Is there enough Resolve to hold a Constitutional Convention in Pennsylvania?

Posted by By at 24 January, at 17 : 58 PM Print

Pennsylvania Representative Scott Conklin standing along with Rock The Capital’s Eric Epstein and Democracy Rising’s Tim Potts rekindled an all out “game on” effort for a Constitutional Convention.

Standing in the Capitol rotunda on Monday, the notion is certainly not lost on them that the last Constitutional Convention was held 44 years ago, and it was on the extreme side of limited. As Conklin underscored, to analyze the last thorough Con-Con one would go back to a time when Ulysses S. Grant occupied the White House and Queen Victoria sat on the preferred throne.

The measure Conklin (D-Centre) crafted with the help of Epstein and Potts aims to put the power firmly in the hands of the people, and let the majority decide what form it takes if it takes root through a referendum in November.

“What we are trying to do with this piece of legislation is put it in the hands of the people, not the politicians,” said Conklin. “It is time as legislators to allow the people to get involved one more time, to allow the people to have their government the way they want it.”

Talk of a Constitutional Convention has surfaced over, and over; urgent screams for reform reached fevor-pitch in the aftermath of the secretive, midnight, legislative pay grab, in 2005, and that talk went nowhere. So, will this time around be any different?

“The questions are very simple and very basic: If not here, where, if not now, when? The waiting is over, and the time to act is upon us,” said Epstein.

There is so much potential meat to throw on a constitutional platter, (lame-duck sessions, campaign finance reform, a ban on gifts and entertainment, per diem documentation, and more, much more), holding a convention should be as easy as throwing skewers on a bar-b-que, except its not. The incentive, well its not in the DNA of most legislators because it opens the door of so many other possibilities, such as reducing the size of the legislature and relegating it to a cadre of part-timers, it could also lift the curtains on a host of extremely controversial issues, such as same-sex marriage.

“I think a Con-Con would be an awful idea. And I don’t believe that there is any chance of it actually passing because most legislators believe that such a convention would likely be the effective end of the legislature, which would leave PA in the Hands of an all-powerful Governor and lobbyists,” said Senator Daylin Leach(D-17).

“If we ran by fear we would never get anything done,” said Conklin. “Why are we afraid to trust in the people, why is everybody so afraid to trust in the people of Pennsylvania.”

“There is nothing more important in the realm of public integrity in 2011 than to have a referendum in November, where citizens can debate for themselves whether they want to have a constitutional convention,” said Potts.

If voters are given a chance to vote on and approve Conklin’s measure, Pennsylvania’s Department of State would put a contract out for bid to manage it and oversee the random selection of delegates, who would then forge the agenda.

“Once this is authorized for the ballot, you will see an incredible debate of people saying we want you to look at the structure and function of government, we don’t want you to look at Article 1, the declaration of life, and that makes an awful lot of sense to an awful lot of people,” said Potts.

So much sense that Governor Tom Corbett indicated he’d back a limited Constitutional Convention, Corbett disclosed that and more when he answered questions about his integrity during the campaign.(The questions were framed by Rock The Capital and Democracy Rising.)

The cost of a Constitutional Convention could run as much as $20 million, Conklin says the money to pay for it could come from the caucuses.

(If you are supportive of a Con-Con you can do something about that feeling right now, click on Rock The Capital and sign the petition.)

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Eric is a national award winning storyteller. Eric’s work is credited with changing laws, saving lives, and in one instance, saving taxpayers about $2,000,000.00. Mr. Zager’s career in journalism is ripped from the pages of an adventure novel. Upon graduating from the esteemed Newhouse School of Public Communications, he headed north, about as far as one can travel and still stand in the Continental U.S. The call of journalism not a penchant to play with Polar Bears brought Zager to the ‘Last Frontier-Juneau, Alaska. Over the course of Zager’s more than 20 years in journalism, he has covered the political side of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, dodged horse manure on the backside of Churchill Downs, and has uncovered numerous scams and scam artists. Eric is constantly in search of a meaningful story to tell. - Email Eric Zager

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