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Alabama Cotton Producer Assessment Refund Amendment, Amendment 1 (2014)

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Amendment 1
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Alabama Constitution
Referred by:Alabama Legislature
Topic:Business regulation on the ballot
Status:Approved Approveda
2014 measures
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July 15
Amendment 1 Approveda
November 4
Amendment 1
Amendment 2
Amendment 3
Amendment 4
Amendment 5
EndorsementsFull text
Polls
The Alabama Cotton Producer Assessment Refund Amendment, Amendment 1 was on the July 15, 2014, primary runoff ballot in Alabama as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The measure ended the assessment refund to cotton producers who do not participate in the assessment program for the cotton checkoff, as well as enabled a second act: Senate Bill 256. The measure was primarily sponsored by Sen. Billy Beasley (D-28) in the Alabama State Senate, where it was known as Senate Bill 255. It was also known as Proposed Statewide Amendment Number One.[1]

Senate Bill 256, following Amendment 1's approval, allowed any authorized commission of cotton producers to petition the State Board of Agriculture and Industries to conduct a referendum on the collection of assessments without any provision for refunds to producers who do not want to participate in the program.[2] The proposed amendment was sponsored in the Alabama Legislature by Sen. Billy Beasley (D-28).[3]

The measure amended Amendment 388 of the Alabama Constitution.[1]

Election results

Alabama Amendment 1 (2014)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 158,356 67.08%
No77,72532.92%

Election results via: Alabama Secretary of State

Text of the measure

Ballot text

The official ballot text reads as follows:[4]

AL2014 Amendment 1.PNG[5]

Constitutional changes

Alabama Constitution
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Preamble
Articles
IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIXIIXIIIXIVXVXVIXVIIXVIII
Amendments

Amendment 1 amended an existing amendment to the Alabama Constitution, Amendment 388, to read as follows, with the underlined text being added and the struck through text being removed:[1]

The legislature may hereafter, by general law, provide for the promotion of the production, distribution, improvement, marketing, use, and sale of peanuts, milk, and cotton. The legislature may provide for the promotion of peanuts, milk, and cotton and peanut, milk, and cotton products by research, education, advertising, and other methods, and the legislature is further authorized to provide means and methods for the financing of any such promotional activity by prescribing a procedure whereby growers of peanuts, and producers of milk and cotton may by referendum among such growers and producers levy upon themselves and collect assessments, fees, or charges upon the sale of peanuts, milk, and cotton for the financing of any such promotional program or activity in cooperation with buyers, processors, dealers, and handlers of peanuts, milk, and cotton. The legislature may make provisions for the nonpayment of assessments by peanut growers and milk and cotton producers, and shall make provisions for the refund of assessments to any peanut growers and milk or cotton producers who do not desire to participate in an assessment program. The legislature shall provide for the collection, disbursement, distribution, or expenditure of assessments or charges authorized hereunder and to provide penalties for failure to make collection and distribution of assessments. The legislature shall provide for the designation of a nonprofit association or organization for the promotion and betterment of peanuts, milk, and cotton and peanut, milk, and cotton products to administer and carry out such promotional program which shall include the conducting of elections or referendums among growers of peanuts and producers of milk and cotton. The legislature may provide the manner by which such referendum is held, including the procedure for application for approval to conduct the referendum, the appropriate action to be taken by the state board of agriculture and industries on such application, the requirements and eligibility of the association or organization which will conduct such referendum, the procedures for voting and eligibility to vote in such referendum, the details of the conduct of such referendum. The legislature shall further provide for the deposit, withdrawal, disbursement, and expenditure by the designated association of any funds received subject to the supervision and control of the activities as authorized herein by the department of agriculture and industries and the state board of agriculture and industries. The legislature shall further provide a procedure whereby said the association or organization is bonded, for the examination and auditing of said association or organization, and for reasonably necessary rules and regulations to be adopted by the state board of agriculture and industries to effectively carry out the intent and purposes herein enumerated.

The legislature shall provide, by enabling legislation, the definition of peanut growers and producers.

Assessments, fees or other charges collected as authorized by any legislative act adopted under authority hereof shall not be considered as a tax within the meaning of this Constitution or any provision thereof.

Any uniformity requirements of this Constitution shall be satisfied by the application of the program upon peanuts, milk, and cotton.[5]

Fiscal note

The following fiscal note for Amendment 1 was written on May 13, 2014:[6]

Senate Bill 255 (Act 2014-188) as enacted proposes a constitutional amendment which, if ratified, would change Amendment 388 to delete the requirement for refunds of assessments to cotton producers who do not desire to participate in the assessment program. This act will increase the proclamation expenses of the Governor, paid from the State General Fund, by an estimated $100,000 for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015.[5]

Background

Alabama Cotton Commission logo.jpg

The amendment which Amendment 1 revised was originally passed by voters on November 19, 1980. That amendment received overwhelming approval at the polls, with a vote of 462,809 in favor to 97,691 against.[7]

According to William H. Stewart, author of a commentary on the Alabama Constitution, "Numerous amendments to the Alabama Constitution now show the use of this document to allow very specific agricultural producer and agricultural marketing groups to enhance their economic status through the kinds of activities described here."[8] At the time, these types of programs were common at state and national levels and often called checkoff programs, though not all were constitutional matters.

Prior to Amendment 1, only about 7 percent of Alabama cotton farmers chose to have the checkoff fees on their harvests refunded.[9]

SB 256

Amendment 1's approval allowed for the provisions of SB 256 to be implemented. SB 256 repealed Section 2-8-203 of the Code of Alabama 1975, as well as amended Section 2-8-193. The latter section had provided for commissions made up of two or more nonprofit cotton producer associations to conduct a referendum among cotton producers of the state upon the question of levying an assessment, collecting, expending and utilizing any funds received through such an assessment. These funds could be used for promotional programs. This provision was the foundation of the Alabama Cotton Commission's authority.[10]

SB 256 amended this section to include a new subsection, which reads as follows:[2]

(b) Any commission authorized to make assessments pursuant to subsection (a) may make application to the State Board of Agriculture and Industries for certification and approval to conduct a referendum on the question of levying an assessment without any provision for refunds. The referendums and the levying, collection, expending, and utilization of the assessments shall otherwise be subject to the provisions of this article. Upon approval of any assessment authorized pursuant to this subsection, the assessment shall supersede any prior assessment being collected at the time of the referendum.[5]

The following fiscal note was provided for SB 256:[11]

Senate Bill 256 (Act 2014-278) as enacted and subject to the adoption of the constitutional amendment proposed by Senate Bill 255 (Act 2014-188), would allow any authorized commission of cotton producers to make application to the State Board of Agriculture and Industries to conduct a referendum on the question of the collection of assessments without any provision for refunds to producers who do not desire to participate in the program. This act further repeals language currently authorizing the refund of assessments. This act will not directly affect state or local funding.[5]

Support

AL2014 Amendment 1 Vote Yes.jpg

Officials


Organizations

  • Choose Cotton, sponsored by Farm PAC[12]
  • Alabama Cotton Commission[13]
  • Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA)
  • ALFA's State Cotton Committee

Arguments

The main argument in favor of Amendment 1 was that all cotton farmers benefit from the work funded by the cotton check off. Thus, supporting the work should not be voluntary.[12][13] The Choose Cotton campaign website said the following research, educational and promotional activities had been made possible due to funding from the cotton check off:

  • Boll weevil eradication
  • Research on reducing yield losses to pests such as stinkbugs and nematodes while protecting the soil and environment
  • Impact and management of fire ants on Alabama cotton farms
  • Ag in the Classroom
  • Ag Alumni Roundup
  • Field Days to showcase cotton research.[5]

—Choose Cotton, [12]


"Vote Yes for the Cotton Checkoff" video by the Alabama Farmers Federation

Mary Johnson, Director of News Services for the Alabama Farmers Federation, provided the following reasons why the Alabama Cotton Commission was in favor of Amendment 1:

  • The amendment will enhance Alabama's current cotton checkoff program.
  • The research, educational and promotional activities supported by checkoff funds have improved cotton farms across the state since the checkoff was established in the '70s.
  • Every Alabama cotton farmer has benefited from implementing farming practices initiated by checkoff-funded research.
  • The amendment allows all Alabama cotton farmers to have a uniform stake in what needs to be done to help improve their family businesses.

[5]

—Mary Johnson, [13]

Campaign contributions

Farm PAC, the PAC sponsoring the Choose Cotton campaign in support of Amendment 1, was a registered PAC in Alabama since 1991. The committee's last Fair Campaign Practices Act report at the time of Amendment 1's approval was in May 2013. At that point, the PAC had a balance of $1,149,111.80.[14]

Opposition

Rep. Harry Shiver (R-64) was the sole vote against SB 255 in the Alabama Legislature.[15] Rep. Shiver did not respond to Ballotpedia requests for comment on his reasons for opposing SB 255.[16][17][18]

Opponents

David Pinkleton, chairperson of Conservatives for Good Government
  • Conservatives for Good Government
  • David Pinkleton, chairperson of Conservatives for Good Government[19]
  • Chris Shedd, cotton farmer near Holly Pond[20]

Arguments

David Pinkleton, chairperson of Conservatives for Good Government, wrote an opinion piece for AL.com encouraging voters to reject Amendment 1. In the piece, Pinkleton argued that the checkoff program was part of a "government bureaucracy," and that it should be removed from the constitution entirely and run as a nongovernmental project. Pinkleton stated,

As an advocate of limited government, usage of a governmental agency to administer, collect, and disperse funds via the cotton checkoff program is inappropriate.

The better choice is to vote NO on Amendment 1 and keep the cotton checkoff program voluntary for cotton producers across the state.

The best choice is to remove control of the cotton checkoff program from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and allow cotton growers the opportunity to establish their own program without input by the government. [5]

—David Pinkleton, chairperson of Conservatives for Good Government, [19]

At the time of Amendment 1's proposal, checkoff programs, like those enshrined in the Alabama Constitution, were not universally supported by farmers, the agricultural community. Opponents often argued that requiring individuals to pay a mandatory assessment constituted being required to pay for speech that they did not necessarily support. In the cases Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Association and Nebraska Cattlemen v. Livestock Marketing Association, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that checkoff programs constitute government speech, not private speech covered by the First Amendment.[21][22][23]

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Alabama ballot measures, 2014

Support

  • The Dothan Eagle said,
There’s a great temptation to advocate a “no” vote on this and any future constitutional amendment referendum; perhaps if Alabama voters refused to add any more to the hundreds and hundreds of amendments to our broken constitution, lawmakers will have no choice but to allow for the creation of a newer and more efficient guiding document. But because we believe the cotton farmers to whom this initiative applies should be able to decide issues that affect their bottom lines, the rest of Alabama’s voters – or at least the picayune number who turn out to vote on July 15 – should do what’s necessary to make that happen, and vote yes on the cotton amendment.[5]

—Dothan Eagle, [24]

Other opinions

Amendment 1 was commented upon in editorials criticizing the timing of the election, calling for an overhaul of the state constitution and advising voters to avoid the issue if they are not farmers.

  • The Gadsden Times said,
Unless you’re a cotton farmer and therefore have a stake in this game, we encourage you to skip this issue. It’s not a tax or a user fee on anyone from the general population. Let the farmers decide.[5]

—The Gadsden Times, [25]

  • The Montgomery Advertiser said,
The 1901 constitution has been amended almost 900 times, largely because — time after time after time — some measure that has no place in a state constitution to begin with has to be decided in a referendum. The story is always the same, and it is a recipe for cumbersome, unresponsive government. The 1901 constitution is an anchor — not the kind of anchor that provides a solid base, but the kind that impedes progress and has to be dragged along by a state perpetually struggling to move forward.[5]

—Montgomery Advertiser, [26]

  • WFSA 12 of Montgomery said,
When voters head to the polls to cast their ballots in the GOP primary next week, they'll see what appears to be another mundane and convoluted proposed constitutional amendment. Make no mistake, that's exactly what it is.[5]

—WFSA 12, [27]

  • The TimesDaily.com said,
But why would lawmakers place a statewide amendment on a runoff ballot?

The cynic's answer is that only those interested in the outcome of the amendment will turn out to vote. That's usually a low number because most amendments affect a narrow segment of the population, and they will be the most motivated voters. [...] [Statewide] amendments should appear on general election ballots, when voter turnout is at its highest. Tucking them at the bottom of a runoff ballot is suspicious and has a whiff of shifty politics.[5]

—TimesDaily.com, [28]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Alabama Constitution

According to Article 18 of the Alabama Constitution, the Alabama State Legislature was required to pass the bill by a three-fifths majority vote to place the amendment on the ballot. Senate Bill 255 was approved by the Alabama Senate on January 28, 2014. The bill was approved by the Alabama House of Representatives on March 20, 2014.[29]

Senate vote

January 28, 2014 Senate vote

Alabama SB 255 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 22 100.00%
No00.00%

House vote

March 20, 2014 House vote

Alabama SB 255 House Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 96 98.97%
No11.03%

Election costs & turnout

According to the Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett (R), the runoff election in which Amendment 1 was voted upon was expected to cost the state approximately $3 million. Secretary Bennett also projected a voter turn out of 5 percent of the 2.85 million active voters in the state. However, it was likely turnout would be even lower than that as runoff elections in 2004, 2008 and 2012 did not have turnouts reaching or exceeding that level of participation.[30]

See also

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Suggest a link

News stories

External links

Supporters

Opponents

Additional reading

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Alabama Legislature, "SB 255 Text," accessed April 17, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Alabama Legislature, "SB 256 Text," accessed April 17, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Open States, "Alabama 2014 Session, SB 255," accessed June 12, 2014
  4. Alabama Secretary of State, "July 15, 2014 primary runoff ballot for constitutional amendment," accessed June 27, 2014
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. Alabama State Legislature, "SB 255 Fiscal Note," accessed June 12, 2014
  7. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. REFERENDA AND PRIMARY ELECTION MATERIALS [Computer file]. ICPSR ed. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [producer and distributor], 1995. doi:10.3886/ICPSR00006.v1
  8. Stewart, W. H. (2011) The Alabama State Constitution (The Oxford commentaries on the state constitutions of the United States). New York: Oxford University Press.
  9. DecatureDaily.com, "3 statewide decisions on Tuesday’s ballots," July 12, 2014
  10. Alabama Cotton Commission, "About Us," August 2, 2013
  11. Alabama State Legislature, "SB 256 Fiscal Note," accessed June 12, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Choose Cotton, "Home," accessed June 27, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Margaret Koenig, "Email communication with Mary Johnson, Director of News Services for the Alabama Farmers Federation," June 12, 2014.
  14. Arkansas Secretary of State, "FCPA Filing Details for Farm PAC," accessed June 27, 2014
  15. Open States, "Roll call for House Vote on SB 255 (Mar 20, 2014)," accessed June 27, 2014
  16. Margaret Koenig, "Email communication to Rep. Shiver," June 12, 2014
  17. Margaret Koenig, "Telephone call and message left with Rep. Shiver's office," June 27, 2014
  18. Margaret Koenig, "Email communication to Rep. Shiver," June 30, 2014
  19. 19.0 19.1 AL.com, "Amendment 1: Say No to Big Cotton: guest opinion," July 13, 2014
  20. The Cullman Times, "Cotton farmers could face mandated fee," July 13, 2014
  21. National Agricultural Law Center, "Checkoff Programs – An Overview," accessed June 27, 2014
  22. Cornell University Law School, "JOHANNS V. LIVESTOCK MARKETING ASSN. (03-1164) 544 U.S. 550 (2005)," accessed June 27, 2014
  23. Associated Press, "Supreme Court to hear beef promotion case," accessed June 27, 2014
  24. Dothan Eagle, "Editorial: Another reason to rewrite Alabama’s constitution," July 6, 2014
  25. The Gadsden Times, "OUR VIEW: Bypass vote on checkoff," June 10, 2014
  26. Montgomery Advertiser, "Amending our way around," July 1, 2014
  27. WFSA 12, "Cotton amendment to be on GOP primary ballot," July 9, 2014
  28. TimesDaily.com, "Constitutional amendments," July 8, 2014
  29. Alabama Legislature, "Bill Status for SB255," accessed April 17, 2013
  30. TimesDaily.com, "Runoff to cost $3M," July 12, 2014