Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Do We Need a Constitutional Convention?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Do We Need a Constitutional Convention?

Article excerpt

Quietly, there is movement among the states to call a Constitutional Convention, the first since the founding.

Among the possible topics:

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.


A Constitutional Convention would be an excellent idea if debate were limited to the following three issues:

1. …

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