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Tuesday Talk: Does amending the constitution move MN forward?

April 03, 2012 By Katie Sanders, Interim Communications Director

Amending the state constitution is a poor substitute for legislating. Increasingly, it seems as if state legislators want to solve short-term problems by encoding them in the state constitution, a very long term solution. Two years ago, Minnesota considered and passed the Legacy Arts/Natural Resources Funding Amendment. This year, Minnesotans will be asked to vote on amending the constitution to ban same-sex-couple marriage and potentially several other social agenda issues.

Does amending the state constitution move Minnesota forward toward better policies? What’s the potential for unintended consequences of changing the constitution when we should be legislating?

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30 Comments:

  • Rob says:

    April 3, 2012 at 8:21 am

    More Republican deceit and shenanigans.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    April 3, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Katie, it seems to be OK when our side does it but offsides when the other team does it. I opposed the Legacy Ammendment because I knew it would be missdirected as is now being done, but we had to let the people speak. Now that the hammer is coming down from the other direction you want to cry foul, let the people speak. There is nothing inherantly more evil here in any of these proposed ammendments than there was in the legacy amendment so get on with the debate, be relavant, and let the people speak. I strongly suspect you elitist only want the people to have the right to speak on the issues you want them to speak on. Demonizing those who propose these very popular ammendments does not win this battle.

  • Owen says:

    April 3, 2012 at 8:54 am

    A HUGE, HUGE mistake by those that we “elect” to make these decisions. The state Constitution should be just that- a document that (simply) establishes the framework and “basic” principles of government. Legislators CAN make these decisions under powers granted through the Constitution. So, I am curious why they are choosing not to? If we amend it for these “issues”, where does it end? Leave the document alone.

  • Mike Lilja says:

    April 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

    A couple of thoughts.  First, with the increasing use of lies, intentionally misleading information and just plain fear mongering, both sides, but especially the right, use these tactics to persuade the general populace.  Our system was set up to protect the minority from the majority especially in cases of discrimination.  So, putting this kind of thing to a popular vote may indeed be defeating the entire purpose of the constitution.  Should we now have an amendment to again legalize slavery or some other disgusting degradation of humanity?

    Mr. Hamm, you need to re-read the original post.  Katie made no judgement one way or the other of the Legacy Amendment, just that we used the same process to create it.  She even implied in the opening comments, that this is a long term and rather permanent solution to problems that should be solved legislatively.

  • Ken Kalish says:

    April 3, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Let me begin by saying that I have never before posted in this arena.  That said, I think it is time I do so.
    We live in a Republic, not a Democracy.  Don’t believe it?  Complete these lines:
    The Battle Hymn of the ____; I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the ____; the Grand Army of the ____.
    A Republic protects its minorities and, therefore, sometimes must ignore that which is popular to preserve that which is right.
    If our government were a Democracy we would live by the tyranny of that which is popular, that of which the majority approves, and we would sacrifice that which is right to a utilitarian “feel good” ethic.
    Approving the currently proposed amendments, no matter how popular one might believe them to be, is not the right thing to do.  It moves us away from our nation’s and our state’s beliefs expressed so eloquently in our preeminent founding document: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
    Let’s be patriots.  Let’s kill these abominations proposed for legal enshrinement in our state’s Constitution.

  • BJR says:

    April 3, 2012 at 9:42 am

    These constitutional amendments, regardless of which party is proposing them, is a way that elected legislators shirk their duty. They don’t want to make the hard decisions, so they pass it on to voters. We voted for these people to make the decisions for the state. Unfortunately, they are afraid to do that.

  • Frank Hawthorne says:

    April 3, 2012 at 9:45 am

    As a supporter, a couple years back, of the Legacy Amendment (& in recognizing the arguments of those who point-out our hypocrisy in opposing Republican use of same process) I will admit to feeling twinges of “buyer’s remorse.” Now, supposedly “dedicated” tax monies collected as a result of that amendment’s passage are being fought-over by a variety of revenue-hungry constituencies, like frenzied sharks at the Kill. If they are nothing else, conservatives are expert practitioners of the art of adaptation in pursuit of their goals; so now—with their trademark Wedge Issues—it’s no surprise that they are executing an end-around the Executive Veto via CONstitutioal amendments. Here’s hoping that backfires, bigtime, on Them.—Frank H.

  • Wayne Thorson says:

    April 3, 2012 at 9:56 am

    It seems the legislators have better things to do than to argue over whether 2 people should have a piece of paper between them or not.  If it makes them feel better why should anyone stand in their way?  There is supposed to be a differnce between church and state. This is definately a religious veiwpoint.

  • ChristeenStone says:

    April 3, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Friday night on TPT Almanac I heard a good discussion by 4 former legislators, from both parties on the constitutional amends and none of them seem to agree that that was the way to govern. Senator Steve Murphy in particular pointed out all the laws and details that have to be worked out once they are passed and how complicated those can be. The amendment mentioned above was one he cited that had been controversial in some ways. I believe if it raises my taxes and I oppose what they will be used to support then I should be able to oppose that, yet again with the low voter turn out we really do not have the voice of all the people,just those who choose to vote.
    I totally oppose all the constitutional amendment being proposed this year, I would prefer the legislators have the intestinal fortitude to vote those in and give me my chance to vote THEM OUT.
    That is where you have a chance to exercise Democracy in action.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    April 3, 2012 at 10:35 am

    The Legacy Amendment was an important enough long-term authentically nonpartisan issue to be added to the Constitution. That it passed is a testament to the wisdom of our citizens. 

    The current amendments reflect only a specific fundamentalist religious viewpoint, a lack of trust in the honesty of ordinary voters, and a tightfisted anti-worker economic philosophy that should have died with Ayn Rand. 

    Republicans, many of them members of ALEC, are aggressively pushing their vision of “good” government by seeking public approval for Constitutional amendments that should get millions of NO votes if they make it to the ballot.

  • David says:

    April 3, 2012 at 10:38 am

    You have to let the people amend the constitution when our Legislators can’t get it done right. The people are always right.

  • Jan Conner says:

    April 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Personally, I am sick to death of the right-wing Republicans trying to enforce their beliefs on the rest of us.  What do you think Freedom of Religion means?  It certainly doesn’t mean forcing the will of a few on the many.

    It is a power trip for the evangelicals -
    In my opinion, if the second coming of Christ were to happen now, He would say
    “I am really angry about what is happening here.”  In language which usually isn’t used in polite company, “Boy, is he p.o,”

  • Francis Lemke says:

    April 3, 2012 at 11:30 am

    I think all this amending the Constitution is terrible. The right-wing and religious types know they may be able to sneak these amendments past many voters because voters don’t understand all the details. But, the devil is in the details. The Constitution was not designed to be the catch-all for the Legislature’s gutless behavior. Besides, every amendment gets challenged in Court. The challenges can go on for years.  I think it is a bad idea. Leave the Constitution alone.

  • TONY says:

    April 3, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Constitutional amendments are always a bad idea. We pay a lot of money for a 2 house legislature that doesnt want to do it’s job. Pass the bill, get the Gov. to sign the bill & move on. These proposed amendments are just bad. Voter ID is a solution looking for a problem, it’s real intent to restrict voting, plain & simple. The marriage amendment is a way to enforce someone’s religious point of view over others. The Legacy Amendment was brought up & passed to do what the legislature wouldnt do, which was to improve & preserve our environment which it does very well. Most of the new arguments are actually old arguments over spending money around the Twin Cities or in greater MN. Many of the new issues are the legislators trying to turn the money to their pet projects instead of what the council that handles the money has decided.

  • Paul says:

    April 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    The next constitutional amendment should be one that requires a super majority to further amend the constitution.  That still wouldn’t be as stringent as amending the US Constitution, but a good step in the right direction.

  • George F. Greene says:

    April 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    “...it seems as if state legislators want to solve short-term problems by encoding them in the state constitution…”

    I’m not really sure why public news outlets and now MN2020 feel the need to equivocate. The quote above applies exclusively to the GOP. In fact, ideologically extreme constitutional amendments and laws virtually identical to those introduced in MN (because they come from the same source: ALEC) are being introduced in legislatures nationwide as a central strategy of the GOP.

    By not calling them out on this you obscure the reality and essentially conflate Democrats with Republicans. This is a disservice to citizens and unfair to Democrats.

    Democrats want what we’ve always wanted and we achieve our goals as we always have -through civil discussion, creative solutions and compromise. Like a teenage bully the GOP instead demands, threatens, stonewalls and shuts down if they don’t get their way.

    It’s too late in the game to avoid the reality with misguided “fairness” or “balance” -too much damage has been done and more is coming. Don’t give Republicans a pass on their dangerous extremism.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    April 3, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    The differance between Political Rhetoric and Political propaganda is that one needs to at least be based in truth. The same propaganda was used to pass the Legacy ammendment by the DFL which we all recognized as lies then, part of what cost our party the House and Senate. An inteligent person would recognize the corilation and let nature take it’s course. This option is in our constitution because our forfathers understood the need for it. None of your self serving dribble convinces me that any of you are more inteligent than were they. Nor have any of you addressed the voter popularity of these issues except to insult your neighbors. Are you part of the solution, or the problem?

  • CeeVee says:

    April 3, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    In ‘00 and ‘04, the Republicans put proposed amendments regarding social issues on the ballot in many states as a way to get their base to the polls.  It worked then (and we got George W. Bush…twice!) and now, with a base that doesn’t particularly care for their candidate(s), they are again using these social issues to get their base excited about voting. 
    Yes, you’re right - this is a calculated and coordinated national effort on the part of groups such as ALEC and the Koch Brothers.

  • CeeVee says:

    April 3, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    It’s easy for the majority to gang up on others…but that doesn’t necessarily make it right.

  • Mike T. says:

    April 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I think legislating by constitutional amendment is usually a bad idea, though sometimes necessary and good (heard of the Bill of Rights?)  The legacy amendment was a terrible idea made possible through complete DFL rhetoric.  I feel we are getting the same from the GOP on some of these proposed amendments.  That being said, I am not apposed to the premise behind any of them; just a weak way to legislate.  In the long run, I think it will hurt the party I typically side with.

  • Chuck Graham says:

    April 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Obviously there are times when the Constitution should be amended to meet changing conditions or structural problems.  But it is unwise to use it as a substitute for legislation.  The Prohibition debacle is a notable example.  But I also opposed amending the state contitution for the “legacy tax,” even though I support the tax itself.  Using amendments as a substitute for legislation introduces inflexibility in areas where flexibility is NEEDED to meet changing conditions.

  • Rachel says:

    April 4, 2012 at 9:22 am

    from Cindy (via email):

    “I believe these social issues are being put on the ballot to get the right’s base, who are less than excited about their candidate, to the polls.  It worked for Bush in ‘00 and ‘04 so they’re trying again.”

  • Ken Kalish says:

    April 4, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Mr. Hamm, you included in your April 3rd comment a sentence saying, “Nor have any of you addressed the voter popularity of these issues except to insult your neighbors.”
    Sir, I did address the popularity issue, and I did so without insulting my neighbors, the residents of my community, or the citizens of this state.
    There are many “popular” causes, but a civilized society does not enshrine causes in law just because they are popular.  DOMA is the result of making a “popular” cause law, and its supporters have lost so many court challenges that it, too, is bound for an appeal to SCOTUS.  Should that august body refuse to hear the challenge, DOMA will experience a well-deserved death.
    Please do engage in civil discussion, Mr. Hamm, but if you wish to have those to whom you offer your opinions give serious consideration to your commentary, you must offer fact.  Try to avoiid sweeping generalities, particularly when such generalizations are clearly untrue.  Maintain perspective, both in the scope of the conversation and in the value of your contribution.  Presume that those who engage in discussion with you do so because they value your input.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    April 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    You are absolutely correct Ken and I apologize for not acknowledging you honest evaluation.

  • Jayne Caldwell says:

    April 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    No, I think it pushes us back. God Loves Us and Gave Us the Gift of Love to Share, “Love One Another as I have
    Loved You.” No Conditions. We Do Not Choose who we Love. It just happens. Who do People think they are to Deny an
    expression of Love, Marraige, to some of Gods Children? They are pushing God aside and taking the matter into their own hands. That’s more than
    “Taking Gods Name in Vain.” 

  • Dan Conner says:

    April 13, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I agree with Jayne.  Amending our Constitution does not move our country forward.  Amendments should indeed be rare and of a quality that ensures it is timeless.  All of the proposed amendments of the Minnesota Constitution are not done for any higher purpose than to do an end run around the governor.  I the current Republican majority had existed back in the early 1700’s, we might have a constitution that mandated burning witches at the stake.  The voter ID, and other constitutional amendments, seem to have the same degree of importance.

    I am surprised at the plethora of legislative effort to amend such and important and timeless document as the Constitution.  Republicans seems to be the party that invokes it the most and allegedly holds it in such high regard, but then they are the party that wants to attach so much “junk” to it.  Not in an effort to improve the “law of the land” for Minnesota, but to circumvent a Constitutional checks and balance provision between the legislature and the executive.  On top of being an obvious power grab, it is deeply hypocritical for a party that mouths reverence to the Constitution.  Why don’t Republicans just learn to work with others.  This seems to be a national problem.  There can be no reverence for the Constitution or government when a party works so hard to undermine them both.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    April 13, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Dan C—All the destructive, undemocratic bills we are seeing pass in the legislature were written by right-wing Republican legislators in cooperation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  The goal is to further the corporate agenda no matter what the cost to ordinary people—vote suppression via the voter id, loss of union representation and its protection from mistreatment and dangerous working conditions, the enshrinement of a single religious view (in violation of the First Amendment), the removal of environmental protections and consumer safety rules, et cetera.

    When the governor vetoed some of these bills, the Rs immediately passed laws to get them on the ballot as constitutional amendments.

    There’s a treasure trove of info on ALEC at the website www.alecexposed.org and The Nation magazine.

  • Dan Conner says:

    April 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Bernice, I couldn’t agree with you more.  We need to start asking each other, “What is happening to our country?”  I sincerely believe there has been a corporate effort to take over our country for a long time.  The Tea Party is simply a facilitating vehicle to do that.  Corporations and very rich and powerful people have succeeded in dividing most all of us and getting us to fight among ourselves.  They are taking over by slicing and dicing us.

    I am very apprehensive about any corporate takeover because our country’s purpose will change to maximum profits for a very few.  We’ll have corporate armies and few freedoms except for those that bolster corporate power.  I think our country has to do all it can to prevent the corporatization and privatization of our country to ensure our future freedoms.

    People like the Koch brothers are a key component in the corporate takeover.  They are buying Washington and our elected officials.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    April 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    USA Corporations starting with shipping, railroads, steel producers, then oil companies have all held their place in the halls of power. The differance now is that all of these once great Ameican Corporation are now multinationals still enjoying what should be the rights of American companies only. Could we start with a simple, (no more than a 1000 pages or so), law changing the rules for any company not X% American owned. Limited and more stringent lobbying rights, and no right to contribute to our political system. That takes the golden goose away from both sides. Which Dem can we get to introduce and support it?

  • Francis Lemke says:

    April 13, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I agree with Dan Conner. Corporate America has been using divide and conquer tactics for a long time to split America into groups that hate each other. I only fear two things: religion and corporations. Both have shown how ruthless they can be and I do not trust either. I firmly believe the Federal government is the only thing which stands between average working people and the situation where rich, powerful corporate people can do what they want, when they want and how they want. Corporations have bought our politicians and judges; We now consider corporations to be just like individuals—who would ever have thought such a goofy idea would ever take root in this so-called “freedom loving” country. At least politicians get voted on. As long as corporate executives keep the executives on the Board happy, to heck with the shareholders. Most people don’t know a single CEO or VP of any corporation. Talk about anonymity! And some people like the idea of corporations running society. Well, if they ever get arrested, maybe a rent-a-cop from Blackwater Group will come to the door and make the arrest! They will take you to the privately run prison/jail where private guards will watch over you! Talk about accountability, eh? Think about it!