April 11, 2009
By Jerry Kopel
Ending conflict regarding money issues in the constitution is necessary.
But I can understand legislative concerns when one looks at the
requirements under Article 19 on convening a constitutional convention.
You could expect hundreds of persons seeking election as delegates. A
March 2009 Denver Post editorial which opposed a constitutional
convention, called it "too far out of the box".
Having seventy likely bitter elections in a system providing pay for
delegates with the necessity of a long wait before anything was
accomplished, is likely what would happen under Section (1) of Article
19. Section (1) is "too far out of the box".
But because our constitution is so easy to amend, those concerns, which
are really "fears" are easily limited.
Hopefully Sen. Al White, R-Hayden and Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland,
might wish to continue an approach that could be completed is less than
A Section (4) could be added to Article 19 of the constitution to be
called "Mini convention" and limited by the language used, to specific
Articles dealing with revenue and spending that have created problems.
The new section (4) could state it would automatically repeal in less
than two years and point out it is "mini" not "major". This is a valid
constitutional amendment even though it is in conflict with the language
in Section (1) of Article 19.
Forget about electing 70 members. It is important that both major
parties feel secure in the membership of the convention. I would suggest
35 members, five from each congressional district.
Dividing up membership between the major parties is needed in order to
gain two-thirds support to place the issue on the ballot. Delegate
"make-up" must provide security to the party presently "out of power". I
would give that party a one vote majority.
The Senate President and the Senate Minority leader would each place two
of the five members in each congressional district on the convention
The Supreme Court Chief Justice would name the remaining seven members,
one from each congressional district, based upon the 2008 vote for
secretary of state. Four members will come from the party whose
candidate won that election. Three members would come from the political
party coming in second in the election.
The process for setting up the convention and the duties to be carried
out can be contained in this measure which has to be placed on the
ballot in 2009 by a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate.
The subject matter to be considered will be spelled out. That avoids the
problem of a normal constitutional convention when everything (under the
Colorado version) can be considered.
The convention could likely list school budget inflation and TABOR as
two of the main issues, along with other revenue budget issues.
To avoid problems regarding convention budget, language used in the 2009
ballot should be as specific as possible.
The legislature should have as small a role as possible, otherwise the
failure to pass a budget or other issues not spelled out could kill the
movement forwarded by the delegates.
The new Section (4) as part of the constitution, should disappear at the
end of 2010.
Unlike the legislature, the convention members only need a majority to
place the issues on the ballot, which they can do specifically in
conflict with the single subject approach as long as Section (4) remains
The legislature will not call the convention, the voters will in
November 2009 based on the legislature putting this on the ballot. The
amendment will be lengthy, but it can also be easy to understand, read
like a statute that will disappear after 2010.
The convention budget necessary for 2009 and 2010 shall not include pay
for convention delegates, but include reasonable expenses. Staff shall
be paid based on Legislative Council determining the staff needed. Rules
governing the process can be based on Senate rules or Roberts' Rules of
The qualification of members shall be the same as for members of the
senate and vacancies occurring shall be filled by the staffing officer
(Senate President, minority leader, or Chief Justice) who at that point
holds the position, as opposed to filling the original position.
All delegates shall be chosen in January 2010. Such convention shall
begin meeting within one month after final appointments and prepare such
amendments as may be deemed necessary to be voted upon at the November,
2010 general election.
Language in this column constitutes an opening, linking what would
normally be statutory matters written by the legislature and placed as
part of Section (4) for this one time period.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)