Sunday, April 12, 2009

Perlberg Argus editorial on Constitutional Convention

One issue I'm following closely is the Constitutional Convention issue for 2010. On the ballot will be a question of a con-con. Quite simply, if it passes, there will be a new constitution in Michigan, with literally everything on the table.

I am 100% against a con-con for reasons I explained here and here. This mentions what can be done in a constitution covention and how delegates to the convention are chosen.

Rich Perlberg seems to have a few concerns as well on this, although he hides his cards to his views on a con-con. Interestingly, both the MEA and the Chamber have their guards up.

The vote takes place in November 2010. If the statewide proposal passes, then a convention of 148 delegates will be elected to draft a new version of the state's constitution, last rewritten in 1963. The new version will be submitted to voters, who will give it the ultimate thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

Next year's vote is embedded in the Michigan Constitution and must take place every 16 years. The last two votes — in 1978 and 1994 — were overwhelmingly defeated. There are a number of folks who hope next year's results will be similar.

Some unlikely allies, such as the state's most influential business organization and Michigan's largest teachers' union, are already stoking the fires of opposition.

He then goes on to the real concerns.

The MEA and the state chamber are on more solid ground when they argue that a constitution works best when it's not frequently and radically changed. The document that governs our nation has withstood the test of time for more than 200 years with only 27 amendments.

The big worry for Rich Studley, president of the state chamber, and Ed Sarpolus, government affairs director of the MEA, is the Pandora's box of issues that could be on the table with a constitutional convention.

All of a sudden, all sorts of emotional issues are at play: abortion, gay marriage, capital punishment, affirmative action, school vouchers, gun rights, prayer in school, judicial elections, marijuana decriminalization, and so on.

The advent of any one of these issues by itself would bring in out-of-state money and influence. Think of the circus — and unintended consequences — if all are in play simultaneously.

Literally, all of this is on the table, and that doesn't mention safeguards on taxes. That's on the table. When it comes to state law, the Michigan Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It is checked only by the US Constitution.

In addition to that, who knows for a fact what laws govern elections of constitutional delegates? Under the current campaign finance laws and election laws, this is an unknown. They did not include the position of "constitution delegate" in their laws because it is so rare. This last happened in 1963. The campaign finance laws were post Watergate, 1977.

I will say this. If this does pass and if I'm still in state which I hope to be, I will be running as a Republican (it's a partisan office) for delegate for one of the two positions (they mirror the legislature positions). I will file the day after election day. I will be planning this long before election day just in case it does pass.

We need to be prepared just in case this does pass. The last thing I would want to see is a bunch of radicals elected as delegates thanks to Jon Stryker's money and organization. We can't control his money, but we can control our own organization.

2 comments: said...

Thanks for keeping this on the radar screen, Dan.


keithr said...

I think we should put an issue on the ballot to eliminate future con cons. There is no good reason to open up the entire document for rewrite when we have a good system in place to tweak it.

All of us can probably make suggestions for things we'd like to see changed. The process of getting an amendment passed is difficult, as it should be, because it gives all stakeholders an opportunity to present their case for/against.