This morning, a loyal reader of Michigan Capitol Confidential posed an important question about a Constitutional Convention that will doubtlessly come up a lot in the months to come. My reply is printed below -- KB.
I read your bi-monthly newsletter, Michigan Capitol Confidential, all of the time. I love it because it gives me information about Michigan laws and lawmakers I normally would never get elsewhere. Anyway, I've been thinking about how we can impact state government. It turns out that we can demand a constitutional convention in 2010.
I've been reading the Michigan Constitution and found something very interesting. In Article XII, Section 3, the people can demand a general revision of the Constitution starting in 1978 and every 16th year afterward. In 1978 and in 1994, the people rejected the motion of a convention. But with the economy and the leadership the way it is today, we must demand a new convention in 2010. Then we can write a new constitution that puts greater limits on government power. Tell me what you think of this. Thanks. --- GJL, Sterling Heights MI
Dear Mr. L:
Thank you for contacting the Mackinac Center and Capitol Confidential about our views on whether citizens should approve a state constitutional convention, which will be on the 2010 ballot. The Center doesn’t have any “official” view on this, but I’m glad to share my own, with which most of my colleagues generally agree.
As the saying goes, “If you let slip the dogs of war, you can’t control where they run.” (Or something like that.)
If approved by the voters, a “ConCon” would require an election of delegates by legislative district. Think of what that means: The same politicians that you may be concerned about now would be very likely the people running for and winning these races. Except this time, they’d be writing up rules that would be far more difficult to change.
In addition, the same special interest groups will be sending money to those candidates. Think of the outcome as a super-charged version of our current legislature, following a super-charged version of an election. It would be the Super Bowl of politics and your team – like the Detroit Lions – might never make it to the field for the game.
There are good, free market and free society items in our present constitution – the prohibition on a graduated income tax, to name just one – that I would not want to risk losing in the free-for-all of changes that a ConCon could become. As you imply, there’s a chance of getting a “better” constitution out of a ConCon. But a fear among many is that there’s probably an equal or greater chance of getting a “worse” one. It is no accident that many economy-minded groups such as the Michigan Chamber of Commerce are opposed to a ConCon. The end result could be higher taxes on their members.
For these reasons, I view the idea of a “ConCon” with great caution.
I hope this helps. Thank you so much for your kind words regarding Michigan Capitol Confidential.
Senior Managing Editor
Michigan Capitol Confidential