The Danger Of Constitutional Conventionsby Doug Mataconis
The Massachusettes legislature is currently holding a Constitutional Convention for the ostensible purpose of drafting and approving a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage which would then be voted on by the voters. That’s not all that’s on the agenda, though. Here’s a look at a few other things they’ll be considering:
HEALTH CARE — The amendment would require Massachusetts to guarantee every resident access to affordable health care, including mental health care and prescription drugs.
LEGISLATIVE TERMS (1) — The amendment would increase the legislative term from two to four years.
ABSENTEE VOTING (2) — The proposal would eliminate constitutional restrictions on absentee voting, allowing any qualified voter to vote for any officer or question by absentee ballot.
EMINENT DOMAIN — The proposed amendment would prohibit eminent domain takings for the purpose of economic development.
There are other items, most of them technical in nature, and at least one of them, the eminent domain amendment a good idea, but that’s not the point. The Convention was called for one purpose — to vote on a same-sex marriage amendment — and has been expended to include much, much more.
It reminds me of the calls that have come forth at various times for a Constitutional Convention on the national level to pass a proposed amendment that can’t get through Congress. Its been proposed for the ERA, a federal budget amendment, a term limits amendment, a line-item veto amendment, and, most recently an amendment to ban flag burning. The Massachusettes lesson shows, though, that there is no such thing as a Constitutional Convention that is limited to only one purpose. Once such a convention is called and convenes, everything is on the table. In fact, history will note that the Convention of 1787 which resulted in the U.S. Constitution was, in fact, initiated as a convention to amend the Articles of Confederation. Little to the Continental Congress know that it would be amended out of existence.
America was fortunate in 1787 in that we had men like Madison, and Hamilton, and Washington, and Franklin who produced a document that, to this day stands as the blueprint for the best system of government yet devised. I shudder to think what would happen if a Convention were called and populated by the likes of Schumer, Pelosi, Frist, Reid, Specter, and Kennedy.