Episode Information

To Convene or Not To Convene?
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
Aired:
10/31/2008
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In this episode:

Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?  Voters to decide Nov. 4th.

 

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52:00 minutes (24.96 MB)
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A new poll by The University of Connecticut and the Hartford Courant shows that 50 percent of voters support a Convention to amend the state Constitution. This is Where We Live.  Every 20 years, Connecticut residents get a chance to vote on whether they'd like to convene a convention. It's seen as an opportunity by a wide range of groups, disappointed by government actions, and craving direct ballot questions in the state, and the poll seems to back this up.

But the vote is also being used by some interest groups with very specific agendas - on tax policy, abortion or gay marriage. Opponents say the Constitutional Convention really doesn't get any closer to direct initiative, because the process would still be largely controlled by the legislature - and they see it as a green light for special interests inciting a type of "mob-rule" mentality.

Today on Where We Live - Connecticut's Constituional Convention - and a look at direct initiatives in other states. We'd like you to join the conversation - are you voting yes or no?

Leave your thoughts below or email wherewelive@wnpr.org.


 
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Wrong Solution

I didn't get to hear the whole show this morning, but every "vote yes" voice I heard today complained of our "broken system." Well, even if one does agree that the legislature is unresponsive, "broken," or unsatisfactory in some way, Direct Ballot Initiative is NOT the solution. 

It seems to me the people who are unhappy with the legislature are pro-corporate Republicans who feel under-represented.  Bypassing the legislature is not the solution.

Someone on the "yes" side of this argument complained that the "no" side has support from unions and lobbyists and a lot of funding, and that the legislature also is subject to lobbying.  In other words, they complain that those with money  --whether it be lobbyists or contributors-- have undue influence.  But if California-style ballot initiatives come to Connecticut, it will be all about who has the money to back their initiative.  The best marketing wins, not the best legislation.  If introducing anti-human rights proposals masquerading as "values" issues are their goal, certainly the Direct Ballot Initiative is the weapon they'd want in their arsenal.  And this is why it must be stopped.

If you have a problem with the legislature, there are proper ways to work towards a solution.  Adding an "end-run" option for well-funded but not necessarily popular proposals is NOT the way.  Don't be fooled by the implication that Direct Ballot Initiative is somehow more like Direct Democracy than what we have now.  Is isn't.

Vote NO.

Amanda Vontobel

I’m absolutely voting NO on question 1. I do not want to lose the rights I just was given.
 
Are we not the Constitution State? We should not write discrimination into our state constitution.

 

comment from Kate Byroade

Vote "NO" for now, at least. I'd only be interested if there was a serious movement afoot to re-visit our truly antique "Home Rule" governance. I see referenda as a way for ill-considered ideas to be forced down everyone's throat.

email from Diane Dorfer

Good morning, quickly, based on what I currently understand, I'm going to vote no for the constitutional convention, but am interested in the potential of ballot initiatives. Yes, initiatives can limit civil liberties, but sometimes also enhance them. How, besides convention, could ballot initiatives be made possible? How has it happened in other states?

email from Pua Ford

As usual, another great discussion this morning.  I had decided to vote No on Question 1 already, but was curious to listen what other arguments were out there besides what we hear & see on the advertising.
 
Comment:  Any constitution should be difficult to amend, since it should only deal with basic government.  So, saying that CT has amended its Constitution relatively few times compared to other states and therefore should have ballot initiatives to make amendment easier is not a good argument.
 
When the whole process was first explained to me, I called up my sister, who's been living with ballot initiatives in California since 1985.  In sum, she said, "It's a pain in the butt, but basically I like it because it's an opinion poll that means something" (except when it doesn't, when a Bay Area initiative was overturned by the state Supreme Court). She also mentioned that it doesn't necessarily save taxes, since whatever is saved in the state budget is often made up in local budget initiatives.
 
Thinking "opinion poll" over, I wondered if such a process could be better modeled after the Deliberative Polls designed by Jim Fishkin and conducted by Cynthia Farrar of Yale in the New Haven area in recent years.  Thinking that over, should a randomly-selected pool of citizens being doing the job of the legislature?
 
 
Thanks for a good program.

email from Gordon Adams

 

This concern about the influence of special interests on a convention is a common concern around the country. It recently came up in Massachusetts. And doesn't the problem of special interests already exist in the legislature? If there is a convention and the "mob" (poor choice of words) participates, I expect them to off set special interests.

Finally, coming from Massachusetts, I miss the referendum process. It gives the local voter more say over local, that is town, politics and budgets. I plan to vote yes.