The selection process for three legislatively referred constitutional amendments is narrowing, with a significant omission so far:
Nothing said so far about the business lobby’s Great White Wale — an amendment to make damage suits so unprofitable as to all but hold businesses harmless from lawsuits.
The Democrat-Gazette reported today where things stand in the deliberations of the House and Senate committees that will narrow choices. Approval of both houses will be required for each of up to three that may be submitted by the legislature.
A House committee has endorsed a proposal that would require a 60 percent vote to approve proposals submitted by the people (
a simple majority would apply to legislative proposals. ). CORRECTION: I’m now told the 60 percent requirement will apply to legislative proposals as well (though not those this year, of course.)
This, of course, also presumes anybody could qualify a popular amendment under the onerous canvassing rules adopted by the legislature.
The House committee’s two other top choices included a measure to allow the legislature to call itself into a special session. A governor’s call would no longer be required. And there’s a proposal to eliminate the personal property tax, a tax that goes to local governments and schools. It is felt by individuals principally through taxes on vehicles. But it also includes business equipment. It would hit local governments hard.
The Senate has also indicated support for an amendment to let the legislature call itself into session. Its committee has also endorsed amendments further guaranteeing the right to bear arms (already an element of the state constitution) and a “religious freedom” amendment, which appears to be intended to protect people who use religion as a pretext for discrimination or infringing the rights of others.
None of these is a worthy addition to the Constitution. But they are mostly conservative virtue signaling, without immediate harmful impact (except the personal property tax elimination.) And the idea of a legislature being able to call itself into session on the whim of the day is not a happy thought.
Still, if the ability to get to a courthouse with a damage claim remains intact (did you know the average jury award in such cases is $3,000 or so, according to the Trial Lawyers Association?) less harm has been done than feared.
There’s also the hope that if this mess of trash reaches voters they’ll rebel at proposals to make it harder for the people’s voice to be heard and easier for the legislature to do its dirty work.
The Citizens First Congress and Public Policy Panel have produced a useful guide to all the proposals on file.