League's Con Con Position
The League's package of recommendations for the state constitution was circulated to all Con Con delegates last week. We have since received offers from delegates who are willing to draft and introduce proposals for us on these topics. Each local League president has been sent a copy of the package and any member who wishes to have more information on the positions should contact their president.
The positions contained existing provision, recommendation to the Con Con (League's position) and reasons. In our package, we are for:
- Unequivocal support of the state equal rights amendment and oppose any attempt to alter or rescind the amendment.
- Establishment of elected local boards of education who will appoint or elect from among themselves the members of the state board of education.
COMMENTS: Major criticism of the state-wide school system centers around the fact that the present statewide board of education and the attending centralized structure of the DOE is too far removed from the local districts and individual schools to serve them well. The logical place for dealing with education concerns is at the school or district level where conditions are familiar to the public and where personnel are accessible.
We feel the combination of the elected local boards and a state board, comprised of representatives from the local boards, is an effective means of providing citizen access and promoting government responsiveness for decision-making in education.
- Inclusion of the word "sex" so there shall be no segregation in public educational institutions because of race, religion, sex, or ancestry.
- An amendment which would give citizens the power of initiative to propose and enact legislation.
COMMENTS: This is an important addition to our system of checks and balances and provides a concrete means for citizens to participate in the policy-making function of government.
- A provision granting the right of petition referendum.
COMMENTS: With petition referendum, only those laws considered controversial by the people would be put on the ballot after a petition process in accordance with law. This form of referendum is not used often in states which provide for referendum but it is a needed safeguard for the people.
- A split session of the regular session of the legislature. Legislation, except emergency measures, could be introduced only during the first part. An interim of about fourteen days would allow legislators to return to their home districts for study and exchange of information between legislators and their constituents. Formal hearings on
proposed legislation would be held during the second part of the session.
COMMENTS: Some objections of the present system are that hearings are often scheduled at times that are inconvenient for public participation and that formality of the present structure often discourages many citizens who are reluctant to speak in a public forum. The split session would allow more time for careful study of proposed legislation and provide time and opportunity for informed citizen input.
- Limiting legislators to two consecutive terms of office.
COMMENTS: We believe in the concept of a citizen legislature and feel that a limitation on terms is one way to preserve that concept. The purpose of limiting a legislator to two consecutive terms is to help eliminate the possibility of strongly-entrenched powerblocs within the legislature; to offset the advantage of incumbents running against newcomers, in order to encourage fresh points of view and allow minorities a better chance to compete.
- Clarification of the definition of a year in the section providing for a constitutional convention.
COMMENTS: In late 1975 it was assumed by the general population that the question of whether there should be a constitutional convention called would be placed on the
ballot in the November 2,1976, general election. The last time the question had been placed before the voters was November 8, 1966. At the lieutenant governor's request, the attorney general rendered an opinion that the 1976 general election date fell six days short of ten years and therefore the question need not be put before the voters until the general election of 1978.
We feel that whatever time period the Con Con decides should elapse before a mandatory placement of the question on the ballot, it should be clearly specified whether this elapsed time be a calendar year or from election day to election day.
We are currently monitoring meetings where proposals on these topics are discussed and will lobby whenever possible. If it becomes necessary, we will send out a call for action to all members for their help on any of the positions and hope you will respond.