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On the Ballot in November

by | Jun 26, 2008 7:48pm
() Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2008

For the first time since 1986 residents in Connecticut will be asked: “Shall there be a constitutional convention to amend or revise the Constitution of the State?”

Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz said Wednesday morning that Article 13 of the state Constitution requires the question to appear on the ballot every 20 years. She said in 1986, the last time the question was on the ballot, it failed.

But this year there are a number of groups that want voters to approve the question so it can recommend changes to the state constitution. The group advocating for the state to open the constitution wants to give citizens an opportunity to petition an issue, such as a property tax cap or a ban on eminent domain, onto the ballot.

The Federation of Connecticut Taxpayer Organizations has been working on this issue since 2006, when it believed that a Constitutional Convention should have been held. It was the organization’s hope at that time that the outrage homeowners felt over the New London eminent domain case would galvanize voters to approve a convention and make statewide initiative and referendum a reality.

Bysiewicz said Wednesday that the constitutional convention question wasn’t asked in 2006 because of the arcane language in section 2 of Article 13. Click here to read the state Constitution.

“As we debate the issue in 2008 of whether a Constitutional Convention would be right for Connecticut, we need to reflect on the limitations which taxpayers and voters now have to effectuate change in our State government,” Susan Kneip, president of the Federation of Connecticut Taxpayers, wrote in a June 17 email.

Since 1965, the General Assembly has changed the state constitution 30 times.

Proponents of opening the constitution contend that it’s now time for the general public to have their say on public policy. Opponents of ballot initiatives argue it undermines the power of elected-officials, who are elected by the people to govern and create public policy. 

In a press release sent out Thursday afternoon, Bysiewicz said, “As chief elections official for the state of Connecticut, it is my duty to inform voters that this question will appear on the ballot, however, in my opinion, a convention to amend our state Constitution is not necessary.  I support our constitution as written.  Any amendments or revisions can be made by the people’s representatives in the General Assembly and then approved by a majority of voters.”

Bysiewicz said the constitutional convention process is a two-step process. First, the convention will be called only if the question is approved by a majority of the voters and its membership and duration are approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses of the General Assembly.  Second, any amendment or revision to the Connecticut Constitution approved by the convention would then need to be ratified by a majority of Connecticut voters in the following general election.

There are 27 other states that allow citizens to initiate a ballot referendum.

The last Constitutional Convention in Connecticut took place in 1965, and was called to correct a deeply flawed system of apportioning representatives to the General Assembly which gave large cities such as New Haven and Bridgeport roughly the same number of house seats as small towns such as Union and Beacon Falls. 

The question about the Constitutional Convention will appear after the names of the candidates running for various offices, but ballot placement may vary from town to town. The second constitutional question on the ballot this November will be about giving 17 year olds that will be 18 years old before the general election the right to vote in primaries.

“I urge all voters to vote yes on the constitutional question before us this fall which would allow 17 year-olds in Connecticut to vote in primaries if they will turn 18 by the general election.  This was overwhelmingly approved by the General Assembly and will significantly expand voting rights in our state,” said Bysiewicz.

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(8) Archived Comments

posted by: Evan Ravitz | June 27, 2008  3:46pm

Connecticut should IMPROVE on the ballot initiative process other states use. Voters on initiatives need what legislators get: public hearings, expert testimony, amendments, reports, etc. The best project for such deliberative process is the National Initiative for Democracy, led by former Sen. Mike Gravel: http://Vote.org. Also http://healthydemocracyoregon.org/ and http://cirwa.org

posted by: Mike from Norwich | June 27, 2008  4:53pm

Well this is about time

In the 21st century, it is time for the voters to demand that they have the options of Recall, Initiative, and Referendum.  Most other states have these options.  I must stress that we need to have these options available but not so easy as to allow big business and special interests to easily dictate policy.  Recall for example, most states have a signature requirement that must be met within 90 days.  That is not a burden if you have a governor that most people want to get rid of, Rowland comes to mind.  In addition, it is not an undue burden to have these tools available to the people.

Secondly,  Lets have radical change.  Let’s reform the Legislative body to have real representation.  Get rid of the old geographic representation lines.  Let’s save money and have a Unicameral legislature voted on by proportional representation.  Any party that gets 6% of the vote should get a seat in the chamber, thus a voice at the table.

Third,  Let’s start electing our judges??? Hold them accountable for the decisions they make.

I am looking forward to responses on this, but I seriously doubt that the average voter will pay attention to this.  Oh, How I would love to eat these words.

posted by: Richard Giordano | June 28, 2008  8:11pm

Please support a Yes Vote for the Constitution Convention, but in order to get Voter Initiative Referrendum out of the Convention I would recommend joining the Campaign by signing on to www.ctconcon.com.

posted by: Thomas Dolby | June 29, 2008  4:18pm

Connecticut lacks an effective grand jury system. The only way insiders can’t fix the system to prevent job loss and prosecution is not to have a grand jury system that will address the public corruption problem in Connecticut.

Remember this come November and let your elected officials know your thoughts by mail, email, and by phone.

Don’t give up. Be heard.

posted by: John DiBiase Jr. | June 30, 2008  9:33am

Please support a Yes vote for
the Constitutional Convention.
Our Judiciary and other state entities seem to have trouble abiding by our current Constitution.

posted by: Richard Giordano | July 1, 2008  12:46pm

Mike,

There is substantial interest from all sides of the political spectrum in getting a ballot initiative mechanism out of a Constitution Convention.  This will allow issues like yours to get on a ballot.  At present there is none and plenty of voters want CHANGE.  Ballot Initiatives have proven to bring increased citizen involvement.  Campaign finance reform where thirty(30) million of our tax dollars will be spent on CT State Elections this year have actually yielded 20% MORE UNCONTESTED seats than last election.  Clearly our form of representative government needs HELP.  Go to www.ctconcon.com to petition for CHANGE.  Make sure everyone votes YES on the question for having a Constitution Convention.

posted by: Chris Kennedy | July 2, 2008  6:17am

YES! We need drastic changes to the judiciary to stop the corruption and hold judges accountable.  Our legislators don’t seem to have our best interest in mind when they reappoint judges they know are corrupt. A grand jury system is also a great idea.
Chris Kennedy
CT Civil Rights Council

posted by: Francis Knize | July 11, 2008  8:08pm

Dear fellow citizens of what Conn. Please let me help explain why we need a constitutional convention.  For two years I submitted a bill to the Judiciary Committee at the House of Representatives in Connecticut.  Now it just so happens lawyers inhabit all three branches of government; the legislature, the executive, and the judicial branch. In a way , this represents a conflict of interest according to the dictas of the Constitution and is more likely than not repugnant to the Constitution and an illegal form of control from a nobility.

The Bill sought to do something possitive with much-needed oversight mechanisms - implanting of an Inspector General for the Judiciary with Grand Jury Powers: judges who are hired to enforce the law should not so readily break or deny the law. This bill would put judgfes on notice to follow the law, and not ignore briefs that clearly state what laws are being broken. I speak from experience.

But Representatives Lawlor and Senjator McDonald did everything they could to quash the bill, even though it was Sponsored by Rep. Art O’Neil.

Why they did this is obvious: for their own partison interest to protect the lawyer/judge absolute control the judiciary exercizes for itself.

Now, you must also remember we are a nation of people who form a government of, for, and by ourselves and there should be no government without the consent of We Are The People. But our judges are judging the judges, and it is rare a judge is held accountable for lawlessness.

I think it would be a good idea if the people were to have powers for a ballot initiative to finally, at long last BALANCE the scales against the undo weight and influence of lawyer control of our government. One solution is to NOT vote for lawyers. But the fact that a Constutional Convention will give us people power back to get those lawyer chairs of the Judiary Committee (Lawlor and McDonald) to back off from taking away what the public wants: accounability and tyransparency.