For quite some time, I’ve been advocating for a constitutional convention here and elsewhere. It’s a somewhat involved process, so I decided to document it here for those who are curious.
Summary – although it will likely take a few years, a constitutional convention could greatly benefit all of Colorado. And, as I said in 2005 (around the Ref C time frame) – if we don’t do it now, in 5 years we’ll wish we had.
The Colorado Constitution contains all of the details of how a Convention should be called. These are the steps in a nutshell:
1. The State Legislature (both House and Senate) approve by 2/3 majority a referendum calling for a convention.
2. At the next general election, the public votes on the referendum
3. If passed, the next session of the Legislature calls the convention.
4. Convention delegates are elected
5. The Convention, umm, convenes
6. A new Constitution is proposed and ratified
The convention delegation is composed of 2 individuals elected from each state Senate district on the timetable set by the Legislature. It convenes within 3 months of the delegate election.
There is no deadline set for how long the convention may take. However, once the convention is complete, ratification of the proposed new constitution must take place between 2-6 months after the close of the convention.
Ratification of the proposed constitution is by simple majority vote of Colorado voters.
So, practically, what does it mean? How long would it take for us to get a new constitution?
If the Legislature at the next session approves a referendum, this is one possible timeline:
Nov 2010: General election – shall there be a convention?
Spring 2011: Legislature sets election date, other rules for convention
Nov 2011: Delegate election
Jan 2012: Convention called
Jun 2012: (estimate) Convention complete
Nov 2012: Ratification of Constitution
So, 3 years from now, essentially. A long time. But only longer the longer we wait… I plan on lobbying my Senator and Representative heavily. I hope many people will join me.
And this is probably the one office I would run for. Just elect me and Laughing Boy – put us in a room with no food for 2 days – and we’ll get the whole thing hammered out 🙂
I like smoke-filled rooms 🙂
My personal preference for what should happen at the Convention would first be a vote to start with the original 1876 Constitution, and tweak from there (I would suggest making sure any obsolete sections are deleted, and then work on reforming the amendment process).
Major concepts that have been added to the Constituion could finally have some kind of informed review before they are added or not added.
Under the current initiative process, there is no committee hearing or anything like it before the issue is put to a vote. The Office of Legislative Legal Services does provide the proponents with a list of questions designed to clarify the amendnment and also point out potential constitutionality issues, but those comments are just that and cannot force a change to the amendment. Therfore, they are often overlooked.
If this were to come to pass, I would seriously consider running for Convention Delegate.
Considering the politically contentious nature of the issues that would be addressed in any convention, it would be every politician/politico/pundit/legal scholar and their mother trying to get in their two cents.
It’s the very reason that I doubt such a thing would ever come to pass. I do agree, however, that in a perfect world, this would be an ideal way to fix some of the problems facing our state right now.
But to paraphrase Madison, there are a lot fewer angels than demons right now, and I’d rather not have Jon Caldera writing the new constitution.