Anyone Down For a Constitutional Convention?
What is in a constitution?
There are a lot of issues in Alaska that really do not ever seem to go anywhere. Fifteen hours a week, I hear a lot of talk about doing something with issues such as school choice, moving the capital, and reforming the selection process of the Alaska Supreme Court, but over the past decade has any substantive progress been made on any of these issues? The sad answer is no.
The roadblock for all of these issues and many, many more is the same. The Alaska State Constitution. It stands there like the monolith in 2001, blocking any movement. The bar is high to change the State Constitution (two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature and majority approval of the voters). A two-thirds vote in the legislature is a pretty high hurdle, and minority special interests have stationed themselves at key points in the legislative process to stop good legislation in its tracks.
There is good news!
During the general election this November, voters will see a funny little question at the end of their ballots. It asks if Alaska should hold a constitutional convention. More good news -- this referendum only needs a simple majority vote to pass. If it does pass, the Lt. Governor’s office would immediately begin the process of setting up an election of delegates.
Yes, it is that easy. We would not need studies, and there would be no intolerable legislative hearings. It would just happen.
Why? Because the framers of the State Constitution did at least one thing right. They included a clause to mandate such a check-in with the electorate at least once every ten years. This is year 10 in the cycle.
Think what an opportunity this could be for Alaskans. A simple majority could reopen every single element of the Constitution.
Here is just a quick list of issues that could be addressed:
• Location of the capital
• Length of legislative session (90 vs. 120 days)
• Death penalty
• Right to work
• Game management preference
• Mandating a balanced budget
• How Alaska Supreme Court judges are selected
• Same sex marriage
• Project labor agreements
• School choice
• Election vs appointment of the Attorney General
And that is just a quick list. I’m sure you could add more.
This is a real opportunity to do big things. Are there risks? Sure there are. Unions, environmentalists, and the 99%ers could try to sneak some lefty thing in there. That is a real risk.
I choose to trust Alaskans. I think if the citizens saw a big chance to address big issues they would rise to the occasion. They would engage the political process in a way we have not seen in a long time. No far left or far right clauses would make it through. These 55 delegates would take their responsibility seriously and craft reasonable clauses.
Regardless of what comes out of the whole thing, I think the people of Alaska would benefit from a robust discussion of a full slate of issues.
Right now people look at the legislature and just moan. They know the body is both hamstrung by entrenchment and bumpered by outdated clauses in our State Constitution. The people of Alaska do not get involved because they know nothing will happen. This would be different. For better or worse, something would get done.
Nobody is talking about this ballot referendum. They should be.