The Constitution Shouldn't Be Messed With
By Les Gara
October 30, 2012
Ballot Measure 1 shows up every 10 years to ask if you want a “Constitutional Convention” to re-write our State Constitution. This week I had dinner with a state Founding Father, Vic Fischer, who helped write the constitution. He and his Convention peer, Republican Jack Coghill, think letting people into the Constitution to push their pet peeves is a bad idea, especially in times when extremists on either side have pet peeves they want in the Constitution. The Constitution should be a regal document, not one with extremist ideas in it.
While there may be good ideas out there, once you open up the Constitution, you risk that the crazy ideas will win. And there’s a real chance of that.
Why? Well, Delegates will have to run to be elected. In this world of corporate money in elections, you could very easily see the oil companies spending to get their folks in to put an artificially low oil tax into the Constitution, or other things that harm the public in favor of their special interests. Every special interest will come out of the woodworks in this era of big campaign money. That’s different than when a group of well-meaning Democrats and Republicans, with no special interest money behind them, sat down to work on our Constitution as we were becoming a state a half century ago. One day you should sit down and read their reasoned debate. It’s in the library and online.
There are great provisions in our Constitution now. First, unlike the Federal system, Governors don’t get to pick their favorite biased ideologue for judicial appointments. Instead candidates are vetted based on merit, and only the highest qualified candidates are sent to the Governor, usually keeping the Governor from picking a party favorite who’d issue biased decisions.
We have a stronger free speech clause than the Federal Constitution, and stronger due process and equal protection clauses. We have a right to privacy in our Constitution, and a requirement that our oil and other natural resources be used “for the maximum benefit” of the public – a provision that doesn’t let Government sell us out on oil policy, or at least makes it harder. These are provisions that aren’t in the U.S. Constitution, and give us greater rights than citizens in other states.
The writers of our constitution had the benefit of 48 other constitutions to look at, and took the best provisions from them. And we have the right to amend our constitution with ballot measures on one specific issue at a time, which you get to vote on. That’s the way to amend the Constitution. But opening up the whole document to risk a radical re-write isn’t the way to go.
About: Les Gara (Democrat) is a member of the Alaska House representing House District 23, Anchorage.
Received October 30, 2012 - Published October 30, 2012
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