Posted: 01/28/12 12:24
by Dave Mindeman
There is a reason we have representative democracy.
Republicans always talk with reverance about the Founding Fathers as if they are infallible and their words are gospel. Yet, the framers of the Constitution did not trust the voting ability of the general electorate. They refused to allow direct election of the President and it wasn't until 1913 that we started voting directly for our Senators.
Changes to the Federal Constitution were meant to be difficult. The laborious process that allows for an amendment virtually guarantees a broad consensus before it passes. And even then, mistakes can happen -- Prohibition to name one.
In Minnesota, the GOP legislature seems to be embarking on a dangerous path of legislation by Constitutional amendment. The mantra is "let the people decide".....but the reality is that the people have elected their legislators to gather the proper information and make those decisions for them.
Certainly there are matters of great import that require a consultation with the electorate, but those have generally been reserved for needed issues that absolutely require a Constitutional change. I don't contend that all of the past MN Constitutional amendments have met that criteria, but certainly most have been a case of necessity, not choice.
The current legislature, unwilling to find a consensus with a Governor of the opposite party, has decided to circumvent the normal path for the legislative process. An end around, if you will. Once in a great while this might seem prudent, but multiple issues are hard to fathom as necessary.
When Governor Pawlenty was our chief executive, the Democratic controlled legislature seldom accessed this method. They had far greater differences on policy than the current combatants seem to have, but the remedies were argued at the Captiol...not changing the Constitution.
The current GOP legislature has tossed aside the process they were elected to do. Issues that they refuse to settle via consultation and compromise with the Governor will be taken to the November ballot and left to the devices of the money interests.
Even the idea of these measures seem to lack even their own standards. The Marriage Discrimination Amendment has already been adjudicated in law. The state already has a DOMA law and this amendment can only carry that forward to the Constitution and force future generations to acquiesce to the current one.
The idea of Voter ID can be legislated. Bills have made it to the Governor's desk in both Pawlenty and Dayton administrations. Compromise would seem to be available, yet, this legislature refuses.
The 60% majority on tax bills is probably the only amendment that is worthy of Constitutional remedy, but where is the clamor in the electorate for this? Where is the legislative debate? Why should one side of an issue be allowed to take this course?
In an era of hyper-partisanship, this type of action is sure to make things worse. A legislature that is, in theory, focused on jobs, should make these cases in the legislative halls....not let the division spill into the streets.
The only amendment that we really need is a Constitutional change that requires 60% majorities to take things to a remedy by the general election ballot.