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As Long as We Remember...

October 13, 2010

Hold A Constitutional Convention?

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Unbeknownst to most Marylanders, this November 2 you have the chance of a lifetime. No, I’m not just referring to whether you wish to continue the public policies and governance of the Gov. Martin O’Malley or try a different approach with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.


Well, actually, you have several chances in your lifetime to vote for profound change in Maryland’s government… The next opportunity will occur in 2030.


I’m referring to Question 1 of three questions on the November 2 ballot, which gives you the opportunity to vote for Maryland to convene a constitutional convention, or a “ConCon,” as many hip pundits are referring to it.


Section 2 of Article 14 of the Maryland Constitution mandates that every 20 years a referendum is required to appear on the ballot for citizens to decide whether or not they wish to rewrite Maryland’s governing document.


In an Associated Press article that appeared in the Daily Record on February 3, “‘a convention has never been called under the 20-year cycle provision, which dates to 1851,’ said Dan Friedman, the attorney general’s designated counsel to the General Assembly and an expert on the issue.


“Conventions were held out of cycle in 1776, 1851, 1864, 1867, and 1967.”


Candidly, there appears to be little in the way of any momentum in the state to convene a ConCon. And that’s a good thing.


There are a few in the state who would like to see the Maryland Constitution rewritten; and to be sure, many of their reasons are sound.  The current Constitution dates back to 1867 and has not stood the test of time well.


My favorite example is Article XI-C OFF STREET PARKING. Yes, gentle reader, the Maryland Constitution has a section in it which deals, in detail, to matters of off street parking in Baltimore City.


Aaron C. Davis wrote in The Washington Post on July 5, “In the past 143 years, more than 200 amendments have been added to the Constitution, turning it into a mishmash of dead vestiges and small-bore regulatory issues and addressing few modern-day concerns. At 47,000 words, it's nearly eight times longer than the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.”


Meanwhile, The Baltimore Sun is opposed to the idea.


“In an ideal world,” The Baltimore Sun opined in a piece written by Andy Green, on October 8, “it would lead to a convention of independent, civic-minded individuals thinking deeply about how to make our state government more open, transparent and responsive.


“But we don’t live in an ideal world, and the chances of such an outcome are slim. The vested interests who hold so much sway over our current government would almost certainly do the same in a constitutional convention, and the whole exercise might well wind up as a lengthy failure.”


Now, if you have been reading along carefully, at this point, you should be asking: what happened in 1967 – a full 100 years after our current constitution was written?


I am so glad you asked. According to the Maryland State Archives, “By executive order on June 16, 1965, Gov. J. Millard Tawes created the Constitutional Convention Commission, chaired by H. Vernon Eney, to study the need for constitutional revision…


“Delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1967-1968 were elected by the voters on June 13, 1967. The convention convened in Annapolis on September 12, 1967, and adjourned on January 10, 1968.


“The proposed constitution was rejected by the voters May 14, 1968…”


Anyway, three weeks from now, according to current state law, “A convention would be called if approved by a majority of all voters who come to the polls,” notes The Daily Record. “That is a significant qualifier because many voters will vote for offices at the top of the ticket, like governor or congress, and skip ballot questions near the bottom. So a convention could still fall short of the majority of all ballots cast, even if those who do vote on that issue support it.”


As a matter of fact, “in 1930 and 1950, a majority of Maryland residents who voted on the question supported calling a convention, but they were not a majority of voters who cast ballots in those elections, so conventions were not held. In 1970 and 1990, there wasn’t enough voter interest,” says The Daily Record.


“If one were held, 188 residents would be elected to be delegates to the convention — one person for each delegate and senator in the Maryland General Assembly, who represent the state’s 47 legislative districts. It would be held in the State House in Annapolis, and the convention could last for months,” and months – and more months…


As much as there are many good reasons to have a ConCon, my opposition stems from my concern that the Maryland Democrat regime has a penchant for using the legislative process to subvert democracy, institute confiscatory taxes, or enact situational legislation that either diminishes or empowers the governor – depending on the political persuasion of the occupant of the Maryland Statehouse.


No one’s home, business, property or personal rights and freedoms are safe when the Maryland General Assembly is in session; and one would be hard-pressed to argue successfully that any political body of 188 Maryland politicos would behave any more responsibly at a constitutional convention.


Currently, Maryland is essentially run by a junta from Baltimore City and County, Montgomery and Prince Georges County. The outlying counties are run by the central government much like colonies.


There is simply very little in the way of trust or faith on the part of the colony-counties that the ruling junta in Annapolis would act responsibly if it were to happen to have the opportunity to rewrite the Maryland constitution.


Considering the current political climate in the State of Maryland, there is nothing worse that could happen to citizens and businesses in the bluest state in the Union than to convene a constitutional convention.


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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