Below are two opposing opinions from guest commentators on the topic, "Should We Have a Constitutional Convention." The Wayne Independent is planning a weekly series of FACE OFF commentators and YOU are welcome and needed to participate. Contact Managing Editor Peter Becker at firstname.lastname@example.org or (570)253-3055 to volunteer as a guest commentator for a future topic!
YES... By SKIP MENDLER
Skip Medndler, of Honesdale, is Chairman of the Wayne County Green Party Committee
1968, you may recall, was one heck of a year - a year of upheaval and unrest, of rowdy protest, of old orders passing away. It was also the last time Pennsylvanians revisited their State Constitution. More than a generation has come and gone, and we’d be overdue for another go-round even if the evidence of dysfunction in state government weren’t so widespread and obvious.
“Given the scandals that have rocked the Capitol of late, I believe we have reached a tipping point that necessitates a convention," said Dauphin Co. Republican Sen. Jeffrey Piccola – three years ago! Since then, the situation has gotten worse. Judicial shenanigans, budgetary breakdowns, and electoral corruption such as the Bonusgate scandal make it essential that Pennsylvania’s citizens reassert control over how their state government conducts its business.
Folks comfy with the status quo will, no doubt, raise nightmare scenarios invoking all our favorite hot-button social issues to try and prevent this. To be sure, any such undertaking carries some dangers – but it’s not hard to recognize and mitigate those dangers. We will need an inclusive process, wide-ranging discussion of the issues, citizens that are both well-informed and willing to listen – and a press that is willing to help all these things happen. That’s a tall order, but I think we are up to the task.
What would I like to see in the result? The decentralized power of Pennsylvania’s municipalities should be maintained, and not undermined by state fiat to allow ecologically destructive industries to override local ordinances. The rights and responsibilities of corporations must be more strictly defined – and not in terms of “personhood.” The ballot must become more accessible to third-party and independent candidates.
Pennsylvanians of all persuasions, from Greens to Tea Partiers, know that state government must be reformed. Let’s get together and create a system that we can all live with – and all be proud of.
NO... By NORM HILL
Norm Hill described himself as a conservative who has been becoming more libertarian in recent years.
My great-grandfather was a state senator from 1903 to 1906. He probably swore much the same oath as Lisa Baker did. The only difference is, in those days, serving in the state legislature was a civic duty, not a vocation. Every year, he would travel to Harrisburg, do the state’s business in as short a period of time as possible, then come home to run the business, and by all accounts, he served his constituents well. And the Commonwealth survived and flourished with part-time legislators
I just finished reading Pennsylvania's original constitution. The first constitutional convention of the Commonwealth was presided over by Benjamin Franklin. It was adopted in 1779, and was the framework for the U.S. Constitution, not adopted until 1789 after the failure of the Articles of Confederation. Like the U.S Constitution, it was written for the good of all it’s citizens by visionaries, some of whom didn’t like each other very much.
After last year’s budgetary crisis, there have been calls to convene another constitutional convention to prevent further such events. This is a knee-jerk reaction to an anomaly. It was a perfect storm of diverse philosophies and political agendas that in the end, lead to a loss of revenue to municipalities, most unprepared for the consequences. This is a problem facing all states, especially in these tough economic times.
The real question is, who would the delegates to a new constitutional convention be? The small business owner from Waymart, the farmer in Orson, the fireman from Honesdale? Or will it be a room full of lawyers and academics? What provisions will be overturned by an activist court? What about unforeseen consequences.
Rather than a new constitution, one avenue is to adopt “initiative and referenda” which allows for a very limited number of ballot measures to be either adopted or rejected by the electorate. To date, 22 states have adopted “I&R”. This might be an avenue to explore, rather than re-writing the constitution to apply to “modern technology”. Or better yet, just pick up the phone or write an email. That’s modern technology at it’s best.