So, earlier this week, Dennis Lennox made the following statements, proposing that Michigan Legislators put a call for a constitutional convention on this November’s ballot (instead of waiting until 2010 like it otherwise would):
It’s Time Michigan Call a Constitutional Convention
With radical disgruntled Democrats pushing a host of deceptive constitutional amendments under the Reform Michigan Government Now umbrella, it’s time for sensible legislators in Lansing to ask voters in November to call a constitutional convention in 2009.
The constitutional convention question would have automatically come in November 2010 – it appears on the ballot every 16 years – but with the threat of Michigan government being destroyed by a partisan agenda, it’s critical voters revise the state Constitution with practical solutions to the issues plaguing our state.
Just as sensible Democrats, Republicans and independents came together under the leadership of George Romney and the auspices of Citizens for Michigan in the early 1960s, it’s time for the same sensible folks to come together to ensure Mark Brewer’s twisted fantasies aren’t passed be naïve voters who think they’re cutting the pay of senators and representatives and downsizing state government.
While few in state politics have paid much attention to the issues surrounding a constitutional convention until very recently, I have been on the issue for more than year and had the opportunity to write bipartisan amendments aimed at cleaning up the Constitution of 1963.As a student at Central Michigan University, I participated in a semester-long research project by then-professor and Inside Michigan Politics editor Bill Ballenger. We examined the Constitution and possible changes that included virtually everything ever talked about and then some. We also decided we needed a constitutional convention now instead of waiting until a vote in 2010. In the end, a large number of my proposals were adopted by our class using a mock legislature format. Unfortunately, some of my better proposals – such as eliminating individual boards of control for the 15 public universities and creating a single board of trustees that is partisan and elected on the statewide ballot – didn’t gain support across the aisle to have the two-thirds support to pass. Nevertheless, what did pass was a good package of reform that was later adopted by Senator Michelle McManus, R-Lake Leelanau, who had me testify before a committee hearing and later introduced the measure as Senate Joint Resolution I.SJRI passed not only committee, but also the Senate as a whole. Sadly, it has been stalled in the House Judiciary Committee since early November 2007 – making passage and placement on this year’s general election ballot unlikely. It was originally our hope that the House would have passed it in time for a vote to take place during the presidential primary election.But with yesterday’s news that House Republican Leader Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, supports a constitutional convention question on November’s ballot, there is renewed hope that my proposal will once again gain attention – driving the discussion towards the issues that a constitutional convention would likely examine.This is why I support a constitutional convention and will work to see the question passes if it’s placed on the ballot in November.
Certainly there are downsides to a convention – namely the high costs.
There would be a special election for delegates, who in turn would have hefty campaign expenses as they would run on a partisan basis. You could expect hotly-contested campaigns, as a convention would essentially become an ideological tussle for many interest groups.
Another major cost is the actual convention. Unless the Legislature took the unusual step of adjourning during the convention – freeing up the two chambers and associated committee rooms for convention delegates – there would need to be space allocated, as well as offices and staff support.
This would all come at a high price for a state with a budget and economic crisis, but it would certainly be worth the cost when you weigh the alternative – complicated amendments that would essentially rewrite the Constitution bundled together in a deceptive package aimed at confusing voters.
During my five months of in-depth study into the Michigan Constitution, I came to the conclusion a convention would have to consider term limits, consolidation of local units of government including the merging of counties to create regional authorities, the election of judges, removing archaic and invalid provisions from the 1963 text, restrictions on ballot question groups and numerous other issues.
However, the biggest issue for both Democrats and Republicans was term limits.
My proposal extended the maximum length of service to 20 years – allowing a legislator to serve four, two-year terms in the House and three, four-year terms in the Senate, or 10, two-year terms in the House. This was controversial, and was the only item in our package not introduced by McManus in the Senate.
In an ideal situation, a successful reform of term limits proposal could also change the length of terms. There was significant support to limit House members to two, four-year terms for a total of eight years, while senators could serve two, six-year terms for a total of 12 years.
This would allow legislators to focus more on serving constituents and do-away with the constant election cycle, and it wouldn’t significantly increase their time in Lansing.
While some might moan about allowing a representative or senator to spend 20 years in Lansing, the average length of service in states with and without term limits has historically been about 10 or 12 years – far below a possible cap of 20 years.
But these are just a sampling of issues that would be examined in a constitutional convention. You can expect everything to be looked at, which is arguably good for Michigan.
It’s simple: Our state is broken. We need real reform, and a constitutional convention would give everyone the opportunity to participate and have their say – not just vested special interests, drawing up ballot proposals in smoke-filled Lansing offices.
- I’ve always been an amendment guy. There aren’t enough problems in Michigan’s constitution for us to say, “Ditch the whole thing and let’s start over!” We run the risk of only having to amend say 10% of the constitution to satisfy us to needing to amend 25% of a new constitution. Why start all over? Fix what you want to fix, don’t throw out the whole document because of a few problems.
- It’s costly:
- Special election for delegates (The Democrats complained about recall elections, you think they’ll support this? And too many Republicans oppose this already, that the added costs of simply the election will turn more off).
- The convention itself – space and staff.
- The liberals have more money than the conservatives, and like I said before, holding a convention would increase the chances that conservatives lose in a new convention. We could come out of a convention with a constitution that needs more amendments than the current one does. I simply see this as a long, draw-out ideological fight. I’d rather vote Yea or Nay on 1 issue at a time, than compromise my views on 1 issue because I like the constitution overall, but have problems with it in other parts. Amendments are the easiest way to fix things. When you try to fix too many things at one time, more things become broken rather than get fixed.
I know I am going to take some heat for this next comment: I also question Lennox’s motives here. About half of his article (I know it’s the wrong word) talks about his ideas for how to fix the constitution, not why we need a convention. If you ask me, it sounds more like a Dennis Lennox for Constitutional Convention Delegate campaign ad than an argument for a convention. And why bring this up now? You said in the article that you thought a convention was needed back when the mock legislature voted on it. I’m not saying I know this for sure, but this just seems like Dennis wants to run for something now that his campaign for State House is over.
But all of what Dennis said isn’t bad. I like his stance on lengthening term limits, but I’d rather just do away with them instead of extending them. I’ve never been a fan of legislative term limits, but I don’t think we need a convention for that – a simple amendment would do.
So, for now, I just say wait until it comes up on the ballot in 2010, and I’m pretty sure I’ll vote it down then as well (unless a lot of crazy stuff happens in 2 years – and with Michigan, you never know).