We have a chance to change the direction of state government. At Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP) we believe that the Commonwealth can be the economic success story of the twenty-first century. However, government needs to get out of the way. Representative Stephen Bloom and Senator John Eichelberger recently announced legislation that would enable a limited constitutional convention. Our goal is to raise $100,000 to defray the cost to taxpayers.
One of the primary reasons everyday people have become disinterested in the political process is that they believe they are powerless to change a broken system. We see stories highlighting the corruption of elected officials at every level of government. Too many people have just given up. Taxpayers have adopted an attitude of terminal apathy towards a government that is supposed to serve them. History shows us that government is most responsive when the citizens take an active role in the process. This convention would be a tremendous opportunity for people to reshape our government and revitalize our Commonwealth. CAP will work to make sure that the convention is a citizen-driven civic initiative. The legislation calling for the convention makes this a little easier because members of the General Assembly, Congress, and statewide elected officials are barred from running to become delegates.
A recent article from Jan Murphy at the Harrisburg Patriot News explains the mechanics of the convention fairly well:
The way a constitutional convention would work is the legislation, if enacted, would give voters the opportunity to decide whether a convention should be called and would limit the convention delegates to dealing only with specific sections in Articles II through V of the constitution. Those sections cover the Legislature, legislation, executive branch, and judiciary.
If approved by voters, a commission would be formed to lay the groundwork for a convention, which is estimated to carry a cost of $200,000. An election of delegates would occur at the same time as the next primary election.
One hundred and fifty delegates, who would not run affiliated with a political party, would be elected to serve – three from each senatorial district. State lawmakers would be prohibited from serving as a delegate. The position of delegate is unpaid although their expenses and travel costs would be covered.
Joining them at the convention would be 12 House and Senate officers and the lieutenant governor who serve in an ex-officio capacity.
The legislation specifies that the convention would meet for a period of four months, July 1 of the year the delegates are elected through Nov. 1, to craft proposed amendments to the constitution. The delegates’ recommended amendments would then be subject to ratification by voters.
Eichelberger said he has heard concerns about a constitutional convention taking on issues that would infringe on the individual rights granted in the state constitution but he said the legislation would have safeguards built into it to prevent that from occurring.
“People would be removed from their position as delegates if they stray from the sections that are listed in the resolution and passed by the public,” he said.
A limited constitutional convention would give citizens of the Commonwealth a unique opportunity to fix a dysfunctional system. It’s time for Pennsylvania’s citizens to step forward and lay the groundwork for a better future.