Saturday, April 18, 2009

Secretary of State proposes Constitutional Convention procedures

A major press release came out from the Secretary of State's office regarding the upcoming con-con on the ballot. I'll need to see the exact language before giving final opinions, but this is a good start for discussion purposes and brings this front and center. We do not know if this will be needed or not, but we do know that the con-con WILL be on the ballot in 2010. It may pass or fail, but we need to prepare like it will pass, regardless of our feelings on this one way or the other.

Legislation being drafted to put process in place

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is proposing legislation to establish procedures for a possible Constitutional Convention, a move that prepares Michigan if next year voters call for one.

Voters decide every 16 years whether a convention will be convened to revise Michigan's Constitution. The question will be on the Nov. 2, 2010 general election ballot. While minor provisions regarding a convention remain in law, procedures for electing delegates and convening a convention were repealed in 1967. Land's proposal ensures that a process is in place should the ballot question be approved.

"A recent pattern of attempts to amend sections of the constitution indicates a strong possibility of calling for a convention," Land said. "Establishing a process ahead of time lays the groundwork for an effective, well-run convention if one is needed."

Under the constitution's provisions, the convention would begin work in 2011. It would consist of 148 delegates -- one from each state Senate and state House district. State legislators currently in office are precluded from serving as delegates.

There's the background. That means there will be possibly three delegates from Livingston County. One for the Bill Rogers district, one from the Cindy Denby District, and Valde Garcia's district which also covers Shiawassee and part of Ingham County.

The proposals are as follows.

Requires convention delegates to be U.S. citizens and qualified electors of the delegate district.

A no brainer.

Sets the primary election date for delegate candidates on the regular February election date, and the general election on the regular May date.

This is needed to comply with existing law. Elections are possible four days a year, and the convention is scheduled for July as given in the State Constitution. The only possible dates for this election are February and May. While this is a relatively uncontroversial proposal, it's a must. Unfortunately, the existing law is also not as specific as I'd like it regarding the primary procedures, and I'd like to see this be a primary election instead of a convention or county party choice system.

Establishes delegate nominating petition or filing fee procedures similar to those for state senators and representatives. Candidate write-in and withdrawal procedures also are included.

This is something that isn't covered at all and is how it should be.

Requires the convention to convene at noon on the second Tuesday in July 2011. The convention continues until its final adjournment.
Makes the term of office for delegates coincide with the convention, regardless of boundary changes resulting from any potential redistricting.

Also important, although I'd be careful in how this is drafted. When will redistricting be?

Requires the Secretary of State to call the convention to order and preside over it until a convention president is elected.

Not a big deal on controversy, just a simple procedure.

Specifies that when vacancies occur due to resignation or other reasons, the governor must appoint a resident of the same district and political party as the delegate who is vacating the position.

I don't like gubenatorial appointments, but that is probably the best that can be done given the current laws in place. This is an improvement (governor appoints all vacancies, period).

Requires a two-thirds vote by the entire delegation to remove a delegate from office. It also establishes recount and recall provisions similar to those for state senators and representatives.

I need to check current law on this before I comment. I like 2/3, but I'd restrict it further to misconduct or no-shows.(outside of recall provisions). 2/3 should be a safeguard against that.

Compensates the president and delegates with mileage reimbursement for one round trip per week when the convention is in session.

Mixed views.

Puts delegates and committees under Michigan's Campaign Finance Act. Contribution limits are similar to those for state lawmakers within appropriate timelines. It also puts delegates under the Lobby Act as lobbyable public officials.
Land will work with lawmakers to have the legislation introduced once drafting is completed.

This is the major provision. Right now, it is not known whether delegate candidates fall under the campaign finance act. That's an open question depending on a few technicalities.

Now I want to close out this mentioning one thing. These are proposals, not law, and may not be the provisions passed. The legislature needs to be watched like a hawk on which provisions are being considered. This is the biggest issue on the ballot since 1994 - which was the last time a con-con was on the ballot (Every 16 years). If this passes, there will be a new constitution in Michigan. The State Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land here (second only to the US Constitution). Literally everything is on the line, regarding every issue. This is the Holy Grail of power.
I posted the other day a small sample of what is in stake with a con-con.

The con-con needs to be defeated, but we need to prepare for its passing so we are not caught offguard in February.

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