Monday, May 05, 2008

Pennsylvania Proposals Convene State Convention

PCN broadcasting discussion of proposals making the rounds of Harrisburg to convene a Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention

PA House Democratic Policy Committee and PA House Republican policy committee

11:00 AM PA Constitutional Conventions (LIVE)


Rep Craig Dally R-Northhampton bill proposal for a convention = limited to certain issues

Rep. Rosemarie Swanger R- Lebanon bill circulating would call for a referendum this November on the Fall ballot = limited certain issues no public official would be a voting delegate Dec. 1, 2009 and Feb. 28, 2010

Kathy Manderino D-Montgomery & Philadelphia refers to experts John Gedid The PA Constitution and another speaker

John Gedid Widener School of Law, Director, Law & Government Institute

3 ways change Constitution

Emergency Amendment

Issues what is authority for a convention
issues or problems that produced conventions
process required to create a convention
whether legislation has power to limit by subjecj matter procedure or other
what we can learn from other conventions

Gedid charts 1871 limitations on convention referred to as the reform constitution of 1874...

Wonder whether Gedid will get into how the limitations were ignored?

Yes, the convention made some changes to the Declaration of Rights...

Well thank you Mr. Gedid the enabling act was rebuffed, too!

Well there you go. Let's hear now from supporters of a convention how the convention wil remain limited by the "Enabling Act."

Gedid: Convention procedure is valid as a method of change.

The enabling act is valid as way people express will

Enabling statute gives only powers not rights, convention has only certain rights, only those given, leg has power to prohibit areas of constitution to convention and to define procedure...

people have power to limit a convention and do so through their legislature... a convention only proposes, the people have a right to vote, and it's the people's vote that legitimizes the convention.

So says Gedid.

What does he leave out? Guess what, the people ok'd the convention's product, so even though the convention went beyond its limitations as identified in the enabling act, since the people ok'd the changes, the changes stood as proposed by the convention.

So in a modern convention if the convention delegates go beyond limitations, and propose something acceptable to the people, the PA Constitution could be drastically changed.

And who is to say that isn't what will happen? The people could authorize the convention, the legislature limits the convention, but the delegates in the convention go beyond limitations. They come out of convention and stump for all of the changes, and the people ratify the Constitution in a referendum where very likely there is a low voter turnout and voters consist of such who want to reform government and the Constitution anyway.

So there you have it a new Constitution all for what?

Gedid continues there are two measures to change Constitution by Amendment (Article 11) and by convention.

For the convention

Vote by electorate on call
vote on election of delegates
vote on proposals of convention

1874 and early 1960s... the citizens' votes on convention or amendments were withheld? Didn't understand...

State supremes can review questions on conventions, procedures adhered to and convention has stayed within provisions of enabling statute, legislature can limit, and supreme court will uphold as long as issues are clearly expressed as limitations, supremes in past didn't rule as issues not clear... modivications of the delcarations of rights is almost impossible but one time they did they increased the rights... several times prevented from changing declaration of rights (he must mean elsewhere with different language in Constitutions)

Gedid concludes... two things need to be careful about Declaration of Rights and checks and balances...


Vincent DeLiberato PA Legislative Reference Bureau Senior Attorney

Can do several interrelated questions and have those submitted to the voters or as an integrated series, more of a flexibility to make the kind of the choice...

Standard vs Kelly cited as persuasive argument...

Q & A follows

Gedid admits the 1874 convention probably went a little too far... we were learning... the legislature was learning and citizens were learning what to do with the Constitution...

Seriously, most people today don't even know there is a PA Constitution or what a convention might do.

We're not against educating the public, but do so without holding a Convention which could alter our Declaration of Rights.

Craig Dally again. Scranton a proponent in 68... need someone of that stature to take this on as an agenda item... someone like a Governor...

Gedid... yes encouraging a convention, using the bully pulpit to educate and encourage the electorate...

discuss enabling act briefly.

Mistated in order for a convention to be successful need for must be agreed by people and legislature. Hear strong concensus by people especially those which deal with legislature but reluctance on part of legislators is there way to force a convention

Yes is another way vote out representatives and vote in others who will carry out what they want...

David Steil asks in an enabling act can procedures spelled out?

Gedid, that's not clear to Gedid he continues in Wells v Bane ambiguous language in enabling statute one part said convention will act in following manner can determine way proposals presented and another was a limitation or requriement if one third of membership votes to propose a separate measure for voters that must be done... the convention decided not to do that and wells court did not enforce the provision, answer gave restrictions would be enforced... enabling statute left it up to the convention... if you take that and strength Standard v Kelly it's fairly safe bet that procedural limitations would be upheld... a pretty safe bet

NOT FOOLPROOF, Gedid continues!

There you have it, not foolproof!

Rep. Mark Cohen D-Philadelphia

1830s worse outcomes of convention, preventing African Americans from votingf...

Gedid... no one can figure out how this happened... hasn't gone back to all the primary sources... no one is certain how or why...

Cohen... says it was demands of the people at that time... it was inserted... and approved by the convention!! Accountability should reign... a convention has nobody running for relelection, serve a certain limited time, how are they more accountable than members of General Assembly are?

Gedid doesn't know the answer.

DiL... they don't have to be as accountable because the ultimate decision rests with the people, not with the legislature... that was a black part of PA History

Can powers of governor be reduced asks Cohen

Yes in 1790 convention appointment power of appointing judges was taken away

Cohen says no that was done in leg

Gedid disagrees says he believes that was done in a convention


1874 overly detailed and better handled in a statute

next Rep. Ross

makeup of members of conventions and their backgrounds conteste races and campaign some proposals would eliminated elected officals from the delegates

Gedid couerts upheld all ok as long as people get to vote on the proposals

Brad Roae R-Crawford asks if legislators doing good job now if not following it now will it be later

Gedid says somebody will challenge it if it's not now being challenged, and courts will review it not aware of any lawsuits that they are not doing their job

Roae: is problem neds changed or current not being followed what safeguards make sure new constitution followed more closely

Gedid not that it's not being followed, but what does the language mean... language is imperfect and ambiguous... respectfully disagree it's not now being followed...

Say what?

Roae: were there any sweeping changes made in legislature prior to the convention? Any other big turnovers before a convention? I'm one of 50 newcomers. It seems like it would be a reason to do a convention...

Rep. Mike Turzai: significantly more detailed than federal Constitution. 1874? went from broadbased to this tighter Constitution?

Gedid, yes added some details

Roae: wants to see a con-con where the powers of judiciary need to be checked, and revisited...

Nobody is asking if that could be done by simple Amendment procedures rather than a convention. Gedid doesn't want to get into whether the judicary power needs altered.

Manderino: never had provision that denied right to vote to African Americans was it presented in convention or not ratified by voters

Gedid didn't follow that item in lead up, convention history or the vote of the convention... now he'd like to pursue...

Mandarino wants that fact checked.

68 convention result not reducing size, but first time constitutioanly provided a size of the legislature but didn't provide the size as different that what it is...

About to wrap up Chairman Evans proposes a commission to be seated in advance of a convention. Asks for opinion. Wants 15 members appointed by Governor...?

Was a commission a precurser, what did that look like

Gedid: 68 several studied at length and input became part of enabling statute... it seems a committee intended to narrow issues intended to limit as long as it is representative... all of these have been preceded by cimmittees by studies and pointed out the most serious problems in the legislature...


Gedid: Only in 68 woud have to check if there were official ones, he'd be surprised if there weren't.

(In attendance Deborah Kula D-Fayette)


See our own archives of material which argues against a convention. One could be attempted to be limited beforehand, and may be so limited. However, once convened, there is nothing to hold back delegates to the convention from proposing amendments which would gut or even replace the basics of the PA Constitution. Thus, once in session, the convention cannot be limited or be constrained by limitation.

Our position is documented herein througout our site...

Posts About Limited vs Unlimited PA Con-Con

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007
PA Constitution Did No Wrong



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