Maine legislators must reject the Governor’s call for a Constitutional Convention

With today’s visit from Governor Kasich of Ohio, Governor LePage appears to be buying into a radical and reckless idea to call a Constitutional Convention under Article V of the US Constitution. The legislature should reject any resolve or other legislative vehicle offered by the Governor to do so.

Calling a constitutional convention is extremely dangerous. A constitutional convention would open up the US Constitution to whatever amendments its delegates chose to propose, regardless of the stated purpose of the convention. The last time we had a constitutional convention was in 1787. The delegates to that convention ignored their original charge, which was to amend the articles of confederation. Instead, they drafted an entirely new governing document.

While other states that have already adopted resolutions along these lines have included language intended to control the actions of delegates to the proposed convention, it’s unlikely the courts would back the states if the delegates chose to expand the scope or scale of their actions. Delegates to the 1787 convention ignored the instructions of their state legislatures. Delegates would likely be subject to federal, not state law.

Governor LePage claimed in today’s press release that it takes 38 states to ratify a constitutional amendment, but that is dangerously misguided and complacent thinking. While the Constitution requires approval of 38 states for adoption of a proposed amendment by a convention, a convention could create a different method of ratification, such as national referendum.  In fact, the convention that proposed the U.S. Constitution ignored the ratification procedures under which it was established, and the country implemented our current Constitution under new ratification procedures the convention created. There is no reason that couldn’t happen again.

The Governor should rethink this reckless push for a constitutional convention, which would result in a period of great turmoil and uncertainty for the republic. If the Governor introduces a legislative vehicle calling for a constitutional convention, the legislature should reject it.