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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Secret Ballot Bill Headed to the Full House

For the first time in the three years, a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to a secret ballot including in votes of employee representation is on its way to full debate in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Business interests in the state have backed such a bill for several years, but were always unsuccessful getting it out of Democrat controlled committees because of heavy union pressure. But times have definitely changed with Republicans at the helm of House committees.

Business Council of Alabama President and CEO William Canary said the bill didn't come up for debate in 2009 and committee members voted to indefinitely postpone the bill in 2010, effectively killing it for the session. Canary was the proponent for the bill at Wednesday's hearing.

The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee, in a voice vote, gave a favorable report to the bill. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, would amend Section 177 of the Official Recompilation of the 1901 Alabama Constitution.

Wallace told his colleagues that the right to vote by secret ballot "is as American as apple pie."

The amendment, which would have to be voted on statewide, would add the following language to the state constitution: "The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. Where state or federal law requires elections for public office or public votes on referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed."

Al Henley of Alabama AFL-CIO said told lawmakers that the bill was about union avoidance and would likely result in costly litigation for the state.

"We're all trying to save a little money these days, but a lot will be spent on litigation if this bill passes," he said.

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks

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Location: Montgomery, AL, United States

South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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