Another legislative session,
another constitutional amendment
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 4:19 AM
Politicians aren't necessarily illogical, but their arguments can lead to interesting directions if you take them to their logical conclusion. I stretched their logic in this column last year when more than 20 proposals were being floated for constitutional amendments, which require questions be put on the ballot.
It turned out the only one proposal that made it to the ballot was the marriage amendment, which voters will decide on this fall. Legislators that supported this constitutional amendment argued that this issue was so important that the people should be able to decide on their own.
For a few people, the definition of marriage is a key issue, but I bet most people were more concerned about the loss of the market value homestead credit and other issues that affect their pocketbooks as well as the lack of a budget agreement that resulted in a state shutdown.
Really, in one way or another, all issues decided in St. Paul are important to us, even if some are more important to certain groups than others.
My conclusion at the time was that if legislators didn't feel qualified to decide this issue and these same legislators want to turn their decision-making over to the voters directly, why not give voters more of a voice while aiding the budget deficit at the same time?
My idea was to abolish the Legislature and turn all decisions over directly to the voters by ballot. The state would save more than $6 million in salaries alone plus all the support costs and other expenses. Legislators wouldn't have to deal with these sticky questions and voters would get to give their input on all the issues that affect them.
OK, so I wasn't really serious, but it does seem to me their reasoning leads to this conclusion if you take it all the way. It appears it wasn't taken seriously by anyone else because this session legislators have a new influx of proposals for constitutional amendments.
The one that has gained the most traction so far is a constitutional amendment to require citizens to show a photo identification in order to vote. The proposal has already gained approval by a Senate committee, but still has a ways to go before legislators vote on it.
Now, I could use the same argument as last time about abolishing the Legislature since Sen. Warren Limer, R-Maple Grove, stated in a panel hearing that this is one of those issues that is better left to the public to decide, "rather than think we're so elite that we can do all of their thinking and rationalizing on our own for them."
However, I decided to follow the logic for why this issue is so important in a different way, leading to the conclusion that all legislators supporting it should step down from office.
See, many people wonder why we need to overhaul our election process, which has a reputation for being one of the best in the country, and, more importantly, why it is so important that it needs to go into our state Constitution. Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, explains that he proposed the Senate bill because voter fraud is such a problem in Minnesota.
So, if voter fraud is compromising the election process in Minnesota, the logical conclusion is that our elected officials are tainted. Therefore, my conclusion is that all these legislators supporting this bill under the belief that our voting system is rife with fraud should step down. Their status is not legitimate.
OK, so I'm not serious once again. Still, I think I have a serious message - that our legislators should stop using the constitutional amendment process for partisan issues merely to get around vetoes by the governor. If they do have serious issues for our ballots, make them bipartisan proposals to real problems our state is facing. Our Constitution deserves that kind of respect.
We really don't want to see our political leaders govern by amendment. Instead, we would like to see real leadership in solving the very serious problems facing Minnesota.