Quietly, there is movement among the states to call a Constitutional Convention, the first since the founding.
1. A balanced budget amendment.
2. Term limits for Congress and perhaps the Supreme Court.
3. Limits on campaign contributions, turning back the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United.
Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia professor, wrote a book on the subject, “A More Perfect Constitution.”
“More than at any other time in our history, progress can be generated from the bottom up, not just the top down,” Sabato wrote.
The time is now for a people’s convention because Congress is held in such low esteem by the populace.
Sabato suggests that volatile issues like gay rights or abortion should not be included because they never would gain enough support to pass.
Among his proposals include a single term of 15 years for all federal judges.
He would mandate nonpartisan redistricting for all House elections.
He would have a balanced budget amendment with escape clauses for emergencies.
In fact, there could be a requirement for national Constitutional conventions every so many years as Florida and other states do – perhaps every 20 years or every 50 years.
Sabato proposes using the Internet as a first step to gaining popular support for amending the Constitution.
Two-thirds of the states, or 34, would have to request a national assembly to draft amendments. Any amendments would subsequently have to be ratified by at least 38 states to go into effect.
Republicans control the legislatures in 30 states, so it the GOP could not do this alone.
Opponents of a citizen-led convention say it could be a “runaway convention.”
If so, then it stands to reason there wouldn’t be enough support to gain approval from 38 states.
And various states such as Florida hold Constitutional Conventions without resulting in dramatic negative consequences.
Another reason for opposition is that the original Constitution is somehow sacred and should not be changed.
That also flies in the face of history since it took 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights, to gain approval of the Constitution. And the Constitution itself was the nation’s second stab at a national document. The Articles of Confederation didn’t work out.
Even if an unwise Constitutional Amendment were passed, we also have history to show us that a mistake can be corrected; the 18th Amendment (prohibition) was followed by the 21st Amendment that repealed prohibition.
In any case, we asked members or our Email Interactive Group for their reactions.
There were strong feelings on both sides of the issue.IMPLEMENT FAIRTAX
A Constitutional Convention would be an excellent idea if debate were limited to the following three issues:
1. The repeal and replacement of the 16th Amendment with the FairTax.
2. The repeal of the 17th Amendment with the election of senators returning to the state legislatures.
3. A balanced budget amendment to be phased in over five years using a 1 percent decrease in federal spending each year to reach this balance with a provision only allowing deficit spending in time of war.
Bruce Fouraker, JacksonvilleAVOID DIVISIVE ISSUES
Issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage should be off the table. We see in Florida that term limits do little to control lobbyists. In fact they contribute to lobbyists’ strength with the lack of knowledge in the Legislature. I agree with term limits on the Supreme Court because having people who serve without limits doesn’t help the country move forward.
Craig Seabrooks, JacksonvilleBUDGET IS CRUCIAL
A balanced budget amendment is not only necessary, but critical, to avoid becoming another Greece.
Greece offered great benefits to government employees, massive taxation and wonderful gifts of money to its population in forms of income benefits that were unsustainable.
America is on the same track. A Constitutional Convention is not only a great idea, but a very important necessity.
Don Spencer, JacksonvilleLIMIT THE ISSUES
The idea of a Constitutional Convention could produce undesired results. Yes, there is a need to include term limits and age limits ( Strom Thurmond) for Congress and the courts! However the issues addressed in the convention should be limited in scope.
David Williams, JacksonvilleWHERE WOULD IT END?
I think the Constitution should be left alone. Once they start it will be never-ending.
J. M. Dailey, JacksonvilleDON’T TAMPER
The Constitution has worked for 300 years and to amend it would be like altering the Bible.
The issues can be settled through public participation and through voting.
Raghav Bhatnagar, Jacksonville REFORM ELECTIONS
Many voters feel disenfranchised by the political process. Meaningful change can only be achieved by changing the system.
To be fair, large donors would lose some of their power to control legislation favorable to them. Expect billions of dollars to be expended to combat amending the Constitution. Placing real power in the hands of the people would bring a new type of person running for office.
Coupling amendment change with government financing of elections, allowing no outside funding, would offer citizens a legitimate opportunity to directly influence decisions affecting their lives.
Harry Lang, Jacksonville