EDITORIAL: A Long shot at Washington dysfunction

2013-11-03T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: A Long shot at Washington dysfunction nwitimes.com
November 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Indiana Senate President David Long has invited legislators from every state to join him at Mount Vernon for a Pearl Harbor Day discussion of amending the U.S. Constitution.

Let's hope the choice of Dec. 7 for this event is coincidental and not symbolic.

The plan is for this meeting to establish rules for a Convention of the States that would, when established by Congress, propose amendments to change various provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Constitution offers two ways to change the essential document. The only one used so far is for Congress to approve an amendment by a two-thirds vote and for three-fourths of the states (that's 38 now) to ratify it.

The second method, spelled out in Article V, allows two-thirds of state legislatures (34 states now) to ask Congress to call a Convention of the States, which would serve as a new constitutional convention. Three-fourths of states would have to approve any recommended changes for them to become amendments.

But no one really knows what could come out of a convention like that.

Long doesn't want a "runaway convention" to scrap the entire Constitution, and he inserted provisions in two new laws that restrict Hoosier delegates to such a convention from acting outside the direction of the Indiana General Assembly. Delegates can be recalled and replaced, and a renegade delegate could face up to three years in prison.

"The authors of the Constitution included a state-led amendment option as a check on a runaway federal government," Long said. "The dysfunction we see in Washington, D.C., provides an almost daily reminder of why this option is needed now more than ever."

We share Long's frustration with this Congress, as does nearly every other American. But tinkering with the Constitution should not be done without considerable deliberation.

We have seen a trend in recent years to amend state constitutions for reasons that could be, or already have been, addressed by state law.

In Indiana, the property tax caps and the ban on gay marriage come immediately to mind. Neither of those constitutional amendments is needed. Don't tinker with the U.S. Constitution the same way.

Reserve the amendment process for changes that really matter, like ensuring citizens' rights.

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