Friday, March 23, 2012

Reasons for a Complete Review of the Constitution of New Mexico

This was prepared for the Future of New Mexico town hall held by New Mexico First that is concluding as I write. The fact sheet was perhaps 30 of those attending and staffing the town hall. So far as constitutional revision making it into the town hall recommendations, the idea didn't get far.

However, the logic was shared with lobbyists, former governors, an elected official or two, recognized leaders and regular folks committed enough to go through the town hall process which can become an ordeal.

What next? Who knows?

Reasons for a Complete Review of the Constitution of New Mexico
1. “New Mexicans have a chronic problem with their organic law.” - “Governing New Mexico,” P. 26. Organic law means the constitution.
2. Frequent amendment of constitutions is a bad idea for a number of reasons, James Madison argues in Federalist, No. 49. Frequent amendment deprives the government of stability, he said.
3. The New Mexico Constitution was first amended in November 1911—before statehood.
4. Thirty amendments were adopted in 1949. One or two amendments have been adopted in most general elections since then.
5. The most recent constitutional convention was in 1969—43 years ago. The proposed constitution lost by only three percent despite the inept campaign in favor. - “New Mexico Government,” P. 257
6. Bloat. The constitution began with 21,227 words. It now has about 36,600.
7. All those words bring massive detail. The United States Constitution created the Supreme Court and told Congress to figure out the rest.
The detail in the New Mexico Constitution goes down to Metro Courts and includes Supreme Court meeting times.
8. We have two amendment criteria. One applies to nearly all the constitution—pass the amendment through the legislature and the people vote. Majority wins. The other is the same, except that only an ultra super majority wins. That’s just bizarre.
9. The average, basic, uncontested constitution amendment costs $100,000.
10. Inefficiency. Amending the constitution was required to change the name of the highway department.
11. Reasonable change is prevented. Sen. Michael Sanchez proposal to change the election date for school boards was approved overwhelmingly but was thwarted because of not quite meeting the onerous amendment procedure.
12. Fear is the substantive reason expressed in opposition to constitutional review. This fear covers both the people and “special interests.”

The requirements of a constitutional convention are specified in great detail in Article 19, Section 1.

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