A Constitutional Convention is a Bad Idea for Our Community
Bishop John Selders, Jr., Pastor, Amistad UCC-Hartford
October 29, 2008
There has started to be a lot of discussion in recent weeks about a critical question that voters will find on their ballots on Election Day. Ballot question #1 asks: “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention to amend or revise the Constitution of the State?”
My answer is a resounding NO.
And I am in good company. State Treasurer Denise Nappier, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, State Comptroller Nancy Wyman, and Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz all oppose a Constitutional Convention. The NAACP opposes it too.
The supporters of ballot Question #1 say that by voting yes, CT residents will be gaining a direct voice in the process. In fact, this is not actually the case. It is the state legislature—the very group that supporters of a Constitutional Convention rail against—who will chose the Convention delegates. And it is the delegates, not “the people”, who decide what happens in the Convention or if anything happens at all.
I have serious concerns about the process and outcomes of a Constitutional Convention. Not only will average citizens have no say in the selection of delegates for the convention, but Convention delegates can propose any changes to our constitution that they desire, without limits.
Supporters of Question #1 want to add Initiative and Referendum to our state Constitution. They say this process will give the people a voice. In truth, however, it will give the majority the opportunity to change laws that affect the minority. The issue of marriage for same-gender loving couples is an issue that has been highlighted since the recent Supreme Court decision. But whatever you think of the marriage equality ruling, it is highly unlikely that it will ever be overturned through a Constitutional Convention because it is supported by a majority of state legislators (remember: they are the ones picking the convention delegates).
What is likely to happen is that powerful special interest groups will use the process, as they have in other states, to restructure tax laws in ways that drastically cut services to the ones who most need services. They will use it to get preferential tax breaks for big businesses, overturn environmental laws, and take away workers’ rights and benefits.
There is no need to risk these negative outcomes, particularly since a better option for reform exists. The state constitution has been amended more than thirty times since 1974— without holding a taxpayer-funded convention.
As a minister and pastor, serving in the United Church of Christ, I preach about God’s concern for the poor and Jesus’ ministry with the outcast. I stand against the exploitation of the most vulnerable in our society. For that reason, I will be joining many other clergy across the state on November 4th and voting NO. I urge you to do the same.
Reprinted with permission of the NorthEnd Agent's.
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