It’s Getting to Be Embarrassing

Member Group : Democracy Raising PA

It’s Getting To Be Embarrassing.

As Democracy Rising members forward lawmakers’ responses about whether they support a referendum on a Constitution convention, some of the responses are willfully ill-informed and even bizarre. Take this one from a lawmaker who can thank us later for not naming him:

"As soon as this governor and his administration are gone I would be in favor of it."

Since you are likely to hear this silliness from others, it’s worth pointing out what’s wrong with it. First, the referendum for a Constitution convention doesn’t occur until November, making it impossible for the current governor to be in office for the convention. Second, the legislature, not the governor, determines what is in the legislation that puts the referendum on the ballot.
If this is the lawmaker’s sole objection, his name should be on the petition . It’s not.

Then there is gubernatorial candidate and Rep. Sam Rohrer, R-Berks. After the poll showing that 72% of PA citizens want a Constitution convention, he was asked whether he believes there is a need for one. Rohrer said, in a conversation with Pennsylvania Legislative Services’ Jim Cox:
"I have been historically, and remain, opposed to a constitutional convention. I have good friends who believe if you structure it properly and call it a limited constitutional convention that you [could] open it up and go in and treat just a couple of areas. I have not been convinced of that. I have read much, I have studied much and I have talked to many constitutional authorities. I fear the opening of the Constitution to deal with any such issue. My sense has always been and remains that the problems that we are experiencing in state government are not the result of something in the Constitution that is a problem. The issue is those who are in government aren’t obeying what’s in the Constitution. I don’t think the solution is to change what’s there. I think the solution is to obey and follow what’s there."

In case you’re tempted to agree with Rohrer, click here to read a sampler of ideas for amending the Constitution. There are many problems with the Constitution that cannot be cured simply by following what’s already there. For example, there is no provision for how to call a convention and no provision for replacing a lieutenant governor who does not complete his or her term in office. It’s hard to obey something that doesn’t exist.

Many people want to debate whether to reduce the size of the legislature or return to a part-time legislature. Such things can’t happen merely by obeying the existing Constitution; they require changing it.

Whatever "constitutional authorities" he has consulted are simply wrong if they’re telling him that a convention cannot be limited. See the discussion in "The Citizen’s Guide to a Modern Constitutional Convention" starting on p. 53. In any event, it’s long past time to repair the conspicuous failures of government and reject the ambiguous and self-serving fears of public officials.
What’s most troubling – and this is not at all exclusive to Rohrer – is the attitude among most lawmakers that what they think, no matter how ill-informed they are, is more important than what 12.5 million other PA citizens think.

• Are these the sort of people who ought to be running our government?

The Good with the Bad. For the second session in a row, the state Senate has declared early in the year that it will not hold lame-duck session after November’s election. Click here for a story from the Harrisburg Patriot.
By making the announcement now, the Senate has put the House on notice that it will have to finish any business that requires Senate concurrence before the election. However, the same does not apply in reverse. Any legislation passed by the Senate can be passed by the House and sent to the governor after the election as long as it’s not amended.

As good as this news may be, which may not be all that good if the House and Senate cook a secret deal that doesn’t require Senate concurrence, it still fails to do what 82% of PA voters want. It does not amend the Constitution to prohibit lame-duck session, as many other states do. Neither the Senate nor the House has advanced legislation to accomplish a perfectly reasonable desire by an overwhelming majority of citizens.

Here again is an issue ripe for debate and recommendation at a Constitution convention. To date, no senators have signed the petition for a referendum this November.


• Which DR Fan will be the first to get his or her senator to sign the petition?
Why wait ’til May or November?

Vote for Integrity now and help DR work toward the Constitution convention we need.