Tara Martinez: We Need to Protect U.S. Constitution

Charleston Gazette - An effort to alter the U.S. Constitution through a constitutional convention being considered by the West Virginia Legislature could bring about unintended, damaging consequences. Read

That’s why many scholars, economists, lawmakers, policy experts — and leading conservative organizations — rightly oppose such a move.

A constitutional convention could unravel our nation’s fundamental rights and freedoms. Special interests and those with designs to limit freedom, including the 2nd Amendment, have their sights set on such a convention. Conceived by our Founding Fathers, the Constitution is a living document that has withstood the test of time — through wars, economic tumult, and social pressures.

Supreme Court Justices and prominent legal scholars — on both sides of the aisle — agree there is no way to effectively limit the issues a constitutional convention could consider once it’s called.

The Constitution itself provides no basis for concluding that a convention could be limited to issues specified in resolutions like the ones before our Legislature (like campaign finance and balanced budget requirement, for example) — and that means the Bill of Rights could be rewritten.

Republican State Sen. Richard H. Black put it well during debate in that state: “The odds of winning the game are pretty good, but the consequences of being wrong are profound. It is remarkable that people who claim to be so dedicated to the Constitution are willing to roll the dice and create a totally unknown form of government and basically do away with the Constitution.”

There are five measures before the West Virginia Legislature that would call upon Congress to hold a constitutional convention. These resolutions and bills range from a call to overturn Citizens United to creating a Compact of States for a Balanced Budget. While none of these pieces of legislation has yet been considered by either the full House or Senate, the House Judiciary Committee has created a subcommittee to review bills on the House side and select one to move through the legislative process.

Any version of this legislation offers limited or no guidance for opening up our country’s constitution. There is a lack of guidance and a blatant lack of consideration as to the protection of citizens’ rights in calling a convention.

And, the environment these lawmakers are in is vastly different from the one in which the first convention was held in 1787. Our Founding Fathers were able to have intensive deliberation during the drafting of our Constitution. Today, every special interest group and ideological donor could attempt to influence the outcome of a constitutional convention. The media would be intensely focused on the debate, and the country could be thrown into great turmoil, and likely find itself quickly mired in momentous, lengthy legal and political battles of great consequence to the nation’s future.

As well-intentioned as it may seem, West Virginia’s lawmakers need to resist opening up the convention process and creating an unprecedented government and political crisis while not solving the problems they wish to address.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

© 2018 West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy