At the PA Leadership Conference, my former colleague, and now Executive Director of the Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, Joe Sterns touted the need for a state Constitutional Convention.
In a recent editorial in the Post-Gazette, PA constitutional scholar Bruce Ledewitz urges caution regarding a state Con Con. Ledewitz raises some questions to which there are no answers – e.g. if the courts won't enforce clear Constitutional language now, why will they do so in the futures – but others concerns to which I will respond.
First, he stokes fears that our Declaration of Rights would be altered
Though most people assume that such convention action could be prohibited, no one knows that for sure.
Ledewitz identifies a number of reforms that might be discussed at a convention – Initiative and Referendum, merit selection of judges, term limits, super majorities for tax increases, and the size of legislature. He overlooks a whole slew of others, including redistricting reform, a part-time legislature, a marriage amendment, Tort Reform, and spending limits.
He dismisses I&R as a good reform, because of California – but as I've pointed out before, 24 states have I&R, and it works well in 23 of the 24. He also dismisses some of those reforms because “we have not really discussed them [Term Limits] at the state level” or “voters have not indicated a desire to make that change [merit selection of judges”.
But how could they – merit selection has never been placed on the ballot, and term limits proposals are killed (by legislators whose terms would be limited) in committee without any opportunity for discussion.
That indeed is the reason to have a state Constitutional Convention. Give voters the opportunity to call a convention. Give elected delegates the opportunity to debate and vote on these proposals (current proposal would require two-thirds of delegates to approve). And then give voters the opportunity once again to vote on the new Pennsylvania Constitution.
Is that really so dangerous?