Last week we wrote about Constitution Day and the virtues of the U.S. Constitution, which has guided the nation for 222 years. But every state has its own constitution as well, and Michigan voters will be asked this year if they wish to call a constitutional convention to replace the current state charter in place since 1963. It's tempting given Michigan's government gridlock to blow up the whole structure and start from scratch, but unless we can find the reincarnations of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison to do the job, we believe voters should say "no."
Michigan's constitution requires that voters decide every 16 years whether they want to call a constitutional convention. Michiganians rejected the idea in 1978 and 1994 and will have their say again Nov. 2 when they consider Proposal 1. We've lambasted Michigan's political class for years for its inability or unwillingness to address the state's many problems, most notably the failure to reconcile the structural imbalance between state spending and state tax revenue. However, in our view Michigan's problems don't stem from poorly written rules but from the irresponsibility of too many of the officials we elect to serve in Lansing. We need better players more than new rules, and it's up to voters to do that.
Sure, we'd like to see changes to the state constitution, but they can be added one at a time through the amendment process. Most of our problems - including our antiquated tax structure - can be solved through simple legislation right now. And legislators are already required to balance the state budget every year. Unlike the Founding Fathers who had to replace the ineffectual Articles of Confederation to give the national government real power, there's nothing standing in the way of Michigan legislators doing the right thing.
Further, a constitutional convention would be an expensive undertaking that could open a Pandora's box of problems. Delegates would be elected through partisan primaries and then a general election, and it's likely we'd get a lot more delegates beholden to political parties and special-interest groups - the same people who got us into this mess - than independent-minded statesmen and stateswomen. Single-issue delegates could easily hold the entire process hostage in an effort to enshrine their favored position in the constitution.
A new constitution won't cure what ails Michigan government - it may even harm the patient. We urge voters to say "no" to Proposal 1.
The Holland Sentinel