Today I attended a public hearing held by the Senate State Government Committee to hear public opinion about the possibility of convening a new Constitutional Convention to address issues such as legislature pay raises, term limits, general assembly size, voter referendum, and the powers of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Senators in attendance are as follows:
Senator Jeffery Piccola (R) - District 15 - Committee Chair
Senator Mike Folmer (R) - District 48 - Committee Vice Chair
Senator Jake Corman (R) - District 34
Senator Wayne Fontana (D) - District 42
Senator Jim Ferlo (D) - District 38
PCN was in attendance, so keep an eye out for the broadcast. Details of the proceedings were nicely provided in the form of two different proposed acts for convening a Constitutional Convention and the written testimonies of the witnesses (these are identical to the spoken testimonies). I have organized the provided written material into a PDF for anyone who wants to know exactly what was said:
Some notes that might not be entirely clear from the raw written
material in the PDF:
- It appears that there is universal agreement that should a new CC convene, it should be limited to addressing specific articles of the PA Constitution and by no means should include any of Article I
- It is planned that at least two more similar hearings will be held. I have not heard if there are any details as to the date and location.
- Senator Piccola opposes current legislators being permitted to run for a position as a delegate on the CC. However, he appeared willing to reconsider after hearing from Lisa Krebs from the ACLU.
- Senator Piccola wants to encourage the public to contact him about their own opinions regarding convening a new CC.
In response to the testimony of Dr. Jake Haulk:
- Senators Ferlo and Corman both question the need to address term limits.
- Senator Fontana argues against voter referendum noting that it is almost never used in Allegheny County. It should also be noted that voter referendum in Allegheny County is different than what is being proposed and does not directly put legislation on the ballot.
- Senator Piccola expressed his view that either term limits OR referendums need to exist, but not both at the same time.
- In response to Haulk's closing, Piccola dismissed the notion of not allowing the Supreme Court to have power to over turn amendments made in a CC.
In response to the testimonies of Bruce Ledewitz and Dr. Joel Fishman:
- There appeared to be careful agreement that a very large part of the problem is the over reaching power of the PA Supreme Court resulting from an amendment to Article V that was performed in the 1968 CC. The end result is that the Supreme Court has the final say over the General Assembly.
Now for the slightly more pressing issue at hand. It is not at all certain yet as to whether the State Government Committee will even go forward with trying to convene a constitutional convention. However, given that both proposed pieces of legislation have very tight time requirements for petition signatures to get on the ballot to be a CC delegate, we should be prepared to mobilize. One does not discriminate by party lines and simply requires 500 signatures from the Senatorial district in which you are running. The other allows each political party to nominate two candidates per Senatorial district and allows for political bodies to nominate by requiring 500 petition signatures in similar fashion to the other proposed bill. There is no differing between minor and major political parties in either bill, but I would guess that this fact will be ignored or changed and Political Party will be taken to mean Major Political Party. So either way, we will probably need to be prepared to collect at least 500 valid signatures in each Senatorial district in a time span of about three weeks.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Running Mate on the hearing about a possible PA Constitutional Convention
Fellow Libertarian, David Weiser, reported in an email: