Constitutional Amendments meet the Weissmann method
Constitutional amendments. You either love them or hate them, but when it comes down to it, amending the Constitution of the State of Colorado is a silly and lazy way to govern.I know you all slept better last night knowing the bear-hunting season is in our constitution. Or maybe the bears slept better. You did not have to wake up in the middle of the night worrying whether leg hold traps were in the constitution. They are so you can sleep well.Tax restriction is in there under TABOR. Tax spending is in there under Amendment 23, which guarantees funding for schools. It is illegal to be a homosexual under Amendment 2 that passed a few years ago, but then the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. It is much more difficult to amend the federal Constitution. Take the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that was passed by Congress and several states a few years ago. It was never ratified by enough states, so it died before it became part of our Constitution. I supported it, but not enough people did and it failed.Two years ago part of my campaign was based on opposing any and all amendments to the constitution. It was difficult to explain my position on some issues because I supported the issue but did not support the proposed solution: amending the constitution.
It was like trying to answer the question, “When did you stop beating your wife?” Regardless of my answer, the only thing that was crystal clear was that I was opposed to amending the Constitution.Then last year, I worked very hard for about three months traveling all over the Western Slope asking people to support Referendums C and D to fix the state’s budget. It was not an amendment to the constitution, but it was a ballot issue to allow a short term change to TABOR which was an amendment to the constitution.Confused? Then you can understand why this is a bad way to govern the State of Colorado.I read recently there is a possibility of more than 130 ballot proposals amending the state constitution for the general election in November. One day last week, I read there were four ballot amendments on marriage alone. At the same time, we have a state law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Is that overkill or pandering for votes? Let’s take care of the same issue over and over again until we know that everyone understands our positions. Something like a real-life example of beating a horse that is already dead.There might be a ballot issue making it easier to put things on the ballot while, at the same time, there might be a ballot issue making it harder to put things on the ballot. Dueling ballot issues. How much fun can we have?
There is also a proposal to have a constitutional convention to clean up our constitution from all of the silliness. The problem with that is one person’s silliness is another person’s personal passion.It is no wonder that my political science students scratch their collective head when I try to explain all this to them.I think the real issue is political will. Political will on the part of state representatives and state senators. Political will on the part of the governor. It is about the amount of intestinal fortitude of your elected officials to take an unpopular stand and then fight to see it happen.In July, I will enter my third year in office as your state representative. One thing I have learned is, you can’t even get all the people in your own party to agree, much less the 65 representatives and 35 senators.It could be a bright, sunny day outside and you could not get agreement if you wanted to vote on it. Some members would say it is raining regardless.I kind of like the Weissmann method. Representative Paul Weissmann is the sharpest person in the state legislature. He was a state senator for a while, ran for Congress and lost and is now a state representative. He works in a restaurant in Louisville.
Paul thinks we should have car dealerships and liquor stores open on Sundays. Both groups oppose any effort to change the Sunday laws.Paul will wait until there is a heated discussion on a subject and everyone is blinded by his or her own position, and then he will slip in an amendment to the bill that will allow car sales or liquor sales on Sunday. Everyone is wise to his ploy and the amendment always fails.Earlier this year, he slipped an amendment to legalize marijuana in the state of Colorado on one of my bills. I agreed it was a “friendly” amendment and it was approved. Paul and I legalized marijuana for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until the amendment was voted off.Maybe we should clean up the whole process and revert to the Weissmann method. It sure would be more effective and a lot more fun.State Rep. Gary Lindstrom of Lakeview Meadows represents Summit, Eagle and Lake counties. He writes a Monday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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