by Becki Gray
Former Senior Vice President, John Locke Foundation
Following the three judge panel ruling that the General Assembly could either take the two amendments in question off the ballot or re-write them, the General Assembly is coming back tomorrow, with pencils sharpened, ready to re-write.
Here are the two amendments that have been the subject of controversy as they would have appeared on the ballot:
To establish a bipartisan Board of Elections to administer ethics and election laws, to clarify the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches, and to prohibit legislators from serving on boards and commissions exercising executive or judicial authority.
Constitutional amendment to implement a nonpartisan merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence when nominating Justices and judges to be selected to fill vacancies that occur between judicial elections.
The General Assembly has the sole authority to decide what goes on the ballot and they’ll be back tomorrow to do just that. But as a voter, I’d like to offer suggestions. Here’s how I’d re-write the ballot language in question:
To establish a bi-partisan Board of Elections of eight members, four chosen by the minority leadership in the state House and Senate and four chosen by the majority leadership to administer ethics and election laws. Period*
Constitutional amendment to allow the General Assembly, acting on behalf of their constituents, to nominate two candidates based on nonpartisan merit-based professional qualifications to fill vacancies that occur between judicial elections, with the final selection made by the Governor.
*Instead of changing who makes appointments, the General Assembly needs to review the almost 500 boards and commissions that are filled with unelected unaccountable political appointees. The question is not who appoints but why. Get rid of all but critical boards and commissions.
On some of the other amendments, I’d add an eminent domain protection to the Hunting and Fishing one. If you really want to protect your right to hunt and fish, you’d do well to protect your right to own land on which to do either or both. I’d rather see an amendment to restrain government spending rather than capping the personal income tax. Capping one tax does not prevent big spenders from finding other ways to get your money but tying the growth of government to inflation plus population keeps the need for revenue in check.
Amending the constitution is a big deal. I’m going to trust the voters on this.