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Guest viewpoint

Reopen Constitution to fix it

October 27, 2010 - Michigan voters undecided on ballot Proposal One might ask themselves two questions: Are you unhappy with the current economic conditions in Michigan? Do you believe Michigan could do better? Yes answers mean you are a likely Proposal One supporter.

Every 16 years, our State Constitution requires that voters be asked if they wish to call a state constitutional convention to review our governing document. The next opportunity is coming Nov. 2, 2010 in the form of Proposal One.

Special interests opposed to Proposal One argue that we have the ability to amend the Constitution without a convention. But if the status quo is so effective, why are we in such poor shape?

Only a state constitutional convention will provide the forum we need to address the multiple structural problems holding back Michigan. Our highly partisan state legislature has been unable or unwilling to tackle politically sensitive issues which might interfere with their efforts to get re-elected.

For example, if change is so easy, why have our lawmakers never discussed adopting a part-time state legislature similar to what exists in 42 other states? Neighboring Ohio with one million more people that Michigan operates their state legislature with one-half the amount we budget for ours. This $50 million ANNUAL savings would more than cover the estimated ONE TIME costs of running a convention. This is an investment in our future. The cost of curing a patient increases if the condition is allowed to worsen.

At a convention, we could debate the value of term limits. We could consider increasing the term of state reps to four years similar to state senators. Then we could have one-half of each chamber elected every two years to avoid wholesale turnover. If we could improve the efficiency and transparency of our state legislature, we increase the opportunities for future reforms to take place.

Another example: Michigan one of only two states which delays the start of their fiscal year to Oct. 1. Why? We require all school districts, colleges and universities to have their budgets prepared by July 1 but we do not let them know how much they will receive from the State until our budget is passed, frequently on or even after Oct. 1. For decades we have lived with this "short-term" budget gimmick. Why has the status quo never corrected it?

Other items which could be discussed at a convention include: education reform, taxation, appointing instead of electing judges, etc. The agenda will be established by the 148 convention delegates elected from throughout the state. One of those delegates could be you or someone you support instead of the special interests fighting to protect the failed status quo.

Please vote YES For Michigan on Proposal One and help re-energize our great State.

By Henry Woloson, an attorney living in Independence Township.

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