning out and expressing their opinion," Lovvorn said.
The ballot contained 14 proposed amendments, making the Alabama Constitution 902 amendments long as the nation's longest state constitution.
"As a member of the legislature, I think that having that number of amendments on the ballot was hard for everyone to get all the information they needed to make a good decision, and in the future, I hope that we can provide less amendments at a time, and a little more information about each one so that people can make the best decision they feel is right for their vote," Lovvorn said. "We just need to provide a little bit more information and not bombard the voters with that many amendments at one time."
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman