View Full Version : Call for Constitutional Convention on CT Ballot

10-17-2008, 05:10 AM
New Canaan Advertiser Article:)
Should Connecticut call a constitutional convention?
Written by John Kovach
Connecticut voters will decide November 4 whether to open the state’s constitution to a full review for the first time in 40 years.

A “Yes” vote would call a constitutional convention where the entire document could be changed in favor of direct initiatives. Voters could call for ballot measures on legislative matters and could even propose legislation to recall elected officials. It could make elections more competitive, according to supporters of the initiative. They include Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Republican legislators and conservative groups opposed to same sex marriage and abortion.

But the initiative also has outspoken opponents, including state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, labor unions and women’s rights groups. Those who oppose a convention fear that such an open-ended review could create a chaotic process without a clearly defined mission or goal.

“You don’t change the rules of baseball because you don’t like the way an umpire calls strikes,” Jean Rabinow of Trumbull, president of the League of Women Voters of the Bridgeport Area, said to an audience of about 20 Thursday night in the Lovell Room at the Stratford Library.

The non-partisan Connecticut League of Women Voters is opposed — very strongly, Rabinow said — to a convention, and has prepared a pamphlet stating its case which can be viewed at lwvct.org.

Connecticut’s current — and fourth —constitution was approved in 1965. A vote was to be taken on calling a new constitution every two decades.

“There was a vote in 1986; it was no,” said Republican state Senator Dan Debicella of Shelton, who favors a convention. “It’s the next 20 years, it’s come up, and I think the answer this time should be ‘yes.’ There are a couple things fundamentally wrong with state government that should be fixed at the constitutional level.”

Top-ranking constitutional officers in Hartford are against a convention, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.

“The constitution has been amended 30 times since 1965, with fundamental and profoundly significant changes to our constitution, such as the elimination of the sheriff system, adopting a procedure for replacing the governor, establishing a yearly Legislature instead of biennial — all kinds of far-reaching and important changes to our constitution through the amendment process that is available now, without a constitutional convention, and providing for a more focused and considered method to amend a document that really preserves fundamental rights and liberties,” Blumenthal said.

Debicella said a convention would allow the state to introduce a means for voters to propose legislation and recall officials, and to redraw General Assembly districts to create more competitive elections.

“It’s a way to break the logjam,” he said of the referendum and initiative. “Lobbyists are everywhere, and sometimes the public needs a right to overturn the Legislature when they’re not doing something in the best interest of the people.”

“Any time you can have public participation in government, I think you are better served by it,” Rell told reporters at the state Capitol September 26.

Rell said she would support controls on how initiatives get on the ballot, but would leave it up to convention delegates to work them out.

“You don’t want people to just put something on there because it sounds good, and it is the flavor du jour,” Rell said. “It has to be something that is reasonable, and how we go about determining that, I think, would be left to those framers from the constitutional convention.”

“Gerrymandering,” or drawing district boundaries to create strong Republican or Democratic power bases, keeps elections from being real races, Debicella said. Citing the last three state elections — 2002, 2004 and 2006 — he said only three incumbents lost in three campaigns for 36 state Senate seats.

“We need to look at how we do elections,” Debicella said. “Districts are drawn to be safe for Republicans or safe for Democrats. Elections aren’t competitive and never will be because districts are designed to protect incumbents.”

Some people, Debicella said, also want a full-time Legislature.

“All these are issues floated out there that we could address in a constitutional convention and hopefully have a more responsive state government,” he said.

But proponents of gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose have expressed fears that opening the constitution to referendum and initiative would allow special interest groups to propose amendments that might otherwise not come forward.

“I’m actually surprised by that,” Debicella said. “I say if referendum or initiative can be used in an attempt to ban gay marriage, it can actually be used to enact gay marriage. It’s letting the people decide. I’m a big believer in the people’s right to decide.”

“Whatever one may think about the initiative and referendum process, or any of the specific measures, they can all be achieved through the current amendment process,” Blumenthal said.

All of the issues raised could be addressed in the existing amendment process, Blumenthal said.

“The changes to the constitution can be set forth on the ballot, one by one, and considered on their individual merits, rather than through the open-ended free-for-all involved in the constitutional convention,” the Attorney General said.

Blumenthal said some proponents of a convention say the Legislature has prevented votes on certain issues. He points out that the same General Assembly would appoint those who would participate in a constitutional review and the parameters in which they would work.

“With a constitutional convention, we could address all the issues at once, rather than piecemeal,” Debicella said.

The current means for amending the constitution produced a second question on the November 4 ballot, asking whether 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote in a primary if they turn 18 on or before the next Election Day.

The League of Women Voters strongly supports that right, according to Rabinow. She said it was common sense to allow those who would vote in November the right to choose the candidates who would appear on the ballot.

10-17-2008, 05:23 AM
Illinois has it too

10-17-2008, 08:26 AM
With the proper support and structure, which Ron Paul Republicans have in place, we could kick butt on this issue and really promote good changes, but there are some down sides of this like that of CA. Special interest groups taking it over. The State of Connecticut has to have a 2/3 majority in the house and senate to determine who sits on the Convention Committee to determine the issues brought. But the safeguard is in the end, the people get an up and down vote on the finished product for the changes. The conversation we had in the local newspaper meeting this morning (the paper that ran the story) was very very good on the entire topic and pros and cons. My representative John Hetherington, Republican is in support of a VOTE YES, and I highly suggest Ron Paul's office directly or the Liberty Campaign contact him John Hetherington and work on supporting the idea, after all Connecticut is the Constitution STATE. John Hetherington is a very special Republican who I am sure would be an wonderful warrior for the Constitution.