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Continued: Are amendments' path to the ballot too easy?

  • Article by: JIM RAGSDALE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 15, 2014 - 10:15 PM

“Generally speaking, I feel like there is a bit of voter fatigue with constitutional amendments,” Thissen said. Before moving an amendment to a floor vote, he said, Thissen would informally use Bakk’s rule, that there be a bipartisan supermajority.

During recent debate on another high-profile amendment, which would change the way judges achieve and retain their offices, opposition came from the powerful anti-abortion lobby, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. Opponents attacked it as taking the vote away from the public and giving it to an unelected group of political appointees. Keeping the judicial amendment off the ballot would be a way to keep this chatter out of a tough House election.

Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, wanted a third amendment on the ballot in 2012 — the very “right to work” measure that Bakk is worried about. Thompson, now a candidate for governor, argues that Bakk’s proposal to raise the bar for constitutional amendments would deprive voters the chance to decide important issues — a similar argument that is raised against the judicial measure.

“Do we really want to prevent the people from making a statement on big issues?” Thompson said.

Already a question for 2016

Whether any amendments survive to go on the ballot this year, the 2016 general election already has a proposed amendment on the ballot. It would prohibit legislators from raising their own pay, a power they rarely exercise, and assign that role to a citizens council. If there is backfire, all 201 legislators would share it, because both houses will be on the ballot.

Whether the tried-and-true way of rewriting the Constitution will be altered could be a tough fight this year. The Bakk-Cohen plan would itself be a constitutional amendment, and voters would have to approve it.

In a recent committee hearing, Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, asked Bakk if he planned to apply his 41-vote standard to getting his own measure through the Senate, even though a simple 34-vote majority is all that is required.

“I think it would send a bad message if we didn’t have 41 votes,” Bakk told him.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Hall replied.

Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042

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