UA instructor helps write revised state constitutionBy Ben Jackson | 03/30/2015 3:44pm
Robert McCurley, attorney and professor of the Alabama Law Institute, has been helping Alabama's Constitutional Revision Commission draft a new constitution. CW | Amellia Armstrong
“There are about four big issues, with some of the biggest being taxation and home rule,” he said.
The Constitution that he and the reform commission drafted seeks to address these issues on an article-by-article basis while leaving some mainstays, like state boundaries and the oath of office, alone.
McCurley became the director of the Alabama Law Institute in 1975. At that time, a new constitution had been drafted by a commission formed during Governor Albert Brewer’s administration. However, when a new governor took office, these reform efforts were abandoned.
In 2011, the newly-elected Republican legislature revived these efforts and established a new Constitution Revision Commission under the leadership of former Governor Brewer. McCurley, along with 12 others, commissioned the re-writing of the 1901 Alabama Constitution. The commission’s newest draft was completed in 2014 and is working its way through the legislative process.
McCurley’s background in law and constitutional reform has given him material and style to teach students for over 25 years. In addition, he has been instrumental in the Honors College Town Hall series.
“Mr. McCurley is one of the most interesting people I’ve met in my life and he has a story for everything,” said Maria O’Keefe, a senior majoring in history who has taken every class McCurley has offered through the Honors College since she was a freshman. “He’s taught me that we are always learning and that we are always students no matter our age. He’s never shy with showering his students with praise and honesty.”
Derek Carter, a junior majoring in math and economics, began taking McCurley’s classes during his freshman year.
“With a state constitution as desperate for revision as Alabama’s, I think McCurley is one of the best possible people you could get to be involved in the process,” he said.
O’Keefe said she strongly agrees about McCurley’s leadership in this area, citing his past experience as well as his litany of published law books. She said she feels all Alabamians should be following the issue closely.
“I think the best place to start to help Alabama out of the bottom is a heavily revised or completely new constitution,” she said. “The constitution is for the people – people should absolutely be interested in constitutional reform because it’s for them.”
Brian McWilliams, a senior majoring in biology, said he believes McCurley’s most recent draft, while not addressing issues like property taxes and guarantees like education and decentralized home rule, will still make real progress.
“I’m very optimistic that the new document will simplify and modernize the state government in a way that will serve as an example for other states,” he said.
Students interested in the issue of constitutional reform in Alabama can take an honors class with McCurley in the Fall 2015 semester and follow the most recent draft on ali.state.al.us/ constitutional-revision.html.