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Rep. Caruso Says ‘No’ To Constitutional Convention

by | Oct 24, 2008 9:01am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Election 2008, Election Policy

Christine Stuart photo

It’s unclear exactly how the misinformation got out there, but state Rep. Chris Caruso, a Bridgeport Democrat was happy to dispel rumors that he supports a constitutional convention.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Caruso said Thursday in a phone interview. He said he believes in initiative and referendum, but believes it should be approved through the legislative process, not a constitutional convention.

Somehow proponents of the constitutional convention concluded that because Caruso supported initiative and referendum he must support a constitutional convention. Wrong.

He said proponents even tried to invite him to one of their press conferences. Caruso was quick to decline.

Many who support a constitutional convention have complained that the legislature is unresponsive to their agenda and see the constitutional convention as an opportunity to reclaim their voice in the political process.

Caruso said the legislative process and amending the constitution is supposed to be hard.

Caruso knows better than most how difficult the legislative process can be having fought for public campaign financing for almost two decades before seeing it implemented for the first time this year.

“All a constitutional convention does is open the door for abuse by special interests and lobbyists,” Caruso said.

Connecticut’s legislature has never embraced direct initiative, referendum or recall, however, Caruso said in the mid-1990’s he introduced legislation that would allow for direct initiative. He said it didn’t make it very far through the process, “but that’s why there is a process.”

There’s two ways to amend the state constitution. One is through the legislative process and the other is through a constitutional convention—a question about whether the state should hold a convention appears on the ballot every 20 years.

Amendments to the constitution may be proposed by any member of the General Assembly. If the amendment is approved by ¾ of the General Assembly it will appear on the ballot for the November election in the next even number year. If a majority of the voters approve the amendment it becomes part of the constitution.

If the General Assembly approves an amendment by a simple majority it has to be approved again by the General Assembly in the following year before it appears on the ballot.

The latter is what happened with an amendment that could give 17-year-olds the right to vote in a presidential primary if they’ll be 18 years old prior to the November election. If voters approve this question this November, the constitution will be amended to allow 17-year-olds the right to vote in a primary.

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(6) Archived Comments

posted by: ctkeith | October 24, 2008  12:11pm

So as of today can we all agree,

1) Rep Coruso is anti-costitrutional convention.
2) ALL Major Left leaning groups in the State who have made their views known are against a constitutional convention.
3)The only Groups or organizations that have come out in favor of the constitutional Convention are very right wing and most of these groups have admitted they’re anti gay marriage and are having no success at all in getting people with their views elected to our legislature.

posted by: Doug | October 24, 2008  10:25pm

What exactly is a “major left leaning group” anyway? Is there a membership quota? And how many members of those groups took part in the decision to take a position on the convention?

I suppose the guy who is vice chair of the whole campaign, Democrat John Woodcock, doesn’t count, nor do any of his constituents. They’re not “groups” per se, and we’ve been over that semantic point already. But the original story said that Woodcock, a Democrat, is leading the campaign.

Your sincere belief that there is no one on the left who supports the convention seems like it’s based more on your effort to control and/or polarize the issue yourself, rather than data.

Do you really think this is a black and white issue, split directly down the middle between left and right? Unfortunately, that is statistically unlikely and I don’t really think you believe that. But you seem to want people to believe it.

Specific groups have agendas and generally are much further to the extremes on issues than the general electorate. There’s plenty of data to support that.

But let’s see how the vote goes. I’m not as personally as invested in either side of this as you are, but clearly there are groups paying to advertise against it, and those groups appear to represent the status quo here in CT. I’d be surprised to hear people say that the status quo is working, unless they’re a public employee or are otherwise benefiting from that status quo while the rest of the state is struggling. All this polarizing does nobody any good.

posted by: Derek | October 25, 2008  5:12pm

It would seem to me that because leftists are by association progressives, and because progressives are the ones who have pushed and struggled to use the legislative process to achieve a deserved equality regarding civil rights issues, like the legalization of gay marriage that so recently passed, that it is the right winged facets of parties or groups or the general electorate that would have any desire for a Constitutional Convention.
The issue may not be a black and white one, not too many are, but the “Major Leftist Groups” at play here are all groups protecting people’s civil liberties and equality.   
Teachers unions, health care unions, and equal rights groups alike realize that this thing isn’t really about giving the general public a voice—It’s really about allowing that voice to be quieted.

posted by: Doug | October 27, 2008  10:42am

In defense of Keith’s point, I noticed some signage this weekend while I was out and about… seems like “mccain-palin” signs are paired with “vote yes on the convention” signs. So that might give the impression that the two are linked. but i still think there are quite a few people on both sides that like the idea of the convention.

i heard a story today on NPR about a referendum in S. Dakota to ban abortion, and that folks are nervous it could cascade into a situation where roe v wade pops back up before the supreme court.

but then again, if s. dakota does that, what’s to say connecticut or california couldn’t put something on the ballot that would make abortion on demand the standard?

posted by: Doug | October 28, 2008  5:16pm

UConn is currently polling the state on this issue. Prof. Samuel Best says data should be released in 2 days. Asked if it would help differentiate the support for the convention between left and right, he answered affirmatively.

I also spoke with another moderate editorial writer who’s considered a lefty by the folks on the right, and he’s on the fence as well.

From the left’s point of view, it’s certainly risky to support a Constitutional Convention that may open up minority groups of all kinds to abuse all over again.

I wish I had a better understanding of the process. If a gay marriage ban were to somehow pass, I’m wondering if the state Supreme Court could declare it null based on the equal protection clause.

I’ll see what I can find out.

posted by: tom sulcer | November 3, 2008  2:00pm

I am calling for a Second Constitutional Convention to amend the nation’s Constitution, to meet in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, July 4th, 2009. I think the political process is broken, people are no longer citizens, the original Constitution has been redacted into a corrupted mess, foreign policy is a stategic muddle. I’m inviting 100+ of the nation’s best minds and thinkers since they’re the only entity left in the United States that has the mental skill to think through tough problems, realize there are grave problems, and fix them. They’re motivated to fix them well because they stand the most to lose if America goes down the tubes.

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