How Do You Get Voters to Pass a Constitutional Amendment Allowing the Government to Tap into a SWF?

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By writing the ballot proposal like this (my emphasis):

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide adequate funding for the State General Fund budget, to prevent the mass release of prisoners from Alabama prisons, and to protect critical health services to Alabama children, elderly, and mothers by transferring funds from the Alabama Trust Fund to the State General Fund beginning with the state’s 2012-2013 fiscal year and concluding with the state’s 2014-2015 fiscal year; to provide a new procedure for distributions made from the Alabama Trust Fund beginning 2012-2013 fiscal year; to create a County and Municipal Government Capital Improvement Trust Fund advisory committee; and to provide further for distributions made from the County and Municipal Government Capital Improvement Trust Fund.

The results of the vote:

Amendment 1
Result Votes Percentage
 Yes 357,036 64%
No 193,072 36

(Source: Ballotpedia)

So, apparently Alabama’s fund is not a SWF after all, but a rainy day fund. 

The wording of the initiative was coercive and, to me, shows bad faith on the part of the legislator that drafted the language.  Would the government truly release criminals it believed were dangerous, or would the government find other ways to fund the prisons?  Assuming the latter, why mislead citizens into believing that their safety is imperiled if they do not vote for the amendment?  The jarring part to me is that the scare tactic regarding the “mass release” of prisoners was not even grounded in legal reality.  The Anniston Star interviewed Kim Thomas, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections on the effect of a failure of the ballot initiative.  The paper reports that:

[T]here are about 25,000 people “behind a fence” in the corrections system. If the amendment fails, [Thomas] said, the state would have to release 9,000 of them in order to balance the books.

It’s not clear how prison officials would make that release happen.

“We would need some legislative mechanism to allow us to release them,” Thomas said.

Under current law, Thomas said, the prison system has only a few paths for early release.

Failure of a funding initiative is not one of those paths.  If you had a “mass release”-equivalent statement in a proxy statement in the corporate voting context, I believe that it would qualify as an actionable misstatement.

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