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Yes: Voters Should Get Crack At Serious Reform Issues That Aren't Being Addressed

CLYDE D. MCKEE JR.

October 19, 2008

We the people as registered voters in Connecticut should vote in favor of holding a state constitutional convention.

Article Thirteen of our state constitution titled "Of Constitutional Conventions" presents the question we should approve: "Shall there be a constitutional convention to amend or revise the constitution of the state?"

Why should we vote in favor of amending our present constitution on Nov. 4? Here are a few supporting arguments.

One of the central issues facing our nation is: How should our present political system be changed? Our state constitution requires us to ask this question regarding our state political system only once every 20 years. If not now, we will have to wait another 20 years.

Many other states are trying to cut taxpayer costs and improve efficiency and effectiveness by making radical changes in the structures and procedures of their state and local governments. For example, Michigan is considering abandoning its two legislative chambers, adopting a unicameral legislature, and reducing the number of state legislators and their personal staff.

Other states are considering reducing the number of state legislators and using the cut in expenses to fund full-time legislators in place of current part-time citizen legislators. Because our General Assembly now uses a joint-committee system, consolidation of our House and Senate would be relatively easy.

Following our examples of abolishing the old corrupt and inefficient county system and sheriff system for law enforcement, we should consider modernizing our probate court system. Recent efforts to achieve this objective by internal and legislative action have failed. Delegates to a constitutional convention could propose a reduction in the number of probate courts, require that all probate judges be professionally certified, and be appointed rather than elected.

Citizens now facing whimsical decisions by untrained probate judges would be better served and our taxes could be reduced.

Voter participation percentages in our state and local elections are relatively low compared with the percentages of voter turnout in other New England states. Some items of major importance at our local levels fail in local referendums not for lack of majority support but for lack of required voter participation.

Voter turnout could be increased by our adoption of Election Day registration to replace the present complicated voter registration requirements. Efforts to modernize voter registration procedures by action of our General Assembly have failed. A constitutional convention could recommend this reform.

Who should be authorized to use our courts to adjudicate their grievances?

Only registered voters? All citizens of Connecticut? All residents of Connecticut, including undocumented immigrants?

The mayors of New Haven and Danbury have adopted contrasting policies for dealing with undocumented immigrants. Since our national government has not been able to approve a national policy for undocumented immigrants, the delegates to a constitutional convention should consider this problem for its agenda.

Since the abolition of county government in 1960, there have been no metropolitan governments or regional governmental authorities to conduct comprehensive economic development. Regional planning agencies can make recommendations but have little implementing authority. The result is cutthroat local competition to improve local taxable grant lists.

Land-poor communities with significant tax-exempt institutions such as churches, schools and shelters for their poor are seriously handicapped when trying to provide quality education for their students. Delegates at a constitutional convention could use the seven proposals recommended by the Capital Region Planning Agency in 1967 to fill the vacuum left by the abolition of county government and the proposals of the American City Corporation in 1972 to create modernized local communities modeled after the planned community in Columbia, Md., which was recently selected as the sixth-best community in the United States.

These are just a few of the agenda items for a constitutional convention. Local chief executives, members of city councils, candidates for election to the General Assembly, teachers and professors should support a vote for a constitutional convention and propose additional agenda items.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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